Ooltewah, Tenn. – Mary Ann Hayward of Canada fired an opening 2-under-par 70 to take the early lead in the first round of stroke-play qualifying in the 2011 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur.
With half of the 132-player field still on the course, the 51-year-old Hayward led the morning wave. She edged defending champion Mina Hardin, 51, of Fort Worth, Texas, by two strokes on the 5,876-yard, par-72 Honors Course. Last year, Hardin squeaked past Hayward in the semifinals, 1 up, and went on to win the championship.
Hayward said Saturday was the finest ball-striking day of her life. I hit 18 greens and missed one fairway, she said. I sort of figured out the putting stroke halfway through the second nine.
Hayward struggled early with her putter. Teeing off on No. 10, she made a lone birdie on an 18-foot putt on the 15th hole and then missed a 2-foot birdie putt on No. 4.
It was ugly, Hayward said of the short putt. I told myself to just forget trying to make putts and get it rolling. Coming in, I hit some really good putts.
Hayward, who won the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur as Mary Ann Lapointe, made birdie putts of 10, 25 and 24 feet on three of the last four holes to offset two three-putt greens.
Hardin had three birdies against three bogeys for her even-par round.
I’m very pleased, Hardin said. I hit a couple of ‘Oops’ out there but Gary, my husband and caddie, said not to let it bother me. I’m happy with a 72. It was a good round.
It was a good day for USGA champions. Mary Budke, 57, of Palm Spring, Calif., the 1972 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, was in with a 1-over-par 73. The 2004 Senior Women’s Amateur champion, Carolyn Creekmore, 59, of Dallas, Texas, fired a 74. Carol Semple Thompson of Sewickley, Pa., who owns seven USGA titles, including four Senior Women’s Amateur championships, shot a 75.
Budke, 57, retired in November as an emergency room physician and is returning to competitive golf. The former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion is also a former Curtis Cup player and captain but said it’s hard to regain her competitive edge.
If I play in competition I do not hold up under pressure, Budke said.
Asked how competitive golf could be more stressful than providing medical assistance in emergency rooms, Budke said: It was easier to do the other because I did it on a regular basis. When you don’t play golf, the game becomes hard. There’s the pre-shot routine, or whatever, and I’ve worked really hard on my little things. It comes together sometimes. If I can hold it together to make the cut, then I can make a run at it.
Fog delayed the start of Saturday’s play by two hours and 10 minutes. Stroke-play qualifying continues on Sunday and the low 64 player will advance to match play. The championship concludes with an 18-hole final on Thursday.