48-feet, a birdie and a spot in the finals for Mary Jane Hiestand
HOUSTON, TX (November 15, 2017) - Mary Jane Hiestand, a financial assistant from Naples, Fla., and Kelsey Chugg, who works for the Utah Golf Association, each won quarterfinal and semifinal matches Wednesday to advance to Thursday’s 18-hole final match of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship on the par-72, 6,022-yard Cypress Creek Course at Champions Golf Club.
Hiestand, 58, and Chugg, 26, of Salt Lake City, will be playing for the Mildred Prunaret Trophy and a full exemption from sectional qualifying into the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, scheduled to be contested May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek, in Shoal Creek, Ala.
“This means a lot,” said Hiestand, the No. 56 seed in the match-play bracket who reached her first USGA championship final in her 43rd start by draining a 48-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole of her semifinal. “I am still in shock. I didn’t expect to be here.”
Hiestand, who will also be playing for an exemption into the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship, scheduled for July 12-15, 2018, at Chicago Golf Club, in Wheaton, Ill., won both her matches in 19 holes. She defeated No. 4 seed Shannon Johnson, 34, of Norton, Mass., in the semifinals, and Courtney McKim, 27, of Raleigh, N.C., in the quarterfinals.
Related: U.S. Women's Mid-Am: Marissa Mar leads Quarterfinalists
Related: U.S. Women's Mid-Am: Medalists and Past Champions Advance
Related: Trio of players share U.S. Women's Mid-Am Medalist Honors
Chugg, who is competing in her first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and is the membership director of the Utah Golf Association, upended No. 3 seed Marissa Mar, 25, of San Francisco, Calif., 3 and 1, and defeated Hayley Hammond, 26, of Mooresville, N.C., 6 and 4, earlier in the day.
In a closely contested match, Hiestand struck an 184-yard 3-rescue club approach to the front of the green on the 19th hole, the par-4 10th, and then made use of a ridge to sink a sweeping right-to-left winning putt to eliminate Johnson, last year’s runner-up at The Kahkwa Club, in Erie, Pa.
“All I was trying obviously to do was get it up there close,” said Hiestand, who saw Johnson make a 24-foot par putt on No. 18 to extend the match. “When I ran up toward the top to see it coming down on its line, I thought, oh, my gosh, this really could go in.”
Earlier, Johnson made a 6½-foot par putt on the par-4 14th to take a 1-up lead against Hiestand, whose approach shot trickled into the water hazard near the green, resulting in a bogey. However, Hiestand rallied to go ahead with pars on holes 16 and 17. Hiestand took advantage of miscues by Johnson and nestled a 27-foot birdie putt to close range at the par-3 16th and hit a gap wedge from in front of the green to set up a 2½-footer on the next hole.
“Really disappointed,” said Johnson, who dominated her previous four opponents in the match-play bracket. “I was playing awesome up until this match. Give her credit. She got up and down from a lot of places and made par where she needed to.”
Hiestand added, “That’s kind of the way I play. I am a safety player anyway. I don’t go for a lot of pins in certain situations. Because to me, play the safe shot, get it up on the green.”
Hiestand, who is seeking to become the oldest winner of this championship by 6 years (Joan Higgins, age 52, in 2008), won another a tight battle against McKim in the quarterfinals. She delivered a 167-yard 4-rescue club to within 6 feet on the 19th hole to set up the winning birdie. McKim, who was a member of the University of Alabama’s 2012 NCAA championship team, nearly made a 75-footer from the fringe on the extra hole and earlier missed a 3-foot par putt on No. 18 that would have won the match.
Chugg, who defeated 2015 champion Lauren Greenlief in the Round of 16, made six birdies in her semifinal. She sank a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth to build a 2-up margin after escaping from the trees with her third shot to the green. She increased her lead on the following hole with another birdie.
“I hit my irons really well and then my putter just saved me,” said Chugg, who has won four Utah Women’s State Amateurs, including the 2017 title. “I finally made some putts, which was awesome. I have just been making pars.”
Mar, who had rallied to win against her previous three opponents, including defending champion Julia Potter, tried to whittle away at the lead on the inward nine, but Chugg thwarted any comeback attempt. She holed a 10-foot birdie on No. 14 and halved the par-4 15th with a 25-footer for birdie.
“She was just an amazing putter,” said Mar, who played on the Stanford University team and works in corporate development for a financial services company. “She made some key birdies and I was just playing steady. I was just making pars.”
Chugg, who earned All-Big Sky Conference honors at Weber State University, built a 3-up advantage on the outward nine against Hammond in the quarterfinals. She rolled in a 25-footer from below the hole on the par-4 first and later set up a winning par on No. 9 with a strategic 120-yard pitching wedge to the middle of the green.
In the quarterfinals, Johnson led all the way against Olivia Herrick, 29, of Roseville, Minn., in a rematch of their semifinal from last year. She took a 3-up lead at the turn when she got up and down from behind the green on the ninth, sinking a 5-foot par putt. On the par-5 11th, she struck a 179-yard 6-iron to within 15 feet and was conceded the eagle attempt before closing out the 5-and-4 win on No. 14 with a conceded birdie.
Mar came from behind for the third consecutive round in the morning to upend Amanda Jacobs, 30, of Portland, Ore., in 19 holes. She was as much as 3 down with seven holes to play and had to win Nos. 17 and 18 to extend play. Mar lifted a 5-iron to within 10 feet on the par-4 17th on her way to a winning par and then watched Jacobs miss a 6-foot par putt on No. 18. On the 19th hole, she hit her approach to within 17 feet to set up a par, while her opponent missed the green to the left, resulting in a missed 9½-foot par putt.
The semifinalists, Johnson and Mar, earn two-year exemptions into the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. The 2018 championship will be played Sept. 22-27 at Norwood Hills Country Club, in St. Louis, Mo.
Both finalists are exempt into the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee, in Kingston Springs, Tenn. Additionally, the winner receives a 10-year U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur exemption, while the runner-up receives a three-year exemption.