If anyone in the field of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur was entitled to make a tired swing, it was Christina Proteau.
The 31-year-old is six months pregnant with her first child, and she stood on the tee of the 164-yard, par-3 18th hole at Harbour Trees Golf Club – her 37th of the day – with a 1-up lead over Katie Miller, of Jeannette, Pa.
Proteau proceeded to hit her tee shot into the water fronting the green. When Miller hit a superb shot to within 12 feet of the hole, which led to a conceded par, the weary Proteau was facing her third straight extra-hole match.
"That was frustrating," said Proteau, a resident of Port Alberni, British Columbia, whose husband, Jim, caddies for her. "I think it was a little bit of indecision and tiredness. Both times today, I was 1 up on 18 and both girls hit super shots."
Proteau, who had defeated Julie Streng, of Charlotte, N.C., on Monday with a par on the 19th hole, and Alyssa Roland, of New York, N.Y., earlier on Tuesday with a birdie there, made it three-for-three in 19-hole matches when she made a two-putt par and Miller three-putted from off the back of the green.
"I played that hole well all day – all four times!" said Proteau, who halved the hole with Miller earlier in the day and won it from Roland twice. "It’s almost better to win it that way because the momentum has completely turned against you at that point. I hit a good drive and was the farthest up I’ve been all week. I think I had a little bit of adrenaline."
Proteau had not played extra holes in her two previous Women’s Mid-Amateurs, including last year when she reached the Round of 16.
"I’m pretty sure no one had any expectations for me this week other than myself," said Proteau, who won her fifth Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur title and her fourth British Columbia Women’s Mid-Amateur this summer. "But I have my own, and that got me through today."
Proteau trailed Miller by three holes after 10, but won the next four holes with two birdies, a par and a bogey.
"I just kept telling myself those closing holes are good for me," said Proteau, a prosecutor for the British Columbia ministry of justice. "I thought if I could just make some birdies and put some pressure on, things would happen for me, and they did."
The next thing to happen for Proteau is rest, as much as possible before her Wednesday morning tee time.
Ash Trees To Give Way To Native Areas At Harbour Trees
Visitors to Harbour Trees Golf Club will immediately notice a defining characteristic of the Pete Dye layout: The fairways are lined with ash and oak trees, making each hole its own entity. Errant tee shots frequently lead to an obstructed second shot.
Ed Devlin, Harbour Trees’ general manager and golf course superintendent, intends to keep it that way, but a development in the region is necessitating a major change in how that is accomplished. An infestation of the emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, is causing pervasive problems for ash. First found stateside in 2002 in Michigan and in Indiana in 2004, the onset of the beetle means that more than 200 ash trees will need to be removed from the grounds in the near future.
Trees play an important role at Harbour Trees: They are dependent on not just for playability but also to define the boundaries of the club and the adjacent neighborhood. Devlin and his team have made progress on replacing the trees with native rough areas throughout the course. Very prevalent on links-style golf courses, the native grasses can play much of the same role that trees have played since the club opened in 1972, with some added benefits.
"We’re achieving buffering from the golf course and the neighborhood, but we’re also eliminating all sorts of rough ground that we previously mowed, taking those resources and employing them somewhere else," said Devlin, who initially selected 25 acres that served as a test of the native areas. "I think we’re doing very well with the grasses that are [already] here. It’s a blend of grasses: blues, ryes and fescues. We just turned them loose. This has been a great step for us to continue to improve our play for golf and get our resources in the right spots to do that."
Competitors in this week’s championship likely find the native grasses playing a key role in their performance, and that’s by design. While the club plans to increase the amount of native areas, especially once tree removal begins, Devlin knew this couldn’t be an all-at-once proposition.
"We were very strategic about where we placed them to keep them in the lowest-impact areas at first. It’s kind of like a frog in cold water; we’re going to slowly turn up the heat," he said. "The fastest way to have this rejected by the membership was to have their aggregate handicap skyrocket or have the pace of play increase from 4 hours and 15 minutes to 5 hours."
One thing is for certain, however. The fairway will always be the place to be at Harbour Trees.
"On No. 2, you’re in jail more or less if you knock it in there," Devlin said of an area of ash trees behind a giant oak. "Those ash trees are all going to come out. Instead of it just being vacant, rough ground, you can effectively put some teeth back into what would otherwise be a freebie for an errant shot by structuring in some native area."
Jeffery Steps Into Her Opponent’s Shoes
Linda Jeffery’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur run ended on Tuesday afternoon when she fell to four-time champion Meghan Stasi, 3 and 2. Reaching the Round of 16 matches the Millbrook, Ala., resident’s best performance in the championship, and if she had to lose, she’s glad it was to someone with the resume of Stasi’s.
"Meghan is someone I just enjoy watching; she’s such a good player," said Jeffery, 41, who added, "Though I will say, it is hard to step on the first tee and hear her introduced as the 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012 champion, and then play against her."
It’s likely that there are opponents of Jeffery’s who know the feeling. With over 13 years of combined active and reserve service in the Air Force, Jeffery has established herself as one of the top golfers in the armed forces. The mother of 10-year-old twins hopes to travel to Bahrain in November for the World Military Golf Championship, which she won four consecutive times before finishing as the runner-up in the last championship in 2012.
Stateside, she has won the Armed Forces Championship six times, most recently in 2012, the last time she competed, and the Air Force Golf Championship on numerous occasions. She will compete in both of those later this fall at Randolph Oaks Golf Course on Joint Base-San Antonio in Texas. She was named the Air Force Female Athlete of the Year in 2006 and 2007.
Jeffery was an accomplished player during her collegiate years, helping Hardin-Simmons University, in her hometown of Abilene, Texas, to the 1994 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship. She earned All-America honors twice, and embarked on a career teaching golf after graduation. But she said she always knew what her calling was, ultimately enlisting at the age of 27.
"My father was in the Air Force. I actually wanted to be an officer after college, but they didn’t accept my application," she recalled. "I went through the ROTC at [Texas State University] and got my masters (degree) and got a commission."