U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Women's Mid-Am Notebook: Quarterfinal Roundup September 9, 2014 By Ron Driscoll and Scott Lipsky, USGA

Tara Joy-Connelly rolled to a 5-and-4 quarterfinal win. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, who was 2 up with three holes to play in her quarterfinal match on Wednesday at Harbour Trees Golf Club, withstood a late comeback from Christina Proteau to reach the semifinal round for the third consecutive year.

Proteau, of Port Alberni, British Columbia, who is six months pregnant, made a dramatic birdie on No. 18 to force extra holes – her fourth consecutive extra-hole match of the championship. She won all three of her earlier matches in 19 holes, but this time bogeyed the playoff hole, the par-4 10th, from in front of the green to lose to Stasi’s up-and-down par.

I was fortunate with the way it came out, said Stasi, 36, of Oakland Park, Fla. She chipped and putted the ball really well. And being six months pregnant, my goodness, that’s awesome.

Proteau’s most awesome moment came on No. 18. She had gotten up and down for pars on Nos. 15 through 17, and her par on the par-4 16th won the hole when Stasi charged her birdie putt and missed the comebacker. Proteau, who had dumped her tee shot in the water on No. 18 in Tuesday’s Round-of-16 victory, came through this time with a shot to 14 feet, and Stasi responded by knocking her shot just a foot outside her, on the same line.

If she makes it, it’s over right there, said Proteau. After watching her putt, I kept mine inside the hole on the right. It was helpful to see that, but even so, you’ve still got to hit a good putt.

On the playoff hole, the 356-yard 10th, Proteau missed her par try from 5 feet after pitching up from in front of the green. Stasi had already putted up from the left fringe for a conceded par.

I really can’t be disappointed, said Proteau. I missed one on the last hole, but I made everything inside 10 feet on the back nine to win the holes that I needed to win. It’s just an emotional thing at the end of the week, because you’ve put so much into it. I’m happy, really.

Proteau had trailed 4 down after five holes, but said that the break caused by the one-hour rain delay on the sixth hole helped her.

At the end of the day, I was 4 down to a four-time winner who’s a fantastic player, and I got it to the 19th hole, said Proteau, 31, who is a prosecutor for the British Columbia department of ministry. I think about the first year I played in this and I got to play with Ellen Port in the Round of 16. Last year I lost to Martha Leach in the Round of 16 but I learned a ton from her, and this year I got to play Meghan. I won’t forget this week.

Proteau, who is due to have her baby Dec. 5, is exempt into next year’s championship in at Squire Creek Golf Club in Choudrant, La.

Shirley To Face Familiar Foe In Semifinals

As the stroke-play medalist, Margaret Shirley is the top seed in the match-play bracket at Harbour Trees Golf Club this week, and has managed to keep her goal of improving upon her runner-up performance in 2013 intact, despite some challenging matches, including Wednesday morning’s 2-up victory over Debbie Adams. Her reward? A rematch with four-time champion Meghan Stasi, who Shirley defeated in the semifinals last year at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C.

Obviously that’s going to be a tough match, [playing] a four-time champion, that’s never going to be easy, Shirley said of Stasi, who she came back to defeat in 19 holes in last year’s semifinal after being 2 down with two holes to play. You just have to keep fighting. This is a tough golf course with some tough hole locations, so you just have to stay patient with yourself.

Patience may very well have played a key role in Shirley’s ability to overcome Wednesday’s effort from Adams, who was playing in her second Women’s Mid-Amateur quarterfinal after reaching the Round of 16 last year at Biltmore Forest, where she is a member. With a 2-up lead through 11 holes, Shirley would make four consecutive bogeys to allow Adams, who made two birdies of her own during that stretch, to square the match.

Shirley’s missed par attempt from the back fringe on No. 15 made trailing in the match for the first time a very real possibility, but Adams couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, as a 4-foot par attempt of her own rimmed out. Having dodged a bullet, Shirley jumped ahead for good on the next hole, connecting on a tricky, left-to-right putt from 25 feet for birdie to take a 1-up lead, one she would not relinquish. Adams’ tee shot on the par-3 18th hole ended up in the pond fronting the green, sealing Shirley’s second straight semifinal showdown with Stasi.

It got tough out there, the wind really starting picking up, it was some tough golf, Shirley said after the match. I hit a good putt [on No. 16], it was center cut, I obviously wasn’t expecting to make it, I was trying to two-putt. That was a hole location that you can’t go at, so I was happy with the shot there, and luckily I got it to drop.

Joy-Connelly Making Quick Work of Opponents

Tara Joy-Connelly is in an interesting position heading into Wednesday’s semifinal match against defending champion Julia Potter. In her first four matches this week, she has won by a margin of 5 and 4 three times, and 6 and 5 in the Round of 16, meaning she hasn’t played the last four holes since stroke-play qualifying on Sunday. Compare that to Potter, whose first three matches went at least 17 holes before her 5-and-4 victory over Liisa Kelo Escartin on Wednesday morning.

It’s a nice problem to have, and reflects the way the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., resident has played since Monday. She lost the first hole of her Round-of-64 match with Laura Carson, squared it on the fourth hole, and hasn’t trailed since. In the 55 holes she played, she has won 26 and lost just 5.

I just feel like I’m getting on a bit of a mental roll, so if I can keep my head about me that will be good, said Joy-Connelly, who also reached the Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinals in 2011. We’ve really stayed short of pins and let it release on, we’ve really worked hard at the angles that go into a Pete Dye golf course.

After Joy-Connelly took the lead on the second hole with her first of four birdies, an Escartin birdie briefly moved the match to all square. Joy-Connelly immediately regained the lead for the duration when her opponent made double bogey on the par-4 fourth hole. She built the lead from there, and set-up a rematch with Potter, who she lost to in last year’s quarterfinals.

I kind of started plodding along, with the conditions it was really tough so you just tried to buckle down and really just worry on the shot in front of you, because you really had to keep judging the wind, it’s kind of swirling, Joy-Connelly said.

Joy-Connelly, who could face USGA Women’s State Team Florida teammate and four-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi in the final on Thursday, knows she has a challenge in Potter, and knows it could very come down to the closing holes, which she hasn’t seen in awhile. Her approach is a simple one.

I’ll just take it one shot at a time when we get there.

Five-Hole Run Propels Potter Past Hardin

While the rain delay helped Christina Proteau, who is six months pregnant, in her quarterfinal match with Meghan Stasi, it was a major hindrance for Mina Hardin in her match with defending champion Julia Potter, which she lost, 5 and 4.

I have a fused back, said Hardin, 54, the 2010 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, from Fort Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, it started tightening up in the rain delay and it got difficult for me.

Potter, who hails from Granger, Ind., and is the lone Hoosier remaining of the five who qualified for match play, made three pars and two birdies from holes 8-12 to win five straight and seize control of the match. She halved the next two holes with pars to improve to 10-0 in this championship in her two years of play.

She was hitting great shots and also got a couple of really good breaks, said Hardin, who in addition to her 2010 victory, is a two-time USGA championship finalist. She had everything going for her. You never know how people will react if you put a little pressure on them, but I never did put any pressure on her.

Hardin moves on to the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur starting on Saturday at Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, N.J. I am very disappointed because I was playing well this week. But overall it gives me some momentum for next week.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org. Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.