U.S. Women's Mid-Am: Woodward leads by three

CAREFREE, Ariz. (Sept. 29, 2007)-- Dawn Woodard, 33, of Franklin, Tenn., shot a 3-under 70 to take the lead following Saturday’s first round of stroke play at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, being played at the 6,208-yard, par-73 Desert Forest Golf Club.

Virginia Derby Grimes, 43, of Meridian, Miss., who played with Woodard, finished three shots back at even-par 73.

For Woodard, the key was keeping the ball in play and away from the many obstacles on Desert Forest’s difficult layout.

“I avoided the desert today, which is a good thing,” said Woodard. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball well off the tee, so I’m giving myself some good chances into the greens.”

Woodard made the first of her five birdies at the par-4, 382-yard fourth hole despite pushing her tee shot to the right. She also took advantage of the par-5 holes, with birdies on three of the five on the course.

“I knew that if you could keep it in play off the tee, there’s definitely some low scores out there because of the par 5s,” said Woodard. “I also realized that there are also some potential hazards along the way.”

But Woodard managed to avoid most of that trouble to record the only sub-par score of the first round.

Despite the strong start, Woodard wasn’t focused on earning stroke-play medalist honors. She did so a year ago but was eliminated in the second round in extra holes.

“The main goal is to have a tee time on Monday morning,” said Woodard, who is playing in her sixth Women’s Mid-Amateur. “Just because you’re medalist doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy match. You can have a good player play poorly and end up down there and then get it together come Monday.”

Grimes, a three-time USA Curtis Cupper and the 1998 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, had three birdies and three bogeys en route to her 73.

She agreed with Woodard’s game plan for playing this week’s championship course.

“The key is getting your drive in play and staying out of the desert,” said Grimes. “You get in there and you don’t know if you’re going to find it or take an unplayable.”

Defending champion Meghan Bolger, 29, of Haddonfield, N.J., was one of five players who finished five strokes back.

Bolger, who faced windier conditions in the afternoon, had four bogeys and one birdie en route to a 2-over 75.

“I didn’t keep it quite straight off the tee,” said Bolger. “I didn’t lose any balls, but I started steering the ball into the wind and you just can’t do that on this golf course.”

But Bolger, who is trying to become the first repeat champion in more than 10 years, was satisfied with her round overall.

“There are still some shots out there, but I am happy,” she said. “It’s a good start.”

Toni Wiesner, 60, of Fort Worth, Texas, who has played in all 21 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, opened with a 3-over 76. Seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson, 58, of Sewickley, Pa., who is also playing in her 21st Women’s Mid-Am, shot an 8-over 81.

Among those finishing at 4-over 77 was 2007 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Anna Schultz, 52, of Rockwall, Texas.

After a second day of stroke play Sunday, the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Monday, the second and third rounds will be played Tuesday, the quarterfinal and semifinal matches are on Wednesday, and the 18-hole championship final will be played Thursday.

--Story by Beth Murrison, USGA

ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur originated in 1987 to provide a national competitive arena for amateurs 25 and older. Besides the age restriction, the event is open to those with a USGA Handicap Index of 9.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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