FORT MYERS, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2010) – With a bogey on the last hole, Leigh Klasse, 51, of St. Anthony, Minn., fired a 4-under-par 68 to finish 36 holes at even-par 144 and win medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying for the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at the 5,862-yard, par-72 Long Mean Course at Fiddlesticks Country Club.
Klasse edged 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Mary Ann Hayward, 50, of Canada, by one stroke. Hayward added a 71 to her opening 74 for a 145 total, one over par.
The 2008 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, Joan Higgins, 54, of Glendora, Calif., and Patty Moore, 60, of Charlotte, N.C., finished at 148, four over par. Defending champion Sherry Herman, 52, of Farmingdale, N.J., qualified at 151, seven over par. Three past Senior Women’s Amateur champions, Anna Schultz, 55, of Rockwall, Texas, Carolyn Creekmore, 58, of Dallas and Diane Lang, 55, of Jamaica finished at 152, eight over par. Carol Semple Thompson, 61, a four-time champion, was at 155, 11 over par. All easily qualified for match play.
Klasse reeled off five birdies before finishing with a lone bogey for the 68. Her score ties the second-lowest score in the 49-year history of the national championship. Betty Probasco shot a 67 in the second round in 1991.
Precise irons gave Klasse short birdie putts early in her round. Starting on the back nine, she birdied the 10th after hitting an 8-iron to within 4 feet of the hole. She birdied the 12th hole on a 6-foot putt. At the 375-yard 16th, Klasse nailed a 5-hybrid club to within 2 feet of the hole and tapped it in for another birdie to go three under par.
A 6-foot putt on the first hole gave Klasse another birdie and she birdied the seventh when she again holed a 6-footer. She was five under par with one hole to play. At the ninth, Klasse hit her 6-iron approach shot some 45 feet to the right of the hole, then took three putts to navigate the slick, downhill surface for a bogey.
Nevertheless, Klasse, who is trying to win her first individual USGA title in 33 tries since 1981, was delighted.
“I was trying to get on the greens and two-putt for par and go on,” Klasse said. “If I made a birdie, it was a bonus, but I was hitting my irons really nicely today.”
Hayward added a 1-under-par 71 to her opening 74 on the strength of birdie putts ranging from 4 to 20 feet.
“I’ve had trouble with the speed of downhill putts but I finally got the feel for it on the back nine yesterday,” Hayward said. “I made an adjustment in my putting stance today and got it rolling. Bermuda grass isn’t in my comfort zone. You have to think a little more about the grain.”
Hayward’s competition has recently been limited by her job as sport development coordinator for the Golf Association of Ontario. She stepped up her practice to compete in this 50-and-over national championship for the first time.
“I’ve had my eye on the Senior Women’s Amateur for two years,” Hayward said.
The cut for 64 match-play berths came at 165, 21 over par, with six players playing off for four spots. Cheryl Damphouse of Canada and Barbara Byrnes of Mesa, Ariz., captured two match-play berths with pars on the first playoff hole. Play was suspended by darkness and Kerry Rutan of Ambler, Pa., Char McLear of McHenry, Ill., Judy Miller of Tucson and Alexandria Fraser of Haverford, Pa., will vie for the remaining two spots on Monday morning.
The USGA Senior Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.