Kirkwood overtakes Greenlief to win inaugural Donna Invitational
Marissa Kirkwood with Donna Andrews (Photo submitted)
Marissa Kirkwood with Donna Andrews (Photo submitted)

Marissa Kirkwood had some work to do entering the final round of the inaugural Donna Andrews Invitational. Kirkwood, a rising senior at Kent State, was trailing first- and second-round leader Lauren Greenlief by two shots the day began. After the opening par 5 at Boonsboro Country Club in Lynchburg, Va., Kirkwood trailed by four shots.

“I didn’t have the best of lies off the tee,” Kirkwood explained. “I just tried to get a little too aggressive with it.”

That Kirkwood, of New Castle, Pa., ended the day with a one-shot victory over Greenlief is a testament to her mental fortitude. That’s something she’s been working on for years. On Tuesday, it meant telling herself to be patient, wait for the opportunities and taking them. It was difficult not to live and die with every putt that Greenlief missed or made, but Kirkwood tried not to let herself get caught up in that.

Kirkwood has worked with Kacey Gibbson, a family friend who is also a sports psychologist, for the past five years. The two talk on the phone roughly every other week.

It’s one thing to talk about staying patient and focused, and a completely different thing to put it in action.

“I would say in the last year that I’ve gotten really good at it,” she said.

After making bogey on the first hole, Kirkwood ended her front nine with three birdies.

By No. 12, a par 4 that had been shortened to 230 yards, Greenlief only had a one-shot advantage. Kirkwood talked the shot over with her dad and caddie Mike, and both decided to go with 3-wood off the tee. She couldn’t have hit it any better.

“I hit it right on my target,” Kirkwood said. “I was waiting for the people by the green to cheer. As I was walking back to my bag, everyone started cheering really loud. They said it was six inches and they said they were waiting for it to go in.”

Eagle there left Kirkwood tied with Greenlief. She played the remaining holes in even par while Greenlief played them in 1 over.

For Kirkwood, the Donna win comes on the heels of top-10 finishes at the Women’s Eastern Amateur and Women’s Porter Cup. She calls this the biggest win of her career.

“Just all of the preparation, all the prep work, all the hours that I put into it,” she said. “I knew I could play well, I knew I could win a tournament and I’ve been close so many times and just taking those and learning from that experience and being able to put all that together was a great experience and really rewarding.”

Much of that work was put it on the Kent State roster over the past three years. Kirkwood made five starts with a team that won six times this season. It’s a deep roster in Kent, Ohio, and even if she doesn’t play with the team, Kirkwood knows she’s always learning from her teammates.

As far as what she learned from her coaches? Course management. Kirkwood averages 270 yards off the tee but has learned that she shouldn’t go for every par 5.

“I’m taking my game and suiting it to the golf course and not trying to force it,” she said. “They really helped me with that.”

Kirkwood has all the tools.

View results for The Donna Invitational
ABOUT THE The Donna Invitational

Started in 2019, this is a 54-hole stroke play event honoring Donna Andrews, the major champion and Virginia Sports Hall of Famer who grew up at the host Boonsboro Country Club.

Open to any female player with a Handicap Index of 14.4 or less, the field will be limited to 72 competitors, selected at the discretion of The Donna Andrews Invitational.

Open, Junior (non-college players ages 18 or lower), Mid-Am (ages 25+), and Senior (ages 50+) divisions.

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