San Antonio – Few players in the state of Georgia over the past decade and a half have been more decorated than Laura Coble.
Coble, 48, of Augusta, has won 10 Georgia State Golf Association Women’s Match Play titles and six GSGA Women’s Amateur stroke play championships. Three times, the GSGA has named Coble its Tommy Barnes Award recipient (2000, 2005 and 2009), given annually to the state’s top golfer, male or female.
To top it off, Coble has helped Georgia claim three USGA Women’s State Team titles, including the last two (2009 and 2011).
But the one championship title missing from her remarkable portfolio is a USGA individual crown. In 2009, she advanced to the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur final at Golden Hills Golf & Turf Club in Ocala, Fla., only to come up short against Martha Leach, 3 and 2.
Another opportunity has come Coble’s way this week at Briggs Ranch Golf Club after she eliminated Christina Proteau, 29, of Canada, 5 and 4, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Up next is a semifinal encounter Wednesday afternoon against three-time champion Meghan Stasi, 34, of Oakland Park, Fla.
“This is what you want,” said Coble, who is competing in her 12th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “This is what you play and practice for. To have myself in position to win one more match [is] awesome.”
Two things could be working in Coble’s favor this year. For starters, she cut back her competitive schedule this summer, playing just three events leading up to the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. She won the GSGA Match Play and GSGA Women’s Amateur and represented her state in a team match against neighboring states Florida and Alabama. She eschewed trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur or traveling to play other women’s amateur competitions.
Secondly, she was able to procure the caddie services of good friend Dori Carter, whose 2012 LPGA Tour season happened to end just before the Women’s Mid-Am began. Carter finished 99th on the money list, so she wasn’t eligible to play in the remaining limited-field events in southeast Asia – the Tour is in Malaysia this weekend.
Coble has known Carter, a 25-year-old native of Valdosta, Ga., since the latter was starring in women’s amateur events as a teenager. The two were on the 2009 winning Georgia squad at the Women’s State Team held at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Ft. Wayne, Ind. And Carter caddied for Coble at last year’s WST competition at The Landings in Savannah, Ga., where the home team rallied to win.
Carter also caddied for Coble at the 2010 Women’s Mid-Am at Wichita (Kan.) C.C., but due to a prior commitment, she could only stick around for stroke-play qualifying. With time off from the Tour this week, Carter was able to be on the bag for the event’s duration.
“A lot of calmness this week,” said Coble, of what Carter’s presence brings her during the championship. “She has a good eye for doing this and that. She is keeping me even-keeled.”
Added Carter: “It’s all Laura, really,” said Carter. “I just carry the bag.
“Caddieing is awesome because you don’t have to hit the shot, but you are still in on the action. I like caddieing for her.”
The semifinal match against Stasi will have an interesting dynamic for Carter. In 2005, she was recruited by Stasi, then the head coach of the University of Mississippi’s women’s golf team, and played two seasons for her. The school did not renew Stasi’s contract after the 2006-07 season.
“I owe her everything,” said Carter. “If I didn’t go to Ole Miss, I don’t know where I would be.”
Just being in the final four has exceeded Coble’s expectations. Despite a solid summer, Coble didn’t feel her game – physically and mentally – was good enough entering the week to win a national championship. But trimming the competitive schedule has helped. After a long summer season, Coble generally gets worn out or develops some nagging pain by August.
This week, she bought a fresh bottle of ibuprofen and steadily has seen her game improve from the first official practice round last Thursday.
Against the long-hitting Proteau, Coble played a bogey-free round with four birdies, including three in a row midway through the outward nine to build a 4-up lead. Coble has played “bombers” before and she knew to keep focused on her own game. She and Carter consulted constantly over every shot, picking the correct yardages and lines.
“That’s where Dori was really good on focusing on the number we needed to hit,” said Coble. “She just helped me keep in a positive, aggressive frame of mind, which is what I need.”
Coble, who went to high school in Augusta with Briggs Ranch’s superintendent Chandler Masters, now sits on the cusp of a USGA championship. It’s something she would dearly love to bring back to her home club, Augusta Country Club, and to the state of Georgia, where she has made so much history since claiming her first state titles 13 years ago.
“It’s all gravy right now,” said Coble. “I’ve just kept fighting and trying to get a little bit better every day. Every day I feel better.”
David Shefter is a senior writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.