Chattanooga, Tenn. - Lisa Schlesinger, 53, of Laytonsville, Md., swept medalist honors in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur when she shot a 71 to finish with a 36-hole total of 139, five under par, at the 5,876-yard, par-72 Honors Course.
Schlesinger finished seven strokes ahead of Mary Ann Hayward, 51, of Canada who shot 70-76—146. Defending champion Mina Hardin, 51, of Fort Worth, Texas and Patricia Cornett, 57, of Mill Valley, Calif., tied at 148.
“It’s just validation that my game has improved,” Schlesinger said. “All the hard work is paying off. Being medalist just tells me that I’m playing good golf and I’m very proud to be medalist in a USGA event.”
The No. 1 seed, Schlesinger will face Kim Cure of Iowa Park, Texas, in Monday’s first round of match play.
Schlesinger made four birdies Sunday on putts ranging from 8 to 20 feet. Her 139 total is the second-lowest 36-hole qualifying score in the history of this championship. Toni Wiesner shot 67-68—135 at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va., in 1998.
Hayward blamed poor putting for a round of 76, six strokes higher than her opening 70. “I hit a lot of approach shots to within eight feet of the hole,” Hayward said. “I just wasn’t stroking my putts well, so I couldn’t get the speed. But I’m still hitting the ball good, so that’s good. Overall, it was still pretty darn good.”
Hayward made a lone birdie Sunday, the result of a 24-foot putt on the par-4 seventh hole. She will face Nancy Smith of North Port, Fla., in her first match.
A late-starter in golf, Schlesinger began playing at age 35 after a stint in professional basketball as 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.
She won the Maryland Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2008 and 2009 but has never advanced beyond the third round of a USGA national championship.
“Now I’ve got to go on and do some damage in match play,” Schlesinger said.
Hardin, the defending champion, was disappointed that her second-round 76 didn’t match her opening round of 72. “The greens were firmer and I just couldn’t judge my approach shots as well as yesterday,” Hardin said.
The most surprised player in the top four is Patricia Cornett, an oncologist who is captain of the 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team. Cornett’s full-time profession and family responsibilities with her husband, Mike Iker, and two daughters leave her little time to compete.
“It’s certainly my USGA historic low,” Cornett said of her second-round score of 70. “It just was fun to hit the ball and make a few putts. You get in a groove.”
Cornett was runner-up in the 1987 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and played on two USA Curtis Cup Teams. While she has competed very little in recent years, she’s eager for the match-play rounds.
“I feel more comfortable in match play than stroke play, quite honestly,” Cornett said.
Local favorite Robyn Puckett, 64, of Irvine, Calif., matched Cornett’s 70 as the low score of the second round and finished at 7-over-par 151. Puckett, who was runner-up in the 2007 USGA Women’s Senior Amateur, is a member of The Honors Course.
Three additional USGA champions were among the top-10 scorers Sunday. The 2004 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Carolyn Creekmore of Dallas, Texas, was at 6-over-par 150. Joan Higgins of Glendora, Calif., 2008 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, finished at 8-over-par 152 along with Mary Budke of Palm Springs, Calif., the 1972 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
The cut came at 19-over-par 163 with nine players vying for six spots in a playoff.
The USGA Senior Women’s Amateur concludes with an 18-hole final match on Thursday. It is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which ten are strictly for amateurs.