ERIE, PA (September 10, 2016) -- Julia Potter, the 2013 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and 2014 runner-up, shot 1-under-par 71 on Saturday and leads after the first round of stroke-play qualifying in the 2016 championship, being conducted at the 6,026-yard, par-72 Kahkwa Club.
Potter, 28, of Indianapolis, Ind., holds a one-stroke lead over a trio of players: Shannon Johnson, 33, of Norton, Mass.; Cortney Reno, 36, of Detroit, Mich.; and Dawn Woodard, 42, of Greenville, S.C.
Play was suspended at 6:27 p.m. EDT when strong thunderstorms and gusty winds descended on the course. Six players, including 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Robin Burke, did not finish their rounds, which will resume at 8 a.m. on Sunday concurrent with the start of Round 2 of stroke play.
The 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association (USGA), is open to female amateur golfers who are at least 25 years of age and who have a Handicap Index not exceeding 9.4. It consists of two 18-hole rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday.
Potter sank a 25-foot birdie at the par-4 18th, one of only four birdies on the hole all day, to cap a round that featured four birdies and three bogeys. After a disappointing showing in the 2015 championship, when she fell to Kay Daniel in the Round of 32, Potter was happy to get off to a good start.
“I made this year all about getting ready for the Mid-Am,” said Potter, who won the 2016 Indiana Women’s Open Championship in July. “I knew the weather was going to be a little crazy this afternoon. I just wanted to go out there and get a good score in. I was lucky to do so.”
With black clouds approaching from the west, Woodard literally ran the length of the ninth fairway (her final hole) to ensure that she would finish her round. After a long tee shot put her in prime position for a birdie, Woodard’s hurry-up play nearly backfired. She chunked her approach from 100 yards, but drained an 18-foot putt to salvage her par.
“We looked at each other and said, let’s play ready golf,” said Woodard, who earned medalist honors in 2006, 2007 and 2012 and could join Ellen Port as the only four-time medalists in championship history. “Even if I made bogey, it was better than coming out here at dark-30 in the morning to play half a hole and then wait to go again.”
Johnson, 33, carded four birdies and four bogeys on Saturday and held the clubhouse lead after the morning wave. She credited her accuracy off the tee for her success.
“The biggest key was finding the fairway,” said Johnson, a native of South Dakota who set the 54-hole scoring record in the 2015 USGA Women’s State Team Championship for Massachusetts. “This rough is so penalizing out here. You get into it and it’s just tough to get anything even remotely up to the green. Being in the fairway allowed me to go at a lot more pins and be in the right locations that I wanted to be in on the greens.”
Reno, 36, of Detroit, Mich., stepped away from the game for six years after nearly a decade on the Futures and Canadian Women’s Tours. She received amateur reinstatement in 2011, but only picked her clubs back up within the last year after moving back to her native Michigan. The time away seems to have refreshed her game, as she carded two birdies and two bogeys en route to her tie for second.
“Today was totally different from the practice rounds, and I bet tomorrow will be totally different,” said Reno. “(I need to) stay below the hole, but also not be so tentative. I should have been a lot more aggressive. Tomorrow I will trust my line.”
Weather played a key role throughout Saturday’s round. With wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour and an afternoon threat of storms, players had to rely on their mental games to keep their physical games in check.
“You’d toss your grass up and all of a sudden it feels like it’s going out and then coming back,” said Woodard. “And (it was) gusty. It would be OK and quiet down and then all of a sudden it would (gust).”
“When we made the turn on the back nine, it seemed like the wind changed and it was swirling a little bit,” said Johnson. “That it made it a little more difficult to get some club selections right and get dialed in.”
First-time Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor Ann Miles, 27, of Dublin, Ohio, shot a 1-over 73 and sits in solo fifth. Four-time champion Meghan Stasi, 38, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Audrey Akins, 49, of Canada are tied for sixth at 2-over 74.
Three-time finalist Margaret Shirley-Starosto, who defeated Potter for the title in 2014, is tied for 15th at 5-over 77. Defending champion Lauren Greenlief, who will celebrate her 26th birthday on Sept. 13, opened her title defense with an 8-over 80 and is tied for 46th.