NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Margaret Shirley doesn’t ask her father, William, to read her putts anymore.
On the greens he kind of stays away after last year, when I brought him in on a putt, said Shirley, 28, of Atlanta. I said, what do you see here, and he gets down and says, ‘I don’t have a clue.’ I was like, all right, fantastic.
Margaret relies on her father for other things on the golf course and off, and she particularly leaned on him and her mother, Leslie, after her wrenching defeat in last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur final to Julia Potter, when she lost the final three holes, including hitting a shot into the hazard fronting the green on the 19th hole.
The amount of golf holes they've walked and watched, and being there when I’ve won but more times being there when I’ve been disappointed and upset, they’re there no matter what, said Margaret. To have my dad on the bag, I can’t describe what that feels like. He’s the one that started me in golf. He’s really been my only caddie in my 18 years playing.
William, who is the course superintendent at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, has caddied for Margaret in eight of her nine U.S. Women’s Amateur starts, missing out only in 2006, when Peachtree was undergoing course renovations. He is playing hurt this week, having undergone surgery on the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in April.
I tried to double-strap the bag at the Women’s Amateur [in August] and the doctor told me I shouldn’t have done it, said Shirley. He told me it would be best if I found somebody else to caddie for her this week, and I told him, that ain’t happening.
Shirley, 59, who has been at Peachtree for 18 years, was there for every step of an impressive week of golf.
She hit the ball really well and putted about as well as I’ve seen her putt – that’s normally her nemesis, said William. She played very consistently. I think Meghan [Stasi, Shirley’s semifinal opponent] was watching her and saying, am I going to have to look at this all day? Because she wasn’t hitting anything offline.
Margaret’s mother spent most of the final three days of the championship offline. She was suffering from blisters after walking during stroke-play qualifying, and her anxiety about the outcome grew as the week went on as well.
My mom sat in the car for 12 hours yesterday while we were out here, and then however long we were today, said Margaret. She just couldn't take it. She didn’t even look at her phone. When I won, I was like, go tell Mom so she knows because I knew she was sitting there.
William admitted that it wasn’t much easier being on the bag.
We both are just very nervous, he said. It’s not that we’re afraid of her not doing well – we just know how much it means to her. Like anybody does, you want your kid to do well.
When Margaret was asked what it meant to have her parents here, she deadpanned, If you asked me at the beginning of the week, after we spent nine hours in the car together, I would have had a different opinion.
As the Shirleys departed Harbor Trees Thursday for their nine-hour drive home to Atlanta, they carried 28 red roses, a gift to the champion from the club, and a bottle of champagne. Odds are, this ride will go a lot more smoothly.
Indiana Golf Office Plays Prominent Role in Women’s Mid-Am
It was a Thursday, but Mike David, executive director of the Indiana Golf Office, had sneaked out of the office to catch some golf. His organization’s director of marketing and women’s golf was playing in a crucial match, making the decision to spend the afternoon at Harbour Trees Golf Club an easy one.
She’s out of vacation [days], i’m docking her pay every day now, he said with a laugh of U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur runner-up Julia Potter, who started working for the IGO in February, several months after she claimed the championship in 2013. He turned serious. When we hired her I told her, ‘I want you to keep playing, I think it reflects well on our office and it’s great exposure for us, so keep it up,’ and she’s definitely taken that to heart.
Potter has been quite busy off the course since her arrival. In addition to helping conduct their championships, she also works closely on expanding the organization’s membership programs, and helped to administer the 13 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship qualifiers in the Hoosier State this year.
Most golf administrators are there because they love of the game, and while few are fortunate enough to be able to be involved in USGA championships as competitors, there are plenty of other ways to do so. David and Ryan Lambert, the IGO’s director of junior tournament operations, as well as several of the organization’s committee members, served as Rules officials and referees this week, and the IGO also plays a role in conducting the dozen or so USGA qualifiers that are held in the state each year. Later this month, they will have a presence at French Lick Resort, where the USGA Men’s State Team Championship will be contested Sept. 30-Oct. 2.
It’s a nice change from our normal schedule to be able to help out with a USGA championship, David said. It’s a neat opportunity for us to have national championships contested here.
Course Repairs on the Fly
Weather wreaked some havoc with the final two days at Harbour Trees Golf Club, as two inches of rain fell between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, leading to three suspensions of play. The semifinals resumed Thursday morning at 8:15, and the championship final began nearly two hours late.
We called a number of volunteers in from the [Indianapolis] metropolitan area, said Ed Devlin, the Harbour Trees general manager and course superintendent. Nate Fair from Wolf Run Golf Club, guys from Meridian Hills, Bridgewater, Kokomo… We started at 5:45 and had extra pumps going; we just tried to move as much water out of the way as was physically possible.
Devlin got help from 35 people in all in the effort to prepare the course for the final day.
Every bunker was washed out or had standing water in it, said Devlin. We didn’t steer for perfect, we steered for playable. You have to get the critical jobs done first: the greens mowed, course setup done, leaf litter out of the way. We had to throw a lot of things out the window. 132 players saw this place perfect; unfortunately we couldn’t keep it perfect for the last two.
Rachel Graves, first-year championship director for the USGA, said, They did a phenomenal job with what was handed to them.
Consolation Prize for Semifinalists
Four-time champion Meghan Stasi and Tara Joy-Connelly, both of whom lost in the semifinal round which ended Thursday morning, have another championship in their sights as they leave Harbour Trees: The French International Women’s Mid-Amateur in late September at Wimereux Golf Club, on the northern coast of France.
We’ve been planning it for about a year now, with the help of Marie Arnaud, said Stasi. She won it a few years ago.
Arnaud played in last year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur at Biltmore Forest Golf Club, in Asheville, N.C., but will not be joining her friends in the field, as she is seven months pregnant with her second child.
She’s not going to be able to travel, but she’s helping us with everything, said Stasi. We will have a good 10 days over there.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The USGA’s Scott Lipsky contributed.