U.S. Senior Women's Amateur: Kathy Hartwiger Sets Record-Tying Pace
Kathy Hartwiger (USGA Photo)
Kathy Hartwiger (USGA Photo)

When it comes to match play in a USGA championship, the Round of 64 is usually a scriptwriter’s dream, with a surplus of storylines to choose from.

Like Monday at the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, where a record-tying victory, international intrigue between two housemates, and redemption from out-of-body experiences all occurred in perfect weather conditions at Troon Country Club.

Draining a 39-foot putt is how Kathy Hartwiger, of Pinehurst, N.C., capped off an impressive 8-and-7 win over Wendy Ohlmeyer of Ladera Ranch, Calif. The final score tied the largest margin of victory in Senior Women’s Amateur championship history.

“I think for me personally, when I go from stroke play to match play, there’s just a freeing that happens,” said Hartwiger, who won the 2002 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “This course is just an incredible test because it can make you want to steer, and you just have to let it go. And the birdies [on the fifth through seventh holes], I just got really great yardages those three holes in a row, and I hit it exactly like I wanted to.”

When Karin Luxon of Switzerland learned that a playing acquaintance from Europe, the Republic of Ireland’s Alison Taylor, also qualified for the championship, she invited her to stay at her rental house. Taylor quickly agreed. Then the two were paired against each other in the first round of match play. It wasn’t easy for either, especially since their contest stretched to 21 holes.

“I learned it a little bit at a European championship,” said Luxon of playing against someone she knows. “In the first match there, I played kind of a friend and I was a little bit too friendly. You have to try to separate yourself a little bit mentally, and I was able to do that much better now. I had my caddie, so you have like a little unit and you separate yourself. You really have to stay in your own little bubble.”

On what would be the final hole of the match, Luxon talked not to herself but rather to the hole.

“I said on the tee box, ‘Par 5, No. 3, you owe me something. You really owe me something,’” she said. “I was 5-over the last two days there, and I said, ‘You really me owe me something little hole.’ I’m glad it gave it back to me.”

The payback came in the form of a par, enabling Luxon to win 1-up and advance to the Round of 32, where she will face 3-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion Lara Tennant.

After an uncharacteristic opening round 88 in stroke play, Martha Leach, of Hebron, Ky., was entirely out of sorts. “The first day, I could just not believe it,” she said.

“I was having out-of-body experiences. I really was. I mean, I’m a pretty straight hitter, and I was missing fairways. And the desert is not like hitting it into the trees. I had unplayable lies, lost balls, and everything going wrong. Then I started missing greens with 7-irons going into the desert. So it was just one of those days.”

Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, did not start off her second round much better.

“Well, the first hole I hit it out of bounds and tripled, so I was like, ‘Oh my God. Here we go again,’” she said. “Thank goodness this is a difficult golf course.” The field came back to her, and Leach, playing in her 82nd USGA championship, steadied her game to finish with a 77 to make the cut by one stroke.

She fared much better today against Gigi Higgins, of Cape Coral, Fla., taking control of the match with four consecutive birdies on holes nine through 12, including holing out a bunker shot and winning 4 and 3.

Two-time USA Curtis Cup Team competitor Brenda Corrie Kuehn, of Asheville, N.C., won 4 and 3 over Suzanne Ricard, of Canada, despite not playing too much golf coming into the championship. Instead, she relied on advice from four-time Senior Women’s Amateur champion Carole Semple Thompson.

“She told me that she just plays the course. She doesn’t play her opponent; she plays the course,” said Kuehn.

In other matches, past Senior Women’s Amateur champions Shelly Stouffer, Judith Kyrinis, Ellen Port and Lara Tennant all advanced to the Round of 32. Stouffer won last year in Alaska.

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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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