U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
University of South Carolina senior Katie Burnett medals at Florida qualifier May 15, 2012 By Lisa D. Mickey

Jaye Marie Green earned the last qualifying spot at the Ormond Beach, Fla., U.S. Women's Open sectional. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

Ormond Beach, Fla. – University of South Carolina senior Katie Burnett finished as medalist at a marathon U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier at Plantation Bay Country Club that took two days to complete.

Burnett carded rounds of 70-72 to finish at 2-under-par 142.

I hit it really well and putted well, and I got up and down for par when I needed to do it, said Burnett, 22, of Brunswick, Ga., who will compete in the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship next week in Franklin, Tenn., with her college team. I’ve tried to qualify for the Women’s Open three times, so I guess the third time is the charm. This feels great.

An All-American for the Gamecocks, Burnett was one of five players to earn spots into this year’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship, set for July 5-8, at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. A total of 19 sectional qualifiers are being conducted across the U.S. for this year’s championship.

Also earning Open spots from Ormond Beach were: Jenny Gleason, of Clearwater, Fla., (72-72) and Veronica Felibert, of Venezuela (71-73), both at even-par 144; and Kris Tamulis, of Tampa, Fla. (72-73) and Jaye Marie Green, of Boca Raton, Fla., (70-75), both at 1-over 145.

Eighteen players were forced to return to the course Wednesday morning after lightning suspended play on Tuesday at 4:23 p.m. EDT, dumping 1½ inches of rain within 20 minutes. The storm scattered debris throughout Plantation Bay, forcing the grounds crew to clear the course before play could resume.

The field of 76 players completed the first round Tuesday, but the storm-delayed second round didn’t resume until 6 p.m. Play was again suspended at 8 p.m., due to darkness. The second round resumed Wednesday at 9 a.m.

After the storm rolled in yesterday, we sat in the maintenance shed for more than an hour waiting it out, said Gleason, 31, an LPGA Tour member. At a Women’s Open qualifier, you know that pars are good no matter where you are playing and you also know it’s the longest day of the year with a lot of golf.

The two-time former LPGA Futures Tour winner carded six birdies and six bogeys in 36 holes and credited a lot of pars for getting her through her eighth Open qualifier.

Felibert also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Plantation Bay when the qualifier was last held here in 2010. That qualifier earned her a trip to Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh, so the former University of Southern California collegian was excited to play Plantation Bay again.

Felibert had five holes left on her second round Wednesday. At the par-3 16th hole, she remembered that was where she had qualified in a playoff two years ago. Felibert struck her tee shot to 15 feet and drained the birdie putt, and then added another 5-foot birdie at No. 18 to secure her Open spot.

I knew I had to go low with those last five holes, said Felibert, a third-year pro and LPGA Tour member. I also knew that one birdie would not be enough to earn a spot.

Tamulis and Green were forced to play extra holes for the last two spots alongside Shannon Aubert, of Champions Gate, Fla., who posted rounds of 73-72 to move into a three-way tie at 145. The trio returned to play holes 16, 17 and 18.

Tamulis rolled in a 3-foot birdie on the second playoff hole (No. 17) to grab the fourth spot, leaving good friends Green and Aubert to battle for the last spot.

It was a lot of work, but I’m happy for the opportunity to get into the playoff and I’m glad I took advantage of it, said Tamulis, 31, an eighth-year LPGA pro who will be playing in her fourth Women’s Open.

Aubert and Green matched pars on the third playoff hole. Aubert landed short of the 18th green, chipped to 7 feet and saved par. Green was on the 18th green in two shots, but missed her 5-foot birdie chance. She tapped in for par and the two teens returned to the 160-yard 16th hole.

Aubert, 16, a student of Henri Reis at the Annika Academy in Orlando, Fla., watched as her tee shot plugged into the bunker lip. The teen couldn’t save par from the deep sand. She then watched Green secure the spot with a 2-foot par.

Thirty-six holes is always a grind, so you just have to be patient, said Green, 18, who missed the cut in her only previous Women’s Open appearance in 2010. I was kind of losing it yesterday before I finally told myself, ‘Wait a minute. Even par can make it.’ I’m glad I did.

Six players at 2-over 146 played off for the second-alternate spot, which was secured by LPGA Tour veteran Laura Diaz, of Scotia, N.Y. Duke University All-American and 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team member Lindy Duncan failed to show for what was a 5-for-1 playoff.

Note: Three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi of Oakland Park, Fla., also failed to qualify, shooting 74-75.

If you shoot even par at a qualifier, you really do have a chance to make it, said Stasi, who qualified for the 2009 Women’s Open at Saucon Valley C.C. I definitely gave myself a chance, but it just didn’t happen.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. 

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