NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (Sept. 11, 2014) — Julia Potter woke up on Thursday morning trying to become just the fourth player in history to win the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in consecutive years. First, though, she had some unfinished business, as the weather halted her semifinal match with Tara Joy-Connelly on Wednesday. Potter had birdied three of the last six holes before play was called for the evening to give her a 3-up lead through 10 holes, but the Granger, Ind., native still felt a little uneasy.
“It’s definitely the first time I’ve done that, and I’d be lying to say I didn’t have any type of nerves,” Potter said of having to continue a match the following day. “As hard as it is to sleep on 3 down, I feel like it’s just as hard to sleep on 3 up, because at that point it looks like you should take command of the match.”
Indeed, Potter lost the first hole of the morning, making bogey on the par-5 11th to allow Joy-Connellyto draw closer, but the two-hole margin was as small as it would get, with Potter ultimately prevailing, 2 and 1.
“I just wasn’t as sharp as some of the other rounds I played, but it is what it is,” said Joy-Connelly, who dominated her first four matches to reach the semifinals for the second time in her career. “She played well, she made birdies when she had to make birdies, she made a couple of key putts, and in the end it all comes down to putting. She made a couple more putts than I did. When you get to the end, that’s where it’s at.”
Another bogey by Potter on the par-4 15th was countered by a Joy-Connelly double bogey, and despite being unable to close the match on No. 16, Potter stayed focused and played three smart shots to the green on the par-5 17th hole. She cozied up her birdie try from 20 feet for a conceded par and a spot in the championship match, where she will face Margaret Shirley in a rematch of last year’s final.
This is only the third known matchup of match-play finalists from the previous year in USGA history. In 1937 and 1938, Estelle Lawson Page faced Patty Berg in the U.S. Women’s Amateur final, with Page winning the first one and Berg prevailing in 1938. J. Clark Espie and Frederick Wright played in consecutive U.S. Senior Amateur finals in 1956 and 1957. Wright won in 1956, Espie in 1957.
“It’s funny [on Saturday] my tee time was at 8, her’s was 8:20, and I said to her, ‘Let’s see each other on Thursday.’ I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Potter of her rematch with Shirley, who she defeated in 19 holes in last year’s championship match at Biltmore Forest Country Club. “I have tremendous respect for her from last year’s match. I know it will not be easy, I’m going to try and make it not easy for her, and I think we’re just going to go out there and just have a good time.”
Shirley’s Consistency Wears Down Stasi in Semifinals
Par is a good score in match play, particularly when you have a lead under trying conditions.
Margaret Shirley made 12 consecutive pars in her semifinal matchup with Meghan Stasi, building a 5-up lead en route to a 5-and-4 victory. The players also squared off in the semifinal round of last year’s championship, with Shirley overcoming a two-hole deficit with two to play and prevailing in 19 holes.
“I was able to stay consistent and Meghan didn’t have her best stuff, unfortunately,” said Shirley, 28, of Atlanta, who was the stroke-play medalist. “I won with a lot of pars. Par is good – it’s normally not going to get you in trouble unless you run into someone who’s making a lot of birdies.”
In fact, neither player made a birdie in the match, with Stasi winning her lone hole on Shirley’s only bogey on No. 13. One hole later, the match was over when Shirley won the 395-yard 14th with a par.
“I really wanted to start off and make a few pars,” said Stasi, who entered the day 2 down through nine holes after the match was suspended Wednesday evening. Instead she was over par on the first three holes of the inward nine. “I needed to hit a little hook on 10 and instead I hit it straight. On 11, I misclubbed myself – I hit the wrong wedge.”
Four-time champion Stasi is now 38-5 in match play in this championship, having won four matches entering the semifinal round, including a 19-hole victory over Christina Proteau of Canada in the quarterfinals.
“The semifinals isn’t a bad thing,” said Stasi, 36, of Oakland Park, Fla., the championship’s No. 4 match-play seed. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be here a lot. But my short game is not as precise as some of the other players. Margaret didn’t miss too many greens, but when she did, she pretty much gave herself a tap-in.”
Stasi also marveled at her opponent’s precision.
“Margaret hits her driver straight, she hits her hybrid straight,” said Stasi. “There was one hole where I had 9-iron in and she was hitting hybrid, and we ended up in the same place. She hits it high and straight, and that’s Pete Dye [architect of Harbour Trees]. He wants you to hit a straight ball.”
Shirley moved on to another familiar matchup with Potter.
“I’m a competitor, so obviously the goal is to win,” said Shirley. “Just to have the opportunity to do that again is great, but hopefully I’ll have a little different outcome than last year.”