Chattanooga, Tenn. - Lisa Schlesinger of Laytonsville, Md., combined a 71 with an opening 68 to finish with a 36-hole total of 139, five under par, to vy for medalist honors at the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur qualifying at the 5,876-yard, par-72 Honors Course.
Schlesinger, 53, has a 3-stroke lead over Mary Ann Haywood of Canada and is five strokes ahead of defending champion Mina Hardin of Fort Worth, Texas. Haywood and Hardin had afternoon starting times.
“It’s just validation that my game has improved,” Schlesinger said. “All the hard work is paying off. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens today and yesterday.”
Schlesinger was a late-starter in golf. She didn’t begin playing until the age of 35 after a sports career that included a stint in professional basketball, when she was a guard for the Washington Metros and the New England Gulls in the Women’s Professional Basketball League. The 1979 graduate of the University of Maryland is also in the Greater Washington D.C. Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame.
“When you compare team sports to individual sports, in golf it’s just you,” Schlesinger said. “Every decision you make, it’s just you and you learn to trust yourself.”
Her run in this championship includes 10 birdies. She made four birdies Sunday, draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole. A 10-footer gave her a birdie at the par-4 fifth. She followed with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth and made her final birdie of the round when she sank an 8-footer on the 10th hole.
Her 139 total is the second lowest 36-hole qualifying score in the history of this championship. The late Toni Wiesner fired 67-38—135 at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va., in 1998.
Schlesinger’s total might have been even lower had it not been for a double-bogey on the par-4 ninth hole. Her approach shot spun off the front of the green and into a water hazard; she made a 6.
In all, Schlesinger had played 20 holes Sunday. Her first round was suspended by darkness after 16 holes on Saturday. After leaving the course at five under par, she returned in the morning to make a par and a three-putt bogey to finish the round with a 68. It was her lowest competitive round by two strokes. Schlesinger, who works for her family’s real estate and property management firm, shot a 70 in qualifying for this event in 2010.