Mary Jane Hiestand celebrates her winning putt on the 19th hole
of her quarterfinal match
HOUSTON, TX (November 15, 2017) - Experience doesn’t make a USGA championship any less grueling. It’s the same level of exhaustion and the same thrill of battle whether a player is on her third or her 23rd go-round in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
Mary Jane Hiestand is in the latter position. On Thursday, she has a chance to become the oldest winner in the event’s history.
The 58-year-old from Naples, Fla., should have been playing this championship with a home advantage, considering the tournament was originally scheduled for last month at Quail Creek Country Club before Hurricane Irma forced a venue change. Hiestand makes it sound almost as if she’s here on a whim, having come in from another event and having fond memories of Champions Golf Club from nearly 20 years ago. She’s one of only six players in the field who were in that 1998 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur here.
“I came from another tournament, and I just said, ‘I'm going to go there,’” she said. “I was here in '98 and the golf course was really long for me because it was so wet and we had all that rain. It was hard for me. Now the golf course is firm and fast and it plays like my course. The greens, I never thought I would be so happy to be back on Bermuda grass in my life.”
Earlier this year, Hiestand thought her mid-amateur career had passed her by (she played the qualifier this year because the tournament’s original location was so close to home). Hiestand had gone through a rough patch playing this event, but acknowledges that that was when the Mid-Amateur and the Women’s Senior Amateur were played back to back. It was a lot of championship golf.
Hiestand isn’t overlooking the age gap, either.
“I love the Mid-Am, don't get me wrong,” she said earlier in the week. “I just felt like, you know, the kids are younger and they're hitting it farther, so on and so forth.”
With that 1998 experience in her back pocket, Hiestand came into the championship prioritizing rest over copious course notes. She never expected a deep run in the match-play bracket.
Hiestand has played just about as much golf as possible this week. She went 19 holes in both her semifinal and quarterfinal matches, and won the previous two rounds 1 up. How does Hiestand keep striking down her younger opponents?
She knows the importance of par. She knocked off four-time Women’s Mid-Am champion Meghan Stasi in the Round of 16 on Tuesday with a well-timed par at the 17th to take the 1-up edge that eventually allowed her to move on.
In fact, Hiestand has had only nine birdies so far in five rounds of match play. The most notable, of course, is the one that came off the 48-foot birdie putt Hiestand sank Wednesday afternoon on the first extra hole in her semifinal match against Shannon Johnson, last year’s Women’s Mid-Am runner-up.
“This is a putter's course,” Hiestand had said earlier in the day. “That's my favorite club in my bag.”
What remains to be seen is whether Hiestand and her trusty flat stick have one more round left in them. The veteran will draw Kelsey Chugg in Thursday’s 18-hole final. Chugg, 26, has youth on her side as she charges through her first Women’s Mid-Am, but in Hiestand’s case, never underestimate the experience that 43 starts in a USGA championship will bring.
Editors Note:. The USGA contributed to this story
ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur
The U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur originated in
1987 to provide a national competitive arena
for amateurs 25 and older. Besides the age
restriction, the event is open to those with a
USGA Handicap Index of 9.4 or lower. It is
one of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly
View Complete Tournament Information