Co-leader Shannon Johnson was the runner-up one year ago
HOUSTON, TX (November 11, 2017) - Shannon Johnson, 34, of Norton, Mass., and Katie Miller, 32, of Jeannette, Pa., each shot 3-under-par 69 Saturday to share the lead after the first round of stroke play in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship on the par-72, 6,022-yard Cypress Creek Course at Champions Golf Club.
Johnson, who was the runner-up to Julia Potter in last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, and Miller, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year, both equaled the competitive course record and were one stroke off Dawn Woodard’s championship record, when she shot a first-round 68 at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, in 2005. Brenda Corrie Kuehn and Linda Olsen each carded 69s when Cypress Creek was played as a par 71 in the 1998 Women’s Mid-Amateur.
The USGA relocated the championship from Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla., to Champions Golf Club due to extensive flood damage from Hurricane Irma. The Women’s Mid-Amateur was originally scheduled to be played Oct. 7-12.
Johnson, who was last year’s co-medalist with Potter, used her power off the tee to birdie holes 9, 11 and 13, all par 5s. She struck a 9-iron to within 12 feet on No. 9 and got up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 13. Her attempt at setting a course record was thwarted when her 11-foot birdie putt on the final hole caught the right edge.
“I had all offseason to think about it,” said Johnson, who lost to Potter, 2 and 1, in the final at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa. “That was good motivation. I have been playing pretty good golf this summer and I was super-anxious to get out here.”
Miller, who was an all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection at the University of North Carolina, saved her round with a scrambling par on No. 17. Her tee shot found tree problems, but she was able to advance the ball by punching to a 5-iron to the upslope in front of the green.
Miller made consecutive birdies in the middle of her round. She reached the green in two with a 20-degree hybrid on the 470-yard, par-5 ninth to set up a simple birdie and then negotiated a hanging tree branch by lifting a gap wedge to within 8 feet on No. 10.
“The experience definitely helps,” said Miller about competing in her fourth Women’s Mid-Amateur. “Just knowing that these two days are about consistency. My goal was making good swings and making good strokes. I figured if I commit to those two things that I would be OK.”
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, Nov. 16, starting at 9 a.m. CST. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Ket Preamchuen, 26, of Thailand, had sole possession of the lead late in the day when she moved to 4 under by making a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 5, her 14th hole of the day, and a breaking 35-foot birdie on No. 6. But a double bogey on the following hole wiped out her one-stroke advantage. A wayward tee shot forced her to hit a low 4-iron from the right rough and she clipped a tree limb and finished with a 2-under 70.
Ina Kim, 34, of New York, N.Y., was the only other player under par with a 1-under 71. She returned to competitive golf this year after an 11-year absence while living in Hong Kong and London. There have been mental and emotional hurdles to climb.
“Emotionally, it is hard for me to accept that I am a much more imperfect golfer now than when I was a robot in my teens,” said Kim, who was the runner-up in the 2000 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and earned all-Big Ten Conference honors at Northwestern University.
However, Kim hit enough good shots early in the day and made consecutive birdies on the inward nine to punctuate her round. She sank a 20-footer on the par-4 15th before delivering a 7-iron to within 9 feet on the 145-yard, par-3 16th.
“Not being at my best ball striking and still coming in under par, I am pretty happy with that,” said Kim, whose sister, Hana, 35, of Los Angeles, Calif., is also competing this week, carding a 2-over 74.
Tara Joy-Connelly, 44, of North Palm Beach, Fla., totaled four birdies and four bogeys to finish at even par. She struck a 5-iron to within 6 feet to set up a birdie on No. 4, her 13th hole of the round, and made a 4-foot birdie putt on the next hole to highlight her play. Marissa Mar, 25, of San Francisco, Calif., and Kathy Kurata, 57, of Pasadena, Calif., joined Joy-Connelly with 72s.
“You have to feel you way around this course,” said Joy-Connelly, who has advanced to match play in all 13 Women’s Mid-Amateurs in which she has played. “You just want to get some momentum. I love the greens; they are so pure. Just get it rolling and then feel it, see it.”
Paige McCullough, 31, of Stillwater, Minn., was among a group of six players at 1-over 73 that included 2009 champion Martha Leach, 55, of Hebron, Ky. McCullough had held the early lead at 1 under par when she holed an 18-foot downhill birdie putt on the par-5 13th, but finished with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18.
“I did a good job of setting myself up with my approach shots to a yardage that I felt comfortable with and was able to use the map of the greens to give myself a straight putt,” said McCullough, who birdied three of Cypress Creek’s four par 5s.
Meghan Stasi, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., posted a 4-over 76 and overcame a triple bogey on the seventh hole with three birdies. Stasi and Ellen Port have each won a record four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs. Potter, 30, of Indianapolis, Ind., the 2013 and 2016 champion, fashioned a first-round 77 that included three birdies and two double bogeys.
The second round begins Sunday at 7 a.m., with the low 64 scores following the completion of 36 holes advancing to match play, which is scheduled to start on Monday.