Semifinals set at U.S. Senior Women's Amateur
Tama Caldabaugh during her 2nd round match (USGA)
Tama Caldabaugh during her 2nd round match (USGA)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tama Caldabaugh, Pamela Kuong, Karen Garcia and Sue Cohn emerged victorious on Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at Hillwood Country Club.

Due to schedule changes caused by extensive weather delays on Tuesday, the semifinal round previously scheduled for Wednesday afternoon was moved to Thursday at 7:45 a.m. CDT. The final match is now scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. CDT.

Caldabaugh, 51, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Calif., and Kuong, 54, of Wellesley Hills, Mass., will face off in Thursday morning’s first semifinal match. Caldabaugh took a 3-and-1 win over 2012 Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up Jane Fitzgerald, 53, of Kensington, Md. Kuong eliminated Julie Carmichael, 51, of Plainfield, Ind., by a 2-and-1 margin.

The second semifinal match will feature Garcia, 53, of Cool, Calif., and 2013 Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up Cohn, 52, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Garcia advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Maggie Leef, 55, of Merton, Wis., while Cohn won, 2 and 1, over Brenda Pictor, 60, of Marietta, Ga.

Caldabaugh won five of her opening seven holes against Fitzgerald and carried a 3-up lead to the turn. Then Fitzgerald went on a run of her own, winning holes 11-13 to square the match.

“I just stay patient and know there is a good shot in there somewhere and wait for it to come,” said Caldabaugh, a retired sales and marketing professional who survived a battle with ovarian cancer in 2013.

Caldabaugh regained a 1-up lead when Fitzgerald bogeyed the par-3 14th, and birdies at holes 15 and 17 sealed her berth in the semifinals.

Kuong capitalized on Carmichael’s double-bogey at the par-4 eighth hole for a 1-up lead. She extended the advantage to 3 up through 13 holes, but failed to get up and down at holes 14 and 15, carding back-to-back bogeys that brought her back to a tenuous 1-up lead.

Kuong pointed to her “solid” two-putt par at No. 16 to go 2 up as a clutch moment, and she took the victory over Carmichael with another two-putt par on the 17th.

“Obviously neither one of us played like really sharp with our game,” said Kuong, a senior vice president of commercial lending for Bank of America. “I think we both were fatigued from the long day yesterday. Fortunately at the end my putting did come through. I think at the end of the day that was the key.”

Garcia, a high school counselor, birdied the par-4 ninth to make the turn with a 1-up lead over Leef. She won the par-5 12th with a birdie, but Leef squared the match with back-to-back wins over the next two holes. Garcia knew that she needed to bring her game back under control if she wanted to regain the edge.

“It's an incredible feeling to try and calm yourself,” said Garcia, who is playing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur. “You think about it, you read about it in all the books, but then when you're actually out there in the moment trying to do it, it's incredibly difficult.

Garcia won the 15th hole with a two-putt par, taking the 1-up advantage when Leef left her approach just short of the green. She then nearly reached the par-5 17th in two, and converted a short birdie putt to emerge victorious.

Cohn earned the afternoon’s smoothest victory, never trailing against Pictor. She strung together victories at holes 9-12, including three birdies, to build a 5-up lead through 12. Pictor chipped away at the deficit, winning three of the next four holes.

But Cohn went out in style, holing out for eagle 3 from roughly 30 yards short of the 17th green. She had previously holed out for birdie from a greenside bunker at No. 12.

“I gave myself a rougher time of it than I could have,” said Cohn, who works in the pro shop of Frenchman’s Reserve Golf Club in her hometown. “She has a great game and hits the ball a long way. She played great back there. I made mistakes and I lost the holes. She was playing steady.”

Caldabaugh was the only semifinalist to complete her Round-of-16 match on Tuesday, earning a 5-and-3 win over Lynne Cowan. The other three semifinalists had to finish their Round-of-16 matches on Wednesday morning prior to the quarterfinal round. Kuong notched a 1-up win over Sophie Pfeiffer. Leef never trailed in a 4-and-3 win over Julie Massa, and neither did Garcia, who took a 7-and-5 victory over Lynn Anderson.

All eight quarterfinalists receive exemptions into the 2016 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which will be conducted Sept. 17-22 at Wellesley (Mass.) Country Club. That fact was not lost on Wellesley native Kuong, who is looking forward to a hometown advantage.

“I was just happy to get in the quarters because that got me exempt for next year,” said Kuong. “It's literally where I live. It's in the same town. I don't really know the course that well, but I will be learning it pretty quickly.”

The semifinalists are also exempt into the 2017 championship, which will be held Sept. 9-14 at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore. The winner and runner-up will receive exemptions into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa., as well as next week’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La.

The 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship is open to female amateur golfers who reached their 50th birthday on or before Sept. 26, 2015, and have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 18.4. It consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Oct. 1.

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