U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Semifinal Preview: Outstanding Matchups on Tap for Thursday September 30, 2015 | Nashville, Tenn. By Greg Midland, USGA

Sue Cohn, the 2013 Senior Women's Amateur runner-up, has gone the furthest in a USGA championship of any of the semifinalists. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

 

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The final four players who still have a chance to hoist the 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship trophy have taken different paths to the semifinals, yet share something critical: the ability to bounce back from mistakes and capitalize on their strengths. Here’s a primer on the morning semifinal matches, where two players will emerge victorious and go right back out for the 1 p.m. final match.

7:45 a.m.: Tama Caldabaugh, 51, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., vs. Pamela Kuong, 54, Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Caldabaugh might be the most rested player in the field. She completed a 5-and-3 victory over Lynne Cowan in the Round of 16 just before play was suspended for darkness on Tuesday, making Caldabaugh the only player who didn’t have to return this morning for the 7:45 resumption of play.

The timing was in Caldabaugh’s favor again on Wednesday. She was the first to win her quarterfinal match, defeating Jane Fitzgerald by 1 p.m. while other quarterfinal matches were in their early stages. Time will tell if the extra rest gives her an edge on Thursday.

Caldabaugh has also displayed an ability to go on long runs in match play. She won five holes in a row against Cowan, turning a 2-down deficit to a 3-up lead, and in the quarterfinals she lost the first hole to Fitzgerald and then won five out of six to take a commanding 4-up lead.

“It’s amateur golf, and anything can happen on any given day,” said Caldabaugh.

The petite Kuong is not one of the longer-hitting players in the field and figures to be outdriven by Caldabaugh. Not that it’s stopped her yet. All through this championship, Kuong has demonstrated an ability to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes as the match nears its conclusion.

In her first three matches, Kuong trailed her opponents for the majority of holes before pulling out late victories. Through four matches, she has trailed for 29 holes and led for 21 holes. One of her wins, against six-time USGA champion Ellen Port in the Round of 32, also shows that Kuong is not intimidated by more accomplished opponents.

The key to Kuong’s success is, not surprisingly, her play around the greens. “It's definitely my short game, my putting,” she said. “I think that's why this course is set up well for me.”

8 a.m.: Karen Garcia, 53, Cool, Calif. vs. Sue Cohn, 52, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Just where is the aptly named California burgh of Cool? “It’s between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, up in the foothills,” said Garcia of her hometown. “It’s mountain lion and bear territory.”

Garcia has shown a bit of the tenacity of those species to advance farther than she ever has in a previous USGA championship. Following nail-biting, 1-up victories in the Round of 64 and Round of 32, Garcia decided she much preferred to be out in front. She never trailed in a 7-and-5 win over Lynn Anderson in the Round of 16, and only trailed for one hole in her quarterfinal defeat of Maggie Leef.

Garcia has her husband, Ruben, as her caddie this week, and the two have a long golf history. Their first date was a round of golf in Washington State and he caddies for her regularly in tournaments.

“I just rely on talking to my husband and reminding myself this is better than being at work and it's all gravy,” she said.

While Garcia is getting her first taste of match play in a USGA championship, her semifinal opponent has been there before. Cohn was the runner-up to Ellen Port in the 2013 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., and is drawing on those experiences to become a match-play warrior.

Cohn dispatched her first two opponents in convincing fashion, but then trailed, 2 down, through six holes in her Round-of-16 match against Lisa Schlesinger. Cohn rallied with birdies on the par-3 14th and par-3 16th holes to take a 1-up lead and hold on for the victory. She credits a good attitude with helping her bounce back from adversity.

“We joke at home, my friends and me. We say, ‘You have to put on your big-girl pants and keep going,” said Cohn.

In her afternoon quarterfinal victory over Brenda Pictor, Cohn showed a flair for the dramatic. She held a 2-up lead over the longer-hitting Pictor with two to play, and on the par-5 17th, Pictor was in a greenside bunker in two shots. What did Cohn do? She holed a 32-yard wedge shot for an eagle, squashing any hopes for a Pictor comeback.

So as the action shifts to the semifinals, expect seesaw battles, gut-check putting and maybe some fireworks as we find out who will be the next Senior Women’s Amateur champion. 

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