Collins Wins Colo. Women's Match Play

DENVER, CO (June 25, 2009)--It wasn’t long ago that Chelsey Collins’ golf game had deteriorated to the point she was considering giving up competition altogether.

In 2006, the Louisville resident had been riding high, finishing third in the girls state high school 5A tournament, and then qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship and advancing to match play.

But after a solid freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, Collins’ game began to go south, and last season as a junior she had the highest stroke average on the team (83.3).

“Golf became a job; it wasn’t fun,” Collins said. “It’s hard to keep playing when you spend seven or eight hours a day practicing, and you get no results.”

Well, this week, the 21-year-old from the Omni Interlocken Golf Club finally got the results she’s been seeking for so long. In fact, Collins produced the highlight of her golf career, winning the CWGA Match Play Championship Thursday at Pinehurst Country Club.

The OU senior-to-be overcame 2008 CWGA Stroke Play champion Ashley Tait of Raccoon Creek Golf Course 4 and 3 in Thursday’s 36-hole finals.

“I think I’ll keep playing after this,” Collins said with a laugh.

The Monarch High School graduate finished at 1 under par for 33 holes on Thursday, saying it was her first under-par performance in competition in three years.

“Chelsey hit the ball way better than I did today,” said Tait, a three-time state high school champion who now is entering her senior season at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “She didn’t make mistakes” during the second 18 of the finals.

Collins held a 1-up lead after the first 18 holes, shooting a 2-over-par 74 compared to Tait’s 75. But Tait evened the match with a 6-foot birdie on 22nd hole.

Collins regained the lead -- this time for good -- with a 15-foot birdie on the 26th hole. She also won the 28th hole when Tait drew a terrible lie in the rough after her drive and made bogey. Collins then pushed Tait to the brink with short birdie putts on the 31st and 32nd holes. In between those birdies came a 75-minute delay caused by lightning and torrential rains.

Collins then closed out the match with a 1-foot par that halved the 33rd hole.

“This is pretty special,” said Larry Collins, Chelsey’s dad and caddy. “She‘s struggled the last couple of years, so it was neat to watch this happen. I’m so proud of her.”

Chelsey Collins and Tait had plenty in common on Thursday. Both are seniors-to-be in college golf, and both had their dads caddying for them in the finals. And both dads are local professionals. Collins is the director of golf at the Omni, and Pat Tait is a teaching pro at Raccoon Creek.

In addition, Tait defeated Chelsey’s younger sister, Brooke, in the quarterfinal round at Pinehurst, 3 and 2, which was by far Tait’s closest match of the week until Thursday.

“It was a frustrating day,” Tait said of her match against Chelsey Collins. “I couldn’t hit the ball straight (with her driver). I probably only hit four or five fairways the first 18, but I still managed to make a lot of pars. I was shocked that I was (only) 1 down after 18. I was still in it.”

Though she still struggled with her tee shots during the second round Thursday, Tait played her final 15 holes in even par. But in the end, Collins was too solid, going bogey-free in the second round. All in all, Collins’ performance no doubt will be a pleasant surprise for her new coach at Oklahoma, Veronique Drouin, who was hired just this week.

“I should text her and tell her one of her players won the Colorado state match play,” Collins said. “I’m like, ‘Don’t rule me out yet.’”

While Collins won the overall Match Play title Thursday, Kathy Malpass of Hiwan Golf Club captured the Senior Division championship. Malpass defeated USGA Executive Committee Member Christie Austin of Cherry Hills Country Club in 19 holes in the senior finals.

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