Kim Benedict during Round of 64
ERIE, PA (September 12, 2016 -- Co-medalists Shannon Johnson and Julia Potter won their Round-of-64 matches on Monday, while defending champion Lauren Greenlief was eliminated in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, being conducted on the 6,125-yard, par-72 Kahkwa Club.
While both medalists never trailed on Monday, Johnson and Potter took two very different routes to victory. Johnson, 33, of Norton, Mass., won the second hole to take a quick 1-up lead over Staci Creech, 43, of Bangor, Maine, and cruised to a 5-and-3 win. Johnson played to the equivalent of even par, losing only two holes in her victory.
“I didn’t hit the ball the best or how I thought I should have,” said Johnson, who works in sales for a golf equipment manufacturer. “I didn’t sleep very well last night because I was super-excited to come out this morning. Now I’m settling into it a little more.”
On the other hand, Potter, 28, of Indianapolis, Ind., played to the equivalent of 9 over in her 4-and-3 win over Kareen Markle, 54, of Meridian, Idaho. Potter, who won the 2013 Women’s Mid-Amateur, struggled to find the fairway on Monday, and spent more time than she found comfortable in the thick rough, which is still drying out from the nearly 3 inches of rain that has fallen on Kahkwa in the last four days.
“This is the beauty of match play. It’s not that you have to play great. You just have to play good enough,” said Potter, who works in marketing for the Indiana Golf Office. “I was lucky to do that today, but if I want to win this championship, I definitely have to step up my game.”
Greenlief, 25, of Reston, Va., won the first two holes for a quick 2-up lead over Kim Benedict, 35, of Bonita Springs, Fla. Benedict admitted to feeling some nerves on the first tee, especially knowing her opponent’s championship pedigree.
“I started off really shaky,” said Benedict, a ninth-grade English teacher at Gulf Coast High School in Naples, Fla., where she also coaches the boys golf team. “My mom and I realized that I’d totally forgotten to get a pin sheet on the first hole. I just had to settle down a little bit.”
Benedict battled back, and the match was all square going to the par-4 18th. Benedict left her second shot 50 feet short of the hole, but putted from just off the green and left herself 2 feet for par. Greenlief sent her downhill 15-foot birdie putt 3 feet past the hole, and could not convert the comebacker. Benedict tapped in for par and a 1-up upset of the defending champion.
“It was just going to come down to who made a mistake, because she was really steady,” said Benedict, a first-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor. “I thought I was the one making the mistake (on 18), but that’s a tough pin, so you never know what will happen. It’s never over on this course until it’s in.”
Three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur finalist Margaret Shirley-Starosto, 30, of Woodstock, Ga., earned a 2-and-1 win over Lauren Cupp, 31, of Rome, N.Y. While she never trailed in the match, Shirley-Starosto was also never able to pull clear by more than a two-hole advantage over Cupp, who is 6 months pregnant with her second child.
“I’m super-impressed with Lauren,” said Shirley-Starosto, who took the title over Potter in 2014, while falling to Potter in 2013 and Greenlief in 2015. “She was really steady and I hit the ball as good as I have in a long time on the front side, but I just could not make a putt. I was hitting it inside 10 feet almost everywhere. That was frustrating, but par’s not going to hurt you too much.”
At age 25, Emilie Meason, of Atlanta, Ga., was the youngest player to notch a victory on Monday. Meason, a reinstated amateur who played for the University of Georgia with Shirley-Starosto as an assistant coach, birdied 15 and 16 to notch a 4-and-2 win over Sydney Wells, 54, of Menominee, Mich.
“I just kept plugging away and knew there were a lot of holes left,” said Meason, whose last match-play experience came in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. “I found a few spots where I could make a move and was able to execute.”
Whitney Britton, 26, of Irvine, Calif., trailed for all but five holes in her match with Kelli Kirchoff. But the 2015 semifinalist won the final three holes, making birdies at the par-4 16th and 18th, to take a 1-up victory. Christina Proteau, 33, of Canada, who joined Britton as a 2015 semifinalist, never trailed en route to a 6-and-5 win over Kay Daniel.
Two 26-year-olds capped their victories with exciting final-hole theatrics. Kayla Eckelcamp, of Washington, Mo., drained a 40-foot birdie on the 18th to earn a 1-up victory over Lea Venable. Eleana Collins hit a gap wedge from 90 yards out at the par-5 14th that hit the green and rolled back for eagle, giving the Baltimore native a 6-and-4 win over Stacey Camara.
Of the seven USGA champions to reach match play, five advanced to Tuesday’s Round of 32. Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 2009 winner Martha Leach and 2004 champion Corey Weworski joined Potter and Shirley-Starosto as winners on Monday, while Greenlief and 2010 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Mina Hardin were eliminated.
Robin Burke, the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up and captain of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, advanced with a 2-and-1 win over Julie Streng.