Akemi Khaiat, 50, of Japan, posted a 75 Sunday for a 36-hole total of 3-over-par 147 to win stroke-play medalist honors at the 52nd USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at CordeValle.
She edged 2010 champion Mina Hardin, 53, of Fort Worth, Texas, by one stroke. Hardin posted her second consecutive 74 to finish at 148 at the 5,995-yard, par-72 Robert Trent Jones Jr. course.
"It’s wonderful. It’s an honor," Khaiat said of winning the medal. "I feel very good. It gives me confidence that I can do something but I have a big challenge because my friend told me that match play is what matters."
Khaiat, playing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur, is the first international medalist since 2006 and only the third since the championship changed its format from a 54-hole, stroke-play event to stroke-play qualifying followed by match play in 1997. Gayle Borthwick of Canada (1999) and Cecilia Mourgue D’Algue of France (2006) were the other internationals to earn the No.1 seed in match play.
"I was nervous on the first tee because I was the leader," said Khaiat, who works in Los Angeles as a property investor and holds Japanese citizenship. "I played good and again I putted well. I made four birdies but two of them I didn’t expect to make because I wasn’t trying to."
The seven-time club champion at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Khaiat returned from the Kanto State Senior Amateur in Japan just before Saturday’s first day of the competition, too late for a practice round at CordeValle. She served as co-captain of the Japanese team at the 1998 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Chile and her husband is a volunteer Rules of Golf official.
Hardin, who finished with two birdies against four bogeys, was the low scorer for Texas in the recently completed USGA Women’s State Team Championship in Kettering, Ohio.
"The course was a little bit easier because there was no rain," said Hardin, who played in the morning before winds picked up. "It was tough yesterday. Today, there are opportunities out there. I didn’t make as many putts as I would have wanted to and then I got greedy coming in and was trying to force a couple of putts and rammed them by."
After no sub-par scores Saturday, Martha Leach, 51, of Hebron, Ky., the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, posted a 1-under 71. She finished three strokes behind Khaiat at 150, in a tie for third with Lynne Cowan, 50, of Rocklin, Calif., who attended San Jose State.
The field of 132 players was trimmed to 64 for match play, with the cut coming at 20-over-par 164. Match play begins at 9 a.m. on Monday.
Four other Northern California players advanced to match play: Rachel Moreaux (San Rafael), Juvy Timan (Watsonville), Marianne Towersey (Pebble Beach) and Sandra Woodruff (Santa Cruz). Terry Mayes, of Gilroy, missed qualifying for match play by one stroke.
Corey Weworski, the 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, of Carlsbad, Calif., shot 73, the lowest round of the afternoon when steadier and more intense wind challenged the field.
Defending champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, reached match play at 156. Along with Port and Hardin, other past champions to advance to match play included Carol Semple Thompson, of Sewickley, Pa. (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002), Carolyn Creekmore, of Dallas, Texas, Anna Schultz, of Rockwall, Texas (2007), Sherry Herman, of Holmdel, N.J. (2009), and Terri Frohnmayer, of Salem, Ore. (2011)