Joan Higgins, of Glendora, Calif., defeated Judith Kyrinis, of Canada, 1 up, in the final match Thursday to win the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, held at the 6,109-yard, par-73 Hollywood Golf Club.
Higgins, 58, became the third player to win both the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, a championship she captured in 2008. She joins World Golf Hall of Famer Carol Semple Thompson, who won four Senior Women’s Amateurs and two Women’s Mid-Amateurs, and Ellen Port, who captured the 2012 and 2013 Senior Women’s Amateur and four Women’s Mid-Amateurs.
"It’s unbelievable," said Higgins of winning her second USGA championship. "I never thought it would happen. As someone said, I play well on tough golf courses, because if you keep it in the fairway, it becomes your advantage."
Higgins did not miss one fairway off the tee in the 18-hole final. She also came from behind on the inward nine against Kyrinis, just like she did in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches.
Kyrinis, 50, took the lead on No. 13 with a two-putt par after Higgins was unable to get up and down from the left greenside bunker. Higgins, who played collegiate tennis at the University of Wisconsin in the 1970s, split the middle of the fairway with her tee shot but came to rest in a grassy depression that left her with an awkward lie.
Higgins, who is not ranked in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, squared the match on No. 14 with a par. Her approach shot hit the flagstick and caromed 19 feet past the hole. Meanwhile, Kyrinis found the left rough off the tee and sent her second shot over the green, leading to a bogey.
"I hit it a little low," Higgins said. "I was 135 (yards), so I choked down on my 6-iron. I was thinking if it hadn’t hit the flagstick it could have gone in, but she hit it over the green and didn’t hit a great chip."
The key hole turned out to be the par-5 16th. Both players were in perfect position in front of the green after laying up short with their second shots. Higgins struck her third shot to within 16 feet, but Kyrinis got under the ball with her approach and was well short of the putting surface. She eventually misfired on a 5-½ foot putt in an attempt to halve the hole.
"There are lots of different times during the match to think where I could have taken advantage that I didn’t," said Kyrinis, a registered nurse in Toronto who was playing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur. "To move all over that little pitch shot was not very good."
Higgins added, "She’s long enough on these par 5s that especially on 16, she should have been able to get there. She laid up just where I was. I was very surprised."
After each player bogeyed the par-3 17th after missing the green with their tee shots, Higgins closed out the match with a hard-working par on the finishing hole. She hit a 155-yard rescue club to the right fringe, while Kyrinis’ approach shot rolled through the putting surface and over the green. Higgins later converted an 8-foot putt.
"I was very happy to hit the putt first, because I knew if I made it, I won," Higgins said about her winning stroke and Kyrinis facing a 7-foot par putt. "If she made it, it’s a tougher putt to make because I have got to make it on top (of her)."
Kyrinis, who defeated two past Senior Women’s Amateur champions in Mina Hardin (2010) and Terri Frohnmayer (2011) in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, made a 10-foot bogey putt on No. 7 and a 3½-foot par putt on No. 8 to halve both holes and keep the match all square. She took the lead just before the turn on the par-4 ninth when she two-putted over a ridge and down a slope from 30 feet.
"The greens were pretty slick," said Kyrinis, who reached the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinals in 2000 and is No. 2,005 in the WAGR. "The pins were like every Sunday position I think they had out there. [I] felt like I was playing prevent defense."
Higgins, who never got past the quarterfinals in seven previous U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur appearances and took out the No. 3 seed (Kyrinis), the No. 4 seed (Andrea Kraus) and the Canadian Women’s Senior Amateur champion (Helene Chartrand) on her way to the title, regrouped on the 484-yard, par-5 10th when she made a 16-foot birdie putt to square the match.
"Oh, that was huge," said Higgins about the match’s lone birdie. "I was struggling a little bit before that, and that was a turning point. I said, hey, I actually might be able to win this if I don’t do too many bad things on the way in."
Kyrinis, who held a 1-up lead on three occasions on the outward nine, was attempting to become the third Canadian to win this championship, joining Marlene Stewart Streit, a three-time champion, and Gayle Borthwick, a two-time winner.
All quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, to be played Sept. 26-Oct. 1 at Hillwood Country Club in Nashville, Tenn.
Higgins receives a gold medal, custody of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Trophy for one year and a 10-year exemption from sectional qualifying for the championship.
"I know what it means," Higgins said. "I know that you’re the United States Senior Women’s Amateur champion, and no one can ever take that away from you."
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, for players 50 years and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
DEAL, N.J. – Result of Thursday's championship match at the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship being conducted at the 6,109-yard, par-73 Hollywood Golf Club.
Joan Higgins, Glendora, Calif. (158) def. Judith Kyrinis, Canada (153), 1 up
Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s manager of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.