NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Five players from Indiana started the championship’s 36 holes of stroke play on Saturday, and all five home-state competitors have moved on to Monday’s first round of match play.
I’ve played in a lot of USGA championships, said Julie Carmichael, 50, of Plainfield. But there’s something about the pressure of being at home that feels completely different. You’ve got so many people newsContenting for you and cheering you on, and you don’t want to let them down. It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster.
Carmichael calmed herself enough to shoot 81-78 for 159 to comfortably make the 64-player field for match play. She was joined by 2013 champion Julia Potter, 26, of Granger, who was medalist last year en route to the title. Potter was third in stroke-play at 144. Cara Stuckey, of Terre Haute, and Tobi Herron, of Columbus, both shot 154, while Lisa Cook, who hails from Noblesville, the same town as the host club, shot 161, two strokes inside the number that played off for the final four spots.
Carmichael’s father, Sam, was the longtime golf coach at Indiana University who retired in 2004, and he coached fellow qualifier Stuckey. Carmichael grew up playing in the area, and she has played many times at Harbour Trees. She also has a great resource on her bag, caddie Lon Kinney.
Lon is the retired pro from Harbour Trees, and he knows these greens better than anybody, said Carmichael. I’ve definitely made some putts that most people would not have known, because some of these greens are so subtle. Lon just gives me that extra confidence.
Carmichael was a member of the USGA’s Regional Affairs Committee for eight years, continuing a long tradition of USGA volunteering in the state. For two years, she has been the chief strategy officer for St. Vincent Health, which has 22 hospitals in the state.
One thing I found from being in town, I didn’t really take Thursday and Friday off, said Carmichael. It’s not like when you pack your car and leave, where you are really focused on golf. I had a tough time shutting off work and getting focused.
When she got to the course, however, there was no doubting the task at hand – or the support system.
My parents, sister, boyfriend, along with several people from office and a couple of family friends were following me, said Carmichael, who has advanced to the Round of 16 twice in this championship. I’ve also played here since I was a kid. I walk down the fairways and feel like I know most of the volunteers. What a treat it is to be at home and have people who have watched you play golf forever come out and see you play in a national championship.
Carmichael, Herron and Stuckey all qualified for the championship at Harbour Trees, while Cook, who is from Noblesville and plays out of the Sagamore Club, qualified in Naperville, Ill. She found the qualifying the most stressful part of the process.
I felt a little more pressure in the qualifier, said Cook, 33. I said to myself, I need to qualify. It’s right in my hometown and the closest I will ever get to playing in my home state.
Cook and her husband, Kenny, are playing for the third time opposite each other. Kenny is competing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship this week at Saucon Valley Country Club, in Bethlehem, Pa., where he qualified for match play. For Lisa, this is her first match-play berth in three attempts.
He does his thing and I do mine, said Lisa. We hope each other plays well and keeps moving on. Most of our communication is via text message.
Cook said she lost her swing in middle, but got it back and managed to stay inside the top 64.
To have that many female golfers from one state – especially a state that doesn’t play year-round, I think it’s nice that we all have a chance, said Cook. Who knows? Maybe one of us will win the title.
Oldest Competitor Brower, 69, Pays It Forward
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur provides rare sights, such as two competitors separated by more than 40 years in age sharing common vagaries of the game.
Taffy Brower, 69, the oldest competitor in this year’s championship, played with Suzanne Stanley, 26, during the two rounds of stroke-play qualifying. When Stanley struggled with her short game on Saturday, Brower took her aside after the round.
Suzanne pounds the ball a million miles, said Brower admiringly. But after we finished, I told her to come over to the short-game area and I showed this little shot that Alice Dye had shown me two nights ago. She was so excited. On the second hole [Sunday], she had a shot and she chipped it up there 2 inches away and said, ‘Thank you!’
Dye, 87, is the championship’s honorary chairperson, and Brower was proud to share the insight she gained from Dye, the two-time U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion and wife of renowned designer Pete Dye. Stanley, of Nashville, improved her score by 13 strokes from Saturday to Sunday (95-82).
That’s what we do in golf, said Brower, of Boynton Beach, Fla. We share information with each other, and hopefully it’s going to help somebody down the road. We’re talking about a few generations here. That’s why I love golf.
It had been 10 years since Brower had qualified for the Women’s Mid-Amateur, and her presence this week at Harbour Trees gives her a unique distinction.
I figured out that I played in the first one of these [in 1987], and then in the 1990s, the 2000s and now in the 2010s, said Brower, whose given name is Stephanie and became Taffy when her little brother had trouble pronouncing it. So I’ve played in four different decades of the Women’s Mid-Amateur. To me, that’s really exciting.
Brower shot rounds of 83-85 to miss the 36-hole cut, but she finished in style, hitting her tee shot to 3 feet on the final hole, the 151-yard, par-3 18th, and making her only birdie of the weekend.
I have back issues anyway, and my body wasn’t used to walking these four days, said Brower of the two practice rounds and stroke play. But that’s OK. Every now and again, I hit some good shots, and that’s golf – the way golf is for a woman who is almost 70. It comes and goes like the weather.
Brower had tried to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur a few times since her last appearance in 2004, and this championship puts her within one of a milestone: 50 USGA championships played.
That’s why I keep trying to qualify for these things, said Brower, who was the Women’s Mid-Amateur stroke-play medalist in 2002 and has advanced as far as the quarterfinal round. The yardage is a little long for me, but all I need to do is get a little bit stronger.
Brower plans to walk more rounds at her home course of Delray Dunes and employ a push cart in an effort to strengthen herself for upcoming championships. She failed to make the field for next week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in Deal, N.J., but will try to qualify for No. 50 next month, when she competes in a qualifier for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball on Oct. 28 in Wellington, Fla.
Stasi Posts 74, Ties for Fourth in Qualifying
Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi tied for fourth in stroke-play qualifying with a score of 7-over 151 after rounds of 77-74, and pronounced herself ready for match play.
I got off to a little slow start yesterday, said Stasi, 36, of Oakland Park, Fla. I knew if I got the ball rolling a little better today, they’d go in. I made a few birdies and just felt solid out there.
Stasi, who won this championship in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012 and lost in the semifinals last year, recently qualified for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Dawn Woodard, who shot 71-72 the past two days to place second in qualifying for this week’s championship. It was part of a busy run-up for Stasi.
I had a slower start to the summer because I knew I had a lot of big tournaments at the end, said Stasi, who earned her eighth Philadelphia Women’s Amateur title in July, with a 2-and-1 victory over Emily Gimpel. For Stasi, who grew up in the area, it was her first appearance in the event in seven years – she won it seven consecutive times from 1999-2005. She was 7 under par for the 35 holes of the match to defeat Gimpel, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland.
Stasi missed the cut for match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y., last month after spending two weeks in New York preparing for the championship. She likes where her game is for the Women’s Mid-Am match-play test.
I had two good days of qualifying, she said. Now the fun begins. I can be conservative when I need to and aggressive when I need to.
Weworski Faces New Reality At Harbour Trees
With a 36-hole score of 159, Corey Weworski advanced to match play in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur for the 16th time. Her start at Harbour Trees this week is her 19th in the championship, including all events since 2001. For the first time in a decade, however, there is no guarantee that the Carlsbad, Calif., resident will have a spot in next year’s field, as her 10-year exemption for winning in 2004 runs out this week. She’ll have to advance to the quarterfinals to assure herself of being in the field in 2015 at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La.
I love this competition, but I may be getting too old for it, said Weworski, 52, who advanced to the Round of 16 in 2013 and was last a quarterfinalist in 2012. The girls are long, they’re good, so I really have enjoyed playing in it, but I don’t know if I’ll come back if I have to try and qualify.
Along with the 10-year exemption came a whole new set of expectations when Weworski defeated 1998 champion Virginia Grimes, 5 and 4, in the final at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn. It took some adjusting, but being a USGA champion is a distinction she ultimately treasures.
It was a struggle the first four years. You’re a USGA champion. You have to uphold the respect of the championship. As far as my golf was concerned, it was a struggle, said Weworski, who caddied for her friend and fellow competitor Kristyl Sunderman in Sunday’s 5-for-4 playoff for the final spots in match play. But I came to grips with it, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened. It was so much fun. All the officials I meet along the way, all the friends I meet along the way, that’s what I’ve really enjoyed the most.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott Lipsky of the USGA contributed.