U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Nine Things to Know
September 9, 2016 | Erie, Pa.
By Scott Lipsky, USGA
In The Women’s Mid-Am, Age Really is Just a Number: While a third of the field is under the age of 35, there are more competitors in their 50s (41) than in their 30s (29). And the players on the higher end of the spectrum aren’t just happy to be here. Since 2008, Joan Higgins (52 in 2008), Martha Leach (48 in 2009) and Ellen Port (49 in 2011) all won the championship.
…But Youth Doesn’t Hurt: While it has been proven that older competitors can more than hold their own, youngsters have prevailed the past few years. When 25-year-old Julia Potter defeated Margaret Shirley, 27, to claim the title in 2013 at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C., it was the first time since 1994 that the championship match featured two competitors in their 20s. The two would square off again in the final the following year, and in 2015, Shirley, then 29, fell to Lauren Greenlief, who at 25 years, 25 days became the youngest champion in history.
Local Knowledge, From Way Back: A trio of players will compete in their second USGA championship at The Kahkwa Club this week. Margaret Shirley, Meghan Stasi and Katrin Wolfe were all in the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur, one of two past USGA championships here. Shirley (now Shirley-Starosto) had the best performance of the three, advancing to the Round of 16. No one in this week’s field competed in the 1971 U.S. Women’s Open at Kahkwa, although Leach’s sister, six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy, played here 45 years ago.
The Canada Factor: 120 of 132 competitors this week are from the United States. Of the 12 international players, six hail from our neighbor to the north. After going through a little bit of a drought since Mary Ann Lapointe became the first and only international winner in 2005 and Jill Hardy reached the semifinals the following year, Canadians are making their presence known again. Christina Proteau has advanced as far the quarterfinals in three of the last four years, including a semifinal run in 2015, while Stefi Markovich was a semifinalist in 2013.
Playing for the Keystone State: Pennsylvania will have a strong contingent at The Kahkwa Club this week, with eight competitors slated to tee it up in their home state. Only three states – California (14), Texas (12) and Florida (10) – will have more players.
History Can Happen Here: A win for Meghan Stasi would give her a record fifth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title, and it would make her just the fifth player to win any USGA championship at least five times. She would join Glenna Collett Vare (six U.S. Women’s Amateurs), Bob Jones (five U.S. Amateurs), Carolyn Cudone (five U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs) and JoAnne Gunderson Carner (five U.S. Women’s Amateurs) on that list. Since her most recent win in 2012, Stasi, 38, has put herself in position to make the historic leap: she was a semifinalist in 2013 and 2014 and reached the Round of 16 last year.
Shirley-Starosto became just the 13th person to reach three straight finals in the same USGA championship with her runner-up performance at Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant, La., last year. If she finds herself in the championship match again this week, she will join an even more selective club. Carol Semple Thompson reached four straight U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur finals, the last coming in 2002. Prior to her, only three other players reached a USGA final at least four straight times, none since 1932.
Looking to Defend: Greenlief has her work cut out for her if she wants to repeat her 2015 win, but it’s been done. Of the four players who have won the championship multiple times, three of them have lifted the trophy in consecutive years, most recently Stasi in 2006 and 2007. In fact, the only two times that defending champions have lost in the final the following year were in 2014 and 2015, when Potter and Shirley-Starosto, respectively, fell just short.
Winning Nets More Than Just a Trophy: A victory in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur ensures the winner of a place in the USGA’s Hall of Champions, and it also guarantees them many more opportunities. The champion is traditionally exempt into the next 10 Women’s Mid-Amateurs, and also earns an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur for two years.
The Multi-Sport Athletes Are Here: Many U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur competitors have competed at a very high level in other sports. Annie Hogan didn’t pick up golf until after she completed her standout hockey career at Northeastern University. Caryn Wilson is one of only two women to have competed in both the tennis and golf U.S. Opens. Gretchen Johnson has run 10 marathons. Kim Kaul played basketball at Canisius College. Many players at The Kahkwa Club this week have measured athletic success by metrics other than birdies and bogeys.
Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.