Brenda Corrie Kuehn and Sarah Gallagher (USGA Photo)
In the late afternoon twilight at Troon Country Club, one of Thursday’s finalists, Brenda Corrie Kuehn
, of Asheville, N.C., was back on the practice range after defeating Linda Jeffrey, of Prattville, Ala., 3 and 2.
Over on the first green, her 19th hole of the match, Sarah Gallagher
, of Canton, Ga., was making a 4-foot birdie putt to edge Kim Keyer-Scott, of Bonita Springs, Fla., for the other spot in the final match of the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
Kuehn, who defeated Martha Leach, 3 and 2, in the quarterfinals, took the lead for good in her semifinal match with a par on the par-3 seventh, and then extended it to 4-up through 12 holes. After losing the 14th, she made pars on 15 and 16 to advance, leaving her with one emotion.
“Relieved,” she said. “We had a nice match. She's a nice lady, a really nice lady. We had a good time. Just relieved. You're always relieved when you win.”
“I just didn't make anything.,” said Jeffrey, who defeated Sarah LeBrun Ingram, 2 and 1, to reach the semifinals. “You know, she [Kuehn] gave me couple door openings and I stubbed my toe going through the door. That happens in golf. I mean, she won it. I helped along, but she won that match. Fantastic player.”
Securing a spot in the finals was well off Kuehn’s radar coming into the championship.
“I did not expect to be here, so I'm just going to go out tomorrow and try to play the best golf I can; try and find the swing, try and put it in the fairway, try and hit the greens and try and putt,” she said. “I literally have no expectations.”
For Jeffrey, her inaugural appearance in the Senior Women’s Amateur was a memorable one.“You know, the people who have run this and put this together, it's been incredible,” she said. “Being my first Senior [Women’s Amateur], I finally graduated to my age group. Yeah, I've been missing that. I've been an old Mid-Am, and you can only go so long with that.”
In the other semifinal match, Keyer-Scott grabbed a 1-up lead on the opening hole, but Gallagher tied things up with a birdie on the par-5 third. The two then matched pars for the next 12 holes, before Gallagher won the 16th hole. Then Keyer-Scott won the 18th with a par to extend the match.
“I knew that she was going to be super tough,” said Gallagher. “She’s super steady and can get up and down from everywhere. So I just had to be very steady and stay on top of it. I was trying to be patient, and hopefully, a putt would go in, and one finally did.”
Keyer-Scott wasn’t sure she was coming back to golf after completing breast cancer treatment six months ago, but she has slowly regained what she estimates to be 80 percent of her strength.
“I knew if I played well that I was going to beat some people,” she said. “You know, but to take her [Gallagher] to 19 holes, I mean, she's so good, so long. You know, she was outdriving me by 30 yards, so for me to take her to 19 holes, that was pretty cool.”
Gallagher was quick to give credit to her caddie and friend, Erin Packer, who used to caddie for her father, two-time U.S. Senior Open winner Allen Doyle, on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I cannot express enough how important it’s been to have Erin on my bag,” said Gallagher. “We play very similarly, so we can talk through things. She’s an incredible green reader, so I can get confidence over the putt. It’s been huge.”
After her win, Gallagher exchanged a warm hug with Kuehn, her opponent in the final on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Gallagher. “She’s a hell of a player, so it’s going to be a great day. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”View results for U.S. Senior Women's Amateur