U.S. SENIOR WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Right Equipment and Competitive Spirit Have Brown Smiling September 20, 2016 | Wellesley, Mass. By Rob Duca

Lea Anne Brown didn't think an equipment change would help, but thus far it has fueled a solid run this week. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

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An equipment change is not usually a recipe for success in the lead-up to a big championship. But for Lea Anne Brown, a switch from steel to graphite shafts earlier this summer just might be the tweak she needed for a potentially deep run in the 55th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Wellesley Country Club.

Initially, Brown resisted the equipment change, which was suggested both by her husband, Hart, the head professional at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.), the host site for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, and the pro at Bulls Bay Golf Club outside of Charleston, where Brown is the membership director. Her biggest issue with the shafts was overcoming the mental barrier.

“I remembered a set I had 15 years earlier that were very inconsistent,” said Brown, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and also owns an antique business based in Charleston. “But I wanted to hit the ball higher and longer, and they both told me this would do it.

“I thought, ‘I can’t believe I have these clubs,’” said Brown, who first put the clubs into play in a tournament in July. “I shot somewhere in the 80s.”

She now feels more comfortable with her equipment, as evidenced by her 5-and-4 victory over Kathy Glennon in the Round of 64. Her higher ball flight and length helped her find more of Wellesley’s elevated greens. The victory set up a Tuesday morning encounter with Julie Harrison, who prevailed in 19 holes over Gigi Higgins, at 9:55 a.m. EDT.

Since graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1982, where she played on the golf team, Brown has competed in 14 USGA championships. This is her fifth Senior Women’s Amateur since 2010, when she reached the Round of 16 at Fiddlesticks Country Club.

“That first year I really felt I could win because the course suited me so well,” said Brown. “This is the best I’ve felt in this championship since then. This layout fits my eye, and you can make birdies out there.”

Her 2 on the par-3 12th hole on Monday was perhaps the biggest moment of the match. After winning four of the first five holes, she put the exclamation point on the match after barely clearing the water guarding the front of the green. She then drained a downhill 35-footer to take a 5-up lead.

“That was ridiculous,” she said, laughing. “I really mis-hit the ball and I was lucky it cleared the water. I just tried to coax the ball down the hill and leave myself an uphill putt and the darn thing went in.

“My putting was fantastic all day, by far the best I’ve putted in the championship. And my wedge game was really sharp. If I missed the green I knocked the ball to a foot or two.”

Brown also brought to Wellesley a killer instinct that has been honed over years of competition.  When she was younger, her father, who had introduced her to the game, thought she lacked a killer instinct on the course.

“He would say, ‘You’re too nice,’” she said. “That’s why my first win, which was the South Carolina State Amateur in 1991, remains the highlight of my career. Before that, I always felt like a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

Since that inaugural win, she has captured three Women’s South Carolina Golf Association Senior Championships, three South Carolina Women’s Stroke Play and Match Play championships and 13 Charleston Women’s City Amateur titles.

At Wellesley, she smiles as she relishes the prospect of winning matches on her way to a national championship.

“I don’t think I lack the killer instinct anymore,” she said.

Rob Duca is a Massachusetts-based writer.

 

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