ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Tracy Welch of Boston, who is playing in
her ninth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, had one of her most dramatic days in the
championship on Saturday, the first day of stroke-play qualifying.
Welch parred the first hole of her morning round, No. 10,
then holed out a pitching wedge from 110 yards on the 11th fairway for an eagle-2,
one of just two eagles on the day for the 132-player field. The other was a
hole-in-one by Stacy Dennis on No. 9, the first of her career.
Welch later went barefoot to play a shot successfully from a
water hazard en route to a round of 11-over-par 82. Welch stood in a tie for
43rd after Day 1, with the top 64 moving on to match play after Sunday’s final
“The course is really tough; I had a couple of bad holes,
but you just have to keep hanging in there,” said Welch, 42, who lives in the
Charlestown section of Boston with her husband and three children, and works in
the equity division at Credit Suisse. Her family and work responsibilities kept
her from competing in the Women’s Mid-Am the past two years.
The cousin of PGA Tour and Champions Tour player Brad Faxon,
whose father is the older sibling of her mother, Welch is also a two-time
Massachusetts Women’s Amateur champion and the 1997 Massachusetts Women’s Open
champion. This being her 17th USGA championship, Welch has a good sense of what
to expect – most of the time.
“I hit the shot and it felt good,” said Welch of her
approach to No. 11. “I put it a little to the left of the hole like I wanted to
and people said nice shot. There was such a long delay from when I hit it and
when it went in – I couldn’t see it at all. Suddenly there was this loud roar.
It was really fun.”
Welch first played in a U.S. Girls’ Junior when she was
growing up in the Boston suburb of Winchester, and she went on to compete in
six U.S. Women’s Amateurs and one U.S. Women’s Open. Her father, Wade Welch,
has been on the bag for all but two of them, and he was there again yesterday.
He has also caddied for his wife, Jane Faxon Welch, in two USGA Senior Women’s
Amateurs. On Saturday, he needed to have a towel handy.
“I almost put my ball into the creek on No. 17,” said Welch.
“It was sitting in the grass, but inside the hazard line. So I took my shoes
off and got in the creek and got wet. My feet were soaked… it certainly made
for an exciting round.”
Welch is looking to reach match play with a solid showing on
“I haven’t played the last couple of years, but I think
scores are going to be a little bit higher than average,” she said. “The course
plays a lot longer because of elevation changes – and the greens are
challenging; there’s a lot of action going on.”
The field in Saturday’s stroke-play qualifying round averaged
84.25 strokes over the 6,152-yard, par-71 course. Only 25 golfers in the
132-player field broke 80, and three par 4s in particular provided stern tests:
Nos. 2, 16 and 17. All three holes averaged more than a full stroke over their
par, with the 418-yard 17th hole leading the way with a 5.22 stroke average,
and the testing trio combined to allow just three birdies all day. The
126-yard, par-3 third hole played the easiest, at a 3.14 stroke average.
Biltmore Forest has an interesting configuration with three
par 3s, two par 5s and 13 par 4s, finishing with a trio of par 4s. Donald Ross’
design was restored to its original challenge in 1994 by architect Brian Silva.
Ron Driscoll is the
manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.