Chattanooga, Tenn. – Mary Ann Hayward, 51, of Canada fired an opening round of 2-under-par 70 to lead the first round of stroke-play qualifying in the 2011 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. Hayward was two strokes ahead of defending champion Mina Hardin, 51, of Fort Worth, Texas, who shot even-par 72 on the 5,876-yard, par-72 Honors Course.
It was a good day for USGA champions. Mary Budke, 57, of Palm Spring, Calif., the 1972 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, finished with a 73. The 2004 Senior Women’s Amateur champion, Carolyn Creekmore, 59, of Dallas, Texas, fired a 74. Carol Semple Thompson of Sewickley, Pa., whose seven USGA titles include four Senior Women’s Amateur championships, shot 75.
Also at 75 were Taffy Brower of Boynton Beach, Fla., and two Californians, Deborah Anderson of Rancho Mirage and Kathy Kurata of Pasadena.
But the player with the hot hand left the course without finishing her round. Lisa Schlesinger, 53, of Laytonsville, Md., was five under par with two holes remaining when play was suspended because of darkness.
“I just rolled putts, that’s all,” said Schlesinger.
Schlesinger said she made her only bogey on her final hole of the day, the 290-yard, par-4 seventh, because she rushed.
“This round is fine but I’m just trying to make match play,” she said. “At the Players Dinner I sat with some of the champions. Maybe it rubbed off.”
Hayward’s round was one to remember. “That’s the best ball-striking day I’ve ever had,” she said. “Ever.”
The 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion is riding a wave of confidence. Two weeks ago Hayward won the Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur title. On Saturday she hit 18 greens in regulation and missed only one fairway. Her putter, however, didn’t work until late in her round. Teeing off on the second nine, she made a lone birdie on an 18-foot putt on the 15th hole and then missed a 2-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole.
“It was ugly,” Hayward said of the short putt. “I told myself to just forget trying to make putts and get it rolling. Coming in, I hit some really good putts.”
Hayward rolled in birdie putts of 10, 25 and 24 feet on three of the last four holes to finish at two under par.
Hardin got over early nervousness as defending champion to finish at even par.
“I’m very pleased,” Hardin said. “I hit a couple of ‘Oops’ out there but Gary (her husband/caddie) said not to let it bother me. I’m happy with a 72. It was a good round.”
Budke’s 73 was something of a surprise. She’s returning to competitive golf after retiring in November as an emergency room physician. The former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and past Curtis Cup player said it’s hard to regain a competitive edge.
“If I play in competition I do not hold up under pressure,” Budke said.
Asked how competitive golf could be more stressful than providing medical assistance in emergency rooms, Budke said: “It was easier to do the other because I did it on a regular basis. When you don’t play golf, the game becomes hard. There’s the pre-shot routine, or whatever, and I’ve worked really hard on my little things. It comes together sometimes. If I can hold it together to make the cut, then I can make a run at it.”
Fog delayed the start of Saturday’s play for two hours and 10 minutes and 15 players failed to finish the first round. They will complete the round on Sunday morning.
After 36 holes, the low 64 players advance to match play. The championship concludes with an 18-hole final on Thursday.
The USGA Senior Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of USGA Communications. E-mail her with questions or comments at email@example.com.