Perseverence Paying Off for Ellertson at Wellesley September 19, 2016 | Wellesley, Mass. By Rob Duca

Amy Ellertson has recovered from an inauspicious start in stroke play to reach the Round of 32. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur

Amy Ellertson had an inauspicious start to the 55th U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur Championship at Wellesley Country Club on Saturday when her opening drive on the No. 10 landed out of bounds.

“I don’t hit it long, but I usually hit it straight, so that was a little unsettling,” said Ellertson.

At that point, qualifying for match play was the furthest thing from Ellertson’s mind. With only one competition on her résumé in 2016, she was just hoping to post a respectable score. While an 86 wasn’t her target, Ellertson recovered nicely on Sunday with a 5-over 79 to earn a spot in the 64-player match-play draw.. On Monday, she took one more major step, advancing to the Round of 32 with a 2-and-1 triumph over Susan West. Ellertson next faces Evelyn Orley on Tuesday at 7:55 a.m. EDT.

“The first day was all about the greens for me,” said Ellertson, 55, of  Charlottesville, Va. “I only played one practice round, which was a mistake. By Sunday, I was starting to get the feel. Now I’m more comfortable. But the greens are monsters. They’re rolling perfectly, but they are very tricky. If you don’t stay below the hole, you’re cooked.”

Finding a comfort zone with her game is a constant challenge for Ellertson, mainly because she rarely has the time to play competitive golf. Her high-profile job as a managing director at Wells Fargo Advisors, where she handles $450 million in assets, leaves little time to enter tournaments. Although she has qualified for numerous USGA championships in recent years, she has often surrendered her spot due to work commitments.

“I’m lucky if I play two tournaments a year. I’m not like a lot of these women who play all summer long. I have a career,” she said. “It’s hard to be ready for competitions when you play so sparingly. You want to flip that switch, but it’s hard if you don’t play in a series of events during the summer that leads up to a championship like this. If this is the first or second tournament you play, it can be pretty rough.”

Managing her clients’ financial fortunes helps her golf game in one respect. “There is lots of stress in the job and in golf and you have to be able to handle the pressure,” she said. “I think I’m pretty good at that.”

Ellertson is proving that it’s possible to thrive despite a limited playing schedule. Her only previous event in 2016 was a runner-up showing to stroke-play medalist Judith Kyrinis in the Senior Women’s North & South at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in North Carolina. During a competitive golf career that began on the golf team at San Jose University, Ellertson has won virtually every Virginia state amateur championship. She has also competed in nine previous USGA championships, including two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs, and she is one of 12 competitors in this week’s field to have played in the 2003 USGA Women’s State Team at Wellesley Country Club.

On Monday, Ellertson was perfectly happy  to play, in her words, “steady, boring golf.” in beating West.

“I just tried to make as many pars as I could,” she said. “I made a couple of birdies, which helped, but otherwise all I wanted was pars.”

Two pivotal moments stood out for Ellertson. On Nos. 7 and 10, she converted 7-foot putts, the former a birdie to go 2 up and the latter to halve the hole to prevent West from squaring the match.

“I was just trying to keep my head above water and play to the level I think I can play,” she said. “I’ll do the same thing [in the Round of 32]. I need to keep the ball in the fairway and make putts. On this course, you can miss three or four short putts in a row and the match gets away from you. It will all come down to my putting.”

Rob Duca is a Massachusetts-based writer.

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