SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Oct. 8, 2012) -- Qualifying medalist Dawn Woodard overcame a shaky start on Monday to win her first-round match at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, defeating Heidi Ushijima, 2 and 1, at the 6,139-yard Briggs Ranch Golf Club.
Other winners on Monday included defending and four-time champion Ellen Port, three-time champion Meghan Stasi and 2010 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Mina Hardin.
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, for female golfers 25 years of age and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
The remaining 32 competitors will play their second-round matches on Tuesday morning, beginning at 8:15 a.m. CDT. The winners will advance to the third round of match play, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. CDT. The 18-hole final is set for Thursday.
A day after unseasonably cool conditions and high winds sent players scrambling for sweaters and jackets, Monday’s weather rebounded to the low 70s with abundant sunshine and calm breezes.
Woodward, 38, of Greer, S.C., took a 2-up lead through three holes in her match, but dropped the next four holes when Ushijima, of Hillsborough, Calif., rolled in three birdies.
“It was definitely a bit of a rollercoaster out there,” said Woodard, “but even being a couple down early, I knew there was a lot of golf left. I didn’t panic and just stayed patient.”
Woodard squared the match at the 12th when she stuck a 9-iron to within two feet for a conceded birdie. She was 1 up on the 16th, but pushed her drive right into the tall grass and considered taking an unplayable lie. Instead, she muscled her ball back into the fairway, hit a lob wedge to eight feet and drained the par putt to win the hole.
“That was where the match was decided,” said Woodard, of the 16th hole. “I went from just trying to get a half to winning the hole and going dormie. That was huge.”
Woodard will face 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Corey Weworski, of Carlsbad, Calif., in the second round.
Stasi had no such trouble, winning six of her first seven holes in a 6-and-5 victory over Connie Isler, of Arlington, Va. The 34 year-old Oakland Park, Fla.-native recorded four birdies and holed an 8-iron from 135 yards for eagle on the 352-yard par-4 fourth.
“I hit the ball exactly where I wanted to today and rolled a few in,” said Stasi, who advanced to the second round of match play for the seventh consecutive year. “Now I just need to be ready to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Stasi, the 2006, 2007 and 2010 Women’s Mid-Am winner, is vying to join Port as the only four-time champion of this event.
For her part, Port, 50, of St. Louis, won four consecutive holes in the middle of the outward nine (Nos. 5 through 8) to take a commanding lead in her match. She defeated Sydney Wells, of Menominee, Mich., 5 and 4. Port also beat Wells in last year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur.
“I putted really well and had a lot of tap-ins,” said Port, who noted that the greens were running more quickly on Monday. “I started playing better on the back nine yesterday and built some more confidence this afternoon. All I can do is keep making sound decisions and good swings.”
Port, who won the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur last month, is vying to join Pearl Sinn and Jennifer Song as the only female golfers to win multiple USGA championships in the same year.
Hardin, 52, of Fort Worth, Texas, lost the first two holes of her match against Leigh Klasse, of St. Anthony, Minn., but starting on the ninth, won five of her next seven holes to close the match, 5 and 3.
On the 12th, Hardin stuck a 7-iron from 168 yards to within 10 feet of the hole. With her opponent in trouble, Hardin two-putted for a par to win the hole and take a commanding lead in the match.
“That hole was the turning point where I really started feeling my swing,” said Hardin.
Hardin tore a tendon in her right hand before this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, but has been postponing treatment until after this week’s championship. Her only major adjustment has been hitting fewer practice balls; the injury has given her an added incentive to keep the ball in the fairway.
“When I hit shots out of the rough it really grabs,” said Hardin, “but I try not to think about it too much while on the golf course.”
An 8-for-5 playoff determined the final spots for match play early on Monday. Of the playoff participants, only Liisa Kelo Escartin, of Mexico, advanced to the second round. She defeated third seed Lucy Nunn, of Lexington, Ky., 2 and 1.
Kelley Nittoli, the only local player remaining in the field, won the first hole of her match with fellow Texan Carol Martin, of Irving, and never trailed in a 2-and-1 victory.