ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The hopes of Biltmore Forest Country Club members and friends are still going strong as match play begins on Monday. Brenda Corrie Kuehn and Debbie Adams, longtime members of the club who have each earned success on the national level, both made the top half of the 64-player draw.
Kuehn, a two-time Curtis Cup and Women’s World Amateur Team member, begins match play at 2:09 p.m. on Monday against Judith Kyrinis, of Canada, while Adams tees off at 2:54 p.m. against Stacey Arnold, of Westminster, Colo.
The run-up to the championship was a bit anxious for Adams, as she struggled with her game until very recently.
“I really wasn’t playing well right up until the championship,” said Adams, who competed in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship for North Carolina two weeks ago and shot rounds of 82-85-81. “I came home from the State Team and worked with my husband (Anthony), who is my swing coach, and it finally clicked in the past couple of days.”
Adams completed stroke play in a tie for 14th place after rounds of 79-77, finishing strong with a one-over-par 36 on her final nine holes. Kuehn shot 79-81, and ended in a tie for 22nd. The brackets have been drawn and the attention will only grow for the local hopefuls.
“It’s been fun,” said Adams, 46, of playing in a national championship on her home course. “I would say there’s a little added pressure, but I always put pressure on myself to perform.”
Adams qualified in Johns Creek, Ga., for last year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur, and then got onto a nice run at the championship, her fifth Women’s Mid-Am. She won three matches, advancing to the quarterfinal round, where she lost to Stacy Dennis, who got into this year’s match-play field as the 64th seed in a Monday morning playoff. Adams’ quarterfinal berth gave her automatic entry into this year’s championship on her home course.
“People have been saying that the greens are so hard,” said Adams, who has represented the United States at the International Maccabiah Games, held every four years in Israel. “Being that it’s Brenda and my home course and we know the greens so well, it has been a real advantage for us.”
Adams’ husband also caddies for her. A plus-4 handicap player at Biltmore Forest, he helps her on the greens and with her approach. “He helps keep me calm and focused when I need to be. If I’m racing, he tries to slow me down.”
Slow and steady progress is what a lot of local fans are hoping for.
Dennis Advances In 6-For-1 Playoff
Stacy Dennis, of Huntsville, Texas, advanced into the match-play bracket on Monday morning, making a two-putt par as the other five players in the playoff made bogey on the first playoff hole, the par-4 10th.
Dennis was the only one of the six to hit the green on the 369-yard hole, and her 22-foot birdie putt came up just inches short. The players played in two groupings of three, and Maren Scoggins, of Nashville, Tenn., in the second grouping, had the best chance to join Dennis and extend the playoff. She hit a 30-yard pitch shot within 2 feet of the hole, but lipped out the par putt, leaving Dennis to advance to a match with stroke-play medalist Julia Potter, of Granger, Ind.
On Saturday, Dennis had recorded the first hole-in-one in Women’s Mid-Amateur play in 10 years, holing out her 7-iron tee shot on the par-3 ninth hole for her first career ace.
Marilyn Hardy, of Houston, made a hole-in-one on the ninth hole – the second of the championship – in her first-round match against Jennifer Lochhead, of Canada. Hardy holed a 6-iron shot on the 157-yard hole to square the match with Lochhead. It is Hardy’s second hole-in-one in Women’s Mid-Amateur competition, as she aced the 13th hole at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head, S.C., in 2003 during stroke-play qualifying.
Six of the top seven stroke-play qualifiers are age 30 or under. Only defending and four-time champion Meghan Stasi, who is the No. 2 seed, is older, at age 35. Medalist Julia Potter, No. 4 seed Olivia Herrick and No. 6 seed Rachel Smith are all playing in their first Women’s Mid-Amateurs.
Conversely, Martha Leach is playing in her 25th Women’s Mid-Amateur, extending her own record for number of championship appearances. Pat Cornett is playing in her 23th championship, which ties her for second-most with Ellen Port and Carol Semple Thompson.
Both Leach and Cornett advanced to match play, Leach as the No. 12 seed and Cornett as the No. 24 seed. Leach is into match play for a record 24th time, taking the outright record from Semple Thompson. Leach missed the cut to 64 players for match play just once, in 2010, the year after she won her only Women’s Mid-Amateur title.
Julia Potter's first-round 69 is tied with seven other players for the second-lowest 18-hole score in championship history. Dawn Woodard shot 68 in 2005 at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, for the championship’s best qualifying round. Woodard, a three-time medalist, also had the most recent round of 69, last year at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio.
Potter's two-round total of 143 at Biltmore Forest joins five other players with the third-lowest 36-hole score in championship history. Carol Semple Thompson shot 141 in 1993 for the record low. A 142 total has been posted six times by five women (twice by Woodard).
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.