U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Power of Two: What Makes the Perfect Four-Ball Partnership May 20, 2016 | Bowling Green, Fla. By David Shefter, USGA

Power and precision have been a successful combination for Women's Amateur Four-Ball partners Brynn Walker (right) and Madelein Herr. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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Carolyn Creekmore needed a substitute. Her regular four-ball partner became pregnant before the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball entry deadline last August, so Creekmore decided to dial up an old friend.

LeeAnn Fairlie, of Oklahoma City, Okla., had roomed with Creekmore, of Dallas, 13 years ago during the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and they had remained friends. Seeking someone with the same competitive spirit and even-keeled temperament on the golf course, Creekmore thought of Fairlie.

“We don’t get too emotional out there,” said Creekmore, the 2004 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion and 2009 runner-up.

With two teenagers involved in high school athletics, Fairlie typically confines her competitive schedule to the summer, but the Women’s Amateur Four-Ball intrigued her, as did the Feb. 8 qualifying site, Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla. She even practiced on an unseasonably warm Christmas Day in Oklahoma.

Creekmore, who turned 64 on Thursday, and Fairlie, 52, carded a 70 to earn one of the six available spots in a field dominated by junior players. They are the oldest team by age, and one of the most experienced sides, in this week’s championship at Streamsong Blue. Creekmore has nearly 50 USGA championships in her portfolio, while Fairlie, the 1985 North & South Women’s Amateur champion, has qualified for nearly 20 USGA events. She was the medalist in the 1988 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

“We’re competitive, but we also know there are way more important things than golf,” said Fairlie. “This is what we do for fun and enjoyment.”

Trying to be competitive without taking themselves too seriously is certainly one way to succeed. But there are probably as many formulas for success as there are sides (64) in this week’s championship.

Having two talented players is vital, but as is often the case in team sports, good chemistry and a solid game plan are important building blocks.

Veteran mid-amateurs Meghan Stasi, 37, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dawn Woodard, 41, of Greer, S.C., played enough practice and competitive rounds together through the years to discover a kinship. They advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon.

“I don’t feel like I depend on her and I also don’t want her to feel like she has to depend on me,” said Woodard, a three-time medalist in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “It works.”

Added Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion: “I know she’s good and I want her on my team. Dawn is super easy-going. She’s just fun. We’re very common in our approach to golf and life.”

The four-ball format adds variables to the equation: Which player will tee off first? Will the partner who is closer to the hole putt first? When to be extra aggressive or play more conservatively?

Brynn Walker, 17, of St. Davids, Pa., and Madelein Herr, 18, of New Hope, Pa., used the yin-and-yang approach last May at Bandon Dunes to reach the semifinals. Herr, the more accurate player, teed off first and allowed her more powerful partner to free-wheel it.

“Brynn hits the ball so far that it would be stupid for her not to go for some of these [par-5] holes in two or even [try to drive a par 4],” said Herr, who is headed to Penn State in the fall. “So I always tee off first and put it right in the fairway and it gives her a clear shot to just go for it.”

With Herr’s proclivity for finding fairways, Walker said there’s far less pressure to keep a ball in play. In fact, her mind gets “freed up.”

“And I usually hit it straighter that way, too,” said Walker, who will play for the University of North Carolina this fall.

The players, who live 50 minutes apart, struck up a friendship at a junior tournament four years ago, and Herr’s father suggested they team up for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball.

To stay with the team theme, they wear matching outfits each day and do fun stuff off the course. Last year, they found a petting zoo near Bandon Dunes, and this winter, Herr frequently visited Walker and her new puppy.

“We’re best friends,” said Walker on why their partnership has flourished. “[And] we’re good with each other’s emotions.”

Stasi and Woodard teamed to win the 2009 Women’s International Four-Ball in Florida, and given their USGA experience – they’ve played in 40-plus events combined – they realize that the Women’s Four-Ball offers a chance to not only continue the partnership, but to contend for a national championship.

“We tend not to overreact to things, whether they are good or bad,” said Woodard. “You realize it’s a long week. Be patient. It’s a process.”

Sound advice no matter the format.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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