TULSA, Okla. (Sept. 20, 2008) – Reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Joan Higgins, 52, of Glendora, Calif., and Noreen Mohler, 54, of Bethlehem, Pa., each shot even-par 71 Saturday to share the lead after the first round of stroke play at the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at Tulsa Country Club.
Both showed why they are considered among the favorites to win this championship for women age 50 and older, as they were two strokes better than their nearest challenger, 2004 champion Carolyn Creekmore, 56, of Dallas, Texas, who shot 2-over 73.
Nancy Beck , 51, of Dallas, Texas; Mimi Hoffman, 52, of Springfield, Va.; Ann Lahey, 56, of Kentfield, Calif.; and Jackie Little, 50, of Canada, finished at 3-over 74. Four-time champion Carol Semple Thompson, 55, of Sewickley, Pa., was among a group in at 77, tied for 21st place.
Following 36 holes of stroke play, the field will be trimmed to the low 64 scorers, who will advance match play. The match-play portion of the championship runs through Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Higgins won the Women’s Mid-Amateur, played for golfers age 25 and older. Mohler reached the semifinals.
“I’m a bit surprised,” said Higgins. “My practice round was terrible. I felt so burned out. I was just hoping I’d break 80.”
Breaking 80 was easy for Higgins, who had five birdies and five bogeys in her round.
Mohler had fewer birdies and fewer bogeys in posting her 71 on the 5,760-yard course that was designed by notable architect A.W. Tillinghast. She missed more greens than she would have liked, but made up for her mistakes with 11 one-putts.
“I’m sleeping with my putter tonight,” said Mohler, a reinstated amateur who played on the winning 1978 USA Curtis Cup team before playing professionally for two years. “I guess you should just enjoy it while you have it. My husband gave me a tip to move the ball a bit farther up in my putting stance and that helped.”
Semple Thompson, however, was still looking for answers after her round.
“I just made too many bogeys,” said Semple Thompson, an accomplished career amateur who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame later this year. “My game needs to step up. It’s was a bit of a struggle.”
Defending champion Anna Schultz, 53, of Rockwall, Texas, was part of a large group in at 8-over 79. Two-time champion Diane Lang, 53, of Jamaica (2005 and 2006) finished with an 80, which tied her for the 64th spot.
“It was one of those days where I was in-between clubs all day,” said Schultz. “It was tougher, too, because I know I put more pressure on myself at the start (because of being defending champion). I was trying too hard. I’ve got to play better tomorrow.”
The Senior Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
--Story written by Craig Smith, USGA