Marissa Mar closed out defending champ Julia Potter on the
18th green to advance to the quarterfinals (USGA photo)
HOUSTON, TX (November 14, 2017) - Co-medalist Marissa Mar, 25, of San Francisco, Calif., won two matches in come-from-behind fashion Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship on the par-72, 6,022-yard Cypress Creek Course at Champions Golf Club.
Mar, the championship’s No. 3 seed, who shared stroke-play medalist honors with Katie Miller and Lauren Greenlief, rallied to beat Leigh Klasse, 58, of Cumberland, Wis., in 20 holes, and defending champion Julia Potter, 30, of Indianapolis, Ind., 1 up. No. 1 seed Miller, 32, of Jeannette, Pa., and No. 2 seed Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va., were eliminated in Tuesday’s Round of 32 and Round of 16, respectively.
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“I still got a little fight in me,” said Mar, who is competing in her first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and works in corporate development for a financial services company. “I can still grind it out and really dig my teeth in when I need to.”
Mar, who was a member of the Stanford University team from 2010-14, rallied from 3 down on the outward nine against Potter. She squared the match on No. 10 with a two-putt par after her opponent found the water with her approach. Mar took the lead on the par-3 12th when she nestled her birdie putt from the fringe to tap-in range and moved to a 2-up advantage by rolling in a 30-footer for birdie on the par-5 13th. She held a 1-up lead heading to No. 18, and clinched her victory with a 180-yard 5-iron to within 9 feet below the hole.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Mar about reaching the quarterfinals. “It’s such a different tournament than any other amateur or USGA championship where you have a huge age range. This is a pleasant surprise.”
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds on Wednesday. The championship concludes with an 18-hole final on Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. CST. The winner will earn a full exemption into the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played at Shoal Creek, in Shoal Creek, Ala.
Mar twice fought back from deficits against Klasse in the morning Round of 32. She squared the match with a par on No. 18 after hitting a 140-yard 7-iron approach. Mar nearly made a 30-footer for birdie on the second playoff hole, but won with a conceded par after Klasse found the right greenside bunker with her second shot.
Kelsey Chugg, 26, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was an unexpected quarterfinalist after overcoming an opening-round 85 in stroke play in her first Women’s Mid-Amateur. The round included a triple bogey and three double bogeys, but she followed with an even-par 72 to earn the No. 50 seed in the match-play bracket.
“[I am] just getting my ball-striking back where it usually is and just working on my tempo,” said Chugg, who beat Ket Preamchuen, 26, of Thailand, 4 and 2, earlier in the day. “I was a little nervous the first day. Now I am just trying to play golf.”
In the Round of 16, Chugg won three consecutive holes on the inward nine to defeat Greenlief, the 2015 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, 3 and 2. She started her run on the par-5 11th when she found the green in two with a 4-iron approach to set up a 3-foot birdie putt. Chugg, who is the membership director for the Utah Golf Association, struck a couple of well-placed irons in registering winning pars at holes 12 and 13.
“I think they will be excited,” said Chugg about her co-workers. “We have our annual meeting this week for the board and I guess they were watching yesterday online, so I am sure they were watching today.”
Shannon Johnson, last year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur runner-up, posted a 2-and-1 victory over Dawn Woodard, 43, of Greenville, S.C., in the afternoon. She built a 2-up lead on the par-5 11th by firing a 6-iron onto the green to set up a two-putt birdie. Johnson, the No. 4 seed in the bracket, then rattled off six consecutive pars to close out the match.
“Match play is a funny thing,” said Johnson, who works in sales for a club manufacturer. “You can get paired against someone that’s got a hot putter, and if you have a slightly off day, you just lost. I hit some awesome iron shots, made some putts and was really lucky to come out on top.”
Johnson, 34, of Norton, Mass., was in command from the start in her morning match against Julia Hodgson, 26, of Canada. She made a 10-footer for birdie on No. 3 and put together consecutive birdies at holes 11 and 12 for a 5-up margin. Johnson struck a 58-degree wedge to within 8 feet at the par-5 11th and drained a 40-foot putt on the following hole.
Mary Jane Hiestand, 58, of Naples, Fla., is playing in her 20th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and reached the quarterfinals for the first time after edging four-time champion Meghan Stasi, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 1 up, in the Round of 16. She recorded a 1-up decision against Kay Daniel, 46, of Covington, La., earlier in the day.
“This is not supposed to happen,” said Hiestand, who also competed in the 1998 Women’s Mid-Amateur, the last time the championship was held at Champions Golf Club. “I didn’t expect this at all. I just went out to play golf this afternoon and see what happens.”
Stasi had advanced to the matchup with Hiestand when she sank a 6-foot par putt on the 23rd hole against Tara Joy-Connelly, 44, of North Palm Beach, Fla, in the morning. Joy-Connelly, 44, won three consecutive holes on the inward nine to take a 1-up lead, but Stasi drained a swinging 34-foot birdie putt from off the green on the par-4 18th to force extra holes. It equaled the third-longest match in championship history.
Olivia Herrick, 29, of Roseville, Minn., outlasted Eleanor Tucker, 32, of Savannah, Ga., in 20 holes to advance. She will meet Johnson in the quarterfinal round in a rematch of last year’s semifinal battle, won by Johnson, 1 up. Amanda Jacobs, 30, of Portland, Ore., is also in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year after turning back 2009 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Martha Leach, 3 and 1.
Courtney McKim, 27, of Raleigh, N.C., and Hayley Hammond, 26, of Mooresville, N.C., also joined the list of quarterfinalists after winning a pair of matches. In the Round of 16, McKim defeated Mallory Hetzel, 30, of Virginia Beach, Va., 4 and 3, while Hammond beat Thuhashini Selvaratnam, 41, of Sri Lanka, 2 and 1.
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In the morning session, Hetzel upended top-seed Miller, 2 and 1. She made consecutive birdies at holes 6 and 7 for a 3-up advantage and won the par-4 10th with a par.
“There wasn’t a 15-footer she looked at that she didn’t make,” said Miller, who reached the quarterfinals last year. “It’s a tough bracket to get through. You have a lot of former Division I college players here, women who know their way around the golf course.”
Quarterfinalists earn an exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Sept. 22-27 at Norwood Hills Country Club, in St. Louis, Mo.
The USGA relocated this 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.