Maura Ballard defends her New Jersey Women’s Senior Amateur
Maura Ballard <br>(NJGSA)
Maura Ballard

DENVILLE, NJ (September 28, 2016) -- Defending champion Maura Ballard of Neshanic Valley had enough. She saw all of a four-shot lead after eight holes disappear and to make it worse, she was trailing by two strokes to Fran Gacos of Copper Hill after 12 holes of the 47th New Jersey Women’s Senior Amateur Championship at Rockaway River Country Club in Denville on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

“On the 13th hole, I said I’ve had enough of this. Like I tell my players, it was time to give 110 percent,” said Ballard, the former Rutgers golf coach who is taking off a new program at Drew University. Ballard came into the second and final round of the event with a three-shot lead over Gacos after shooting 73 on Tuesday.

Sure enough, Ballard sank a six-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 13 while Gacos parred, cutting the deficit to one shot. And on the next hole, the par-3 No. 14, that was uphill and into the wind, Ballard’s par against a triple-bogey for Gacos, a five-time champion who last won in 2013 and ’14, helped turn the championship around.

Two holes later, Gacos drew even again with a par on the par-5 No. 15, but Ballard took the lead for good with a birdie on the 326-yard par-4 No. 16 when her iron shot from 111 yards ended three feet from the cup.

In the end, Ballard won at 73-81-154, over Gacos, at 76-81-157. Donna Cortina of Cherry Valley was third at 81-77-158. Ballard has two titles to her credit in two tries since becoming eligible last year.

“It was a challenge. The conditions were a lot different from yesterday when I shot 73,” said Ballard. “I didn’t feel great out there, but I did what I had to do down the stretch. I played a lot better on the back nine when I told myself to stop playing mediocre golf.

“I enjoy playing good golf and it was nice to do it when it counted.”

A year ago, Ballard, 51, carded a three-over-par 75, one shot better than Alicia Kapheim of Hopewell Valley and two shots better than both defending champion Gacos and Kathy Carter of Rumson to win the rain-shortened Senior Amateur that only counted 18 holes.

“I was struggling with my driver today. I missed several birdie opportunities,” said Gacos, 60. “A couple times I didn’t commit to the club, like on the par-three where I tripled, and on No. 17, when I hit a 9-iron into the hazard. But I’ve been working on a swing change for the past year and a half, and I’m coming around. I’m happy with it.”

Other Flight champions included: First Flight: Donna Cortina, Cherry Valley (158) over Sue Dahabsu, Jumping Brook (164); Second Flight: Mike Melzer, Flanders Valley (175) over Eleanor Berry, Paramus (179).

Winner of the Super-Senior was Nancy Cole of Alpine (154) over Fran Gacos (157).

ABOUT THE New Jersey Women's Senior

Open to senior female amateurs aged 50 and over who are members with a NJSGA club. Format is 36 holes of stroke play.

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