Cleary cruises to Pennsylvania Women's Amateur title
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Golf Association
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Golf Association

It was less a competition than a coronation. On a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon, Jennifer Cleary was crowned Queen of the 85th Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur Championship. No one disputed her claim to the throne.

Cleary, a sophomore-to-be at Virginia, dominated the field. Her closing 2-under par 71 on Wednesday was her highest score of the week. Prior to that she tied Sunnybrook Golf Club’s competitive course record with a 69 on Monday and broke it on Tuesday when she fashioned a 67. It all added up to a 54-hole total of 12-under par 207 over a demanding golf course that played to 6,145 yards.

Cleary’s closest pursuer, Isabella Dilisio (Hatffield. Pa.), who played collegiately at Notre Dame, finished 16 shots behind her at 223.

“I just hit it really well all week,” Cleary said. “I putted really well. I think one way (the golf course) set up well is that the greens are tough. They’re very slopey and pretty fast. I think I’m pretty good at reading putts. I’ve gotten a lot better at just being conservative on some putts that I see might be tough; that are really fast. I think I just putt hard greens well.

Cleary’s talents with a putter were on display Wednesday. Her only bogey of the day came at the final green. Prior to that, she rolled in birdie putts at the par-4 third (six feet), the par-4 ninth (seven feet) and par-4 11th (six feet).

She had an abundance of makeable birdie chances and her second putts were, for the most part, within, or close to, tap-in range.

“My mom likes that,” Cleary said. “It saves her a lot of stress. But I struck my irons well. Struck my wedges really well, which I think helped alleviate some stress, because I figured if I had a lot of wedges into greens, eight to 10, that I would probably have at least three birdies just because I put five inside 10 feet.”

Cleary estimated she hit seven wedges into greens on Wednesday. Despite having a nine-shot lead over Dilisio when the final round began, she kept her foot on the gas.

“I was just trying to play like I was five or 10 behind,” she said, “and keep pushing forward with birdies and not play too conservative because I don’t think I play well like that. So, just try to continue to try to make birdies.”

Cleary was eligible for the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur by virtue of her membership at Applecross Golf Club in Downingtown, Pa. She competed in the championship after failing to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Unlike some junior and college golfers who focus exclusively on golf from a young age, Cleary played other sports, notably field hockey and squash, which she pursued in high school at the Tower Hill School. Before she enrolled at Virginia, she confined her golf to the spring and summer months.

“This was my first year that I played more than four months a year,” she said. “Before, I would play field hockey for my high school, then I’d play squash (In the winter) for my high school. Then I would start (golf) in March or April and finish in August, then stop. So, it’s been really nice to play golf all year long.”

Cleary believes playing multiple sports kept her from burning out on golf at a young age.

“I’ve definitely heard that a lot of girls that play all year round and have gone to academies, they come into college and they just feel like ‘I’ve been doing this all my life already,’” she said.

“Whereas I was pushing the gas down. I think living in the north, in the winter, and then coming out in the spring, you have more fire than people that have been doing it all year long.

“Even me. I came home from school and took a whole week off and then came back to it.”

Mid-Amateur, Senior and Super Senior Divisions

The Mid-Amateur, Senior, and Super Senior Divisions of the championship were contested at 36 holes and concluded on Tuesday. Katie Miller Gee (Oakmont, Pa.) won the Mid-Amateur title with a two-day total of even-par 146, 10 shots clear of Katrin Wolfe.

Lisa McGill (Philadelphia), a member at the host club, took the Senior Division (50 and over) crown after finishing at 6-over par 152 for 36 holes, seven shots clear of Karen Siegel and Suzie Spotleson.

Barbara Pagana (Selinsgrove, Pa.) won the Super Senior event for players 65 and over. Her two-day total of 9-over par 155 bested Ruth Averback by four strokes.

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ABOUT THE Pennsylvania Women's Amateur

State championship for women, mid-amateurs (ages 25+), seniors (ages 50+) and super seniors (ages 65+). Entries are open to amateur golfers who (1) were female only at birth (2) are members of a club that belongs to the Pennsylvania Golf Association and (3) have a USGA Handicap Index of no more than 22.5. 18-hole stroke play qualifying to determine match play brackets. Players will compete in match play flights of 8 or 16, dependent on entries.

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