U.S. Senior Women's Amateur: Joy-Connelly, Higgins Share Round One Lead
Tara Joy-Connelly (USGA Photo)
Tara Joy-Connelly (USGA Photo)

There’s a good reason why Troon Country Club’s address is on North Windy Walk Drive. It can get more than a little breezy here, which was exactly the case during the first round of stroke play in the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. The impact on scoring across the par-72 course designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, playing at 5,761 yards today, was noticeable.

No player in the field broke par, and the overall scoring average was 84.4, the highest first-round average in the championship since the 85.3 average in 2016 at Wellesley Country Club in Massachusetts.

After a relatively calm start this morning in sunny conditions, gusts of up to 35 miles per hour were prevalent the rest of the day, leaving Tara Joy-Connelly and Gigi Higgins, who both had early morning tee times, tied for the lead at even-par 72.

Joy-Connelly of Middleborough, Mass., finished with three birdies on the back nine. The Massachusetts Golf Hall of Famer is playing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur after turning 50 last January.

“I felt like missing last year [due to a rotator cuff injury], my last true Mid-Am year, I put a lot of pressure on myself to start this year with the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the Mid-Am,” she said. “I have a friend (Chris Kepko) here this week who has caddied for me before, and we’ve had some success, so I said, look, we have to keep it fun because we’ve always been fun. So I’m like, ‘Don’t let me put that kind of pressure on myself.’”

Higgins of Cape Coral, Fla., made par on her first 10 holes before mixing two birdies with two bogeys, plus four additional pars, on the back nine.

“It (the wind) kicked up a little bit in the morning, and then it kicked up on the back,” she said. “Then it would go away. It was kind of like, ‘Okay, who has honors?’ because it was wailing. You’d think, ‘Thank God I’m not up.’ But yeah, it was just kind of off and on gusts.”

At the 2021 Senior Women’s Amateur at The Lakewood Club (Dogwood Course) in Point Clear, Ala., Higgins was co-medalist with eventual champion Lara Tennant of Portland, Ore. Staying grounded on Saturday kept her in position to repeat the feat.

“It’s really just that unconscious golf where you never get ahead of yourself,” said Higgins. “You just stay right there. This is my shot. Don’t get ahead. Don’t get upset. Just hit and go.”

Two players are in second place at 1-over par, including 3-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion Tennant, who had her father, George Mack, an original Troon Country Club member, as her caddie.

“Well, I think we’ve been talking about this tournament all year long, so it’s been one of those things where we’ve just been really excited to be here together,” she said. “I think the course, as we played it today, just got a little bit more difficult, but I’m definitely pleased with my round.”

Tennant is tied with Pamela Kuong of Wellesley Hills, Mass. “I had no three putts, which is unbelievable on this golf course to have no three putts,” said Kuong. “The goal is to be top 64 so I can get into match play, and nothing more than that. So, hopefully, I put myself in a good enough position that I can make match play.”

Four players are tied at 2-over par: Sarah Gallagher of Canton, Ga.; Kim Eaton of Mesa, Ariz.; Kathy Glennon of Naples, Fla.; and Kathy Hartwiger of Pinehurst, N.C.

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ABOUT THE U.S. Senior Women's Amateur

The USGA Senior Women's Amateur is open to female golfers with a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 14.4, who will have reached their 50th birthday on or before the first day of the championship. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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