CAREFREE, Ariz. (Oct. 1, 2007)-- Stroke-play medalist Dawn Woodard, 33, of Franklin, Tenn., led the list of winners Monday in the first round of match play at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, being played at the 6,208-yard, par-73 Desert Forest Golf Club.
Woodard, who earned stroke-play medalist honors for the second consecutive year, won the first hole against Lea Bagwell Venable, 34, of Simpsonville, S.C., and never trailed en route to a 7 & 6 victory. Woodard was the equivalent of five under par in the victory, counting the usual match-play concessions.
“I putted much better today,” said Woodard. “Yesterday the greens seemed harder and faster and they weren’t holding as much, and that’s what got me tentative. This morning, as soon as I walked out here and rolled the first ball, I thought, ‘Oh, this feels good.’ ”
The importance of hitting the ball straight continues to be the main goal for the players at Desert Forest, due to the desert conditions and obstacles that surround the fairways and greens.
“I hit the ball well, other than once getting in the desert,” said Woodard. “But I survived there and somehow still managed to make par. It’s not just my game plan, it’s everybody’s – to stay out of the desert, and so far that’s still working well for me.”
Woodard’s second-round opponent will be two-time USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Diane Lang, 52, of Jamaica. Woodard and Lang played two practice rounds together at Desert Forest prior to the start of the championship.
After struggling a bit during her stroke-play qualifying rounds, Lang was much happier with her play during her first-round match, which she won 8 & 6 over Linda Olsen, 54, of La Quinta, Calif.
“This just makes my day,” said Lang, who won the 2005 and 2006 Senior Amateurs. “The last two days, I was just ready to call it quits. It was horrible. My iron play has been good but anything long in my hands – my 3-wood, utility, driver – has been left, left, left. I have seen a lot of cactus this week. But I’ve been working hard on the range and I played the first nine holes flawlessly. I never missed a shot and I made the putts.”
Also advancing by a large margin was defending champion Meghan Bolger, 29, of Haddonfield, N.J., who is trying to become the first champion to win consecutive Women’s Mid-Amateur titles since Ellen Port did so in 1995 and 1996.
In her 5 & 4 victory over Darquise Leduc, 39, of Canada, Bolger was the equivalent of three under par, with five birdies and two bogeys.
“Coming in today I just knew that pars were going to be good out there,” said Bolger. “I happened to hit a few tap-in birdies, which was nice, and I just tried to capitalize on what I’ve been working on the last few days.”
Virginia Derby Grimes, 43, of Meridian, Miss., also easily won her first-round match, with a 6 & 4 victory over Sydney Moore, 46, of Menominee, Mich. Grimes, the 1998 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and a three-time USA Curtis Cupper, was the equivalent of three under par, with four birdies and a bogey.
Grimes was pleased to continue her solid play after finishing second in the stroke-play qualifying.
“It felt good, because match play is just a whole new ballgame,” said Grimes. “It really doesn’t matter who you play, you just have to go out and play.”
Also earning first-round victories were 2004 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Carolyn Creekmore, 55, of Dallas, Texas; 2007 USGA Senior Amateur champion Anna Schultz, 52, of Rockwall, Texas; and three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur winner Ellen Port, 46, of St. Louis, Mo.
Two other past Women’s Mid-Amateur champions were ousted Monday, including seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson, 58, of Sewickley, Pa.
Thompson fell behind early to Laura Ladden, 31, of Coatesville, Pa., and was four down after eight holes. But Thompson won five holes in a six-hole stretch to go 1 up after 14 holes. But Ladden came back to square the match with a birdie on the 15th and won the 17th with a par. Ladden won the match, 1 up, when Thompson missed a 10-par putt on the 18th and Ladden converted her bogey putt from five feet.
“You know you can never rely on being a couple up against her,” said Ladden of Thompson’s comeback. “She’s just an amazing player. You can never count her out on a hole.”
“I’m a little disappointed, but that’s the way it goes,” said Thompson, who won the 1990 and 1997 Women’s Mid-Amateurs. “I haven’t been playing well this summer. Hopefully I will be able to pull myself together for next year.”
Lecia Alexander, 49, of Stafford, Texas was a 1-up winner over 2005 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Maryann Lapointe, 47, of Canada.
Thuhashini Selvaratnam, 31, of Sri Lanka, the 2006 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur runner-up and a member at Desert Forest, needed an extra hole to eliminate 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Robin Burke, 45, of Houston Texas.
“I knew coming in that she is a good player and it would be a tough match,” said Selvaratnam. “So if I won or lost I actually wouldn’t have minded because I played well and she played well. It’s golf and you never know. Good players win and good players lose.”
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur continues with the second and third rounds of match play Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Wednesday and the championship concludes with the 18-hole final on Thursday.
--Story by Beth Murrison, USGA