U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Hiestand Hits High Note in 22nd Women's Mid-Amateur Start
November 15, 2017 | Houston, Texas
By Ron Driscoll
The emotion of the long day – and of what she had accomplished – suddenly hit Mary Jane Hiestand hard, just like the 4-wood shot she had knocked to 2 feet to win her Tuesday morning match on the 18th hole.
Hiestand, 58, is competing in her 43rd USGA championship and her 22nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, and she had just capped her day by defeating four-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi in the Round of 16, in another match that came down to the 18th hole. Stasi missed a 4-foot par putt that would have sent the match to extra holes, and Hiestand was moving on to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, her furthest advancement in her 20 starts. The oldest of the eight remaining players by 24 years, she played Courtney McKim, who is 31 years her junior, in the quarterfinals.
“This is not supposed to happen,” said Hiestand (pronounced HEE-stand). “I tried to qualify for this because it was going to be played in Naples [before Hurricane Irma forced its relocation]. I love the Mid-Am, don’t get me wrong. I just felt like, you know, the kids are younger and they’re hitting it farther, so I felt like maybe the Mid-Am isn’t for me.”
Hiestand is the Florida State Golf Association’s 2017 Senior Player of the Year, winning that honor for the sixth time. The native of Pontiac, Mich., is in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame due to her exploits there, before she and husband Jeff, who is caddieing for her this week, moved to Naples, Fla. In fact, the Senior Women’s Four-Ball trophy in the Wolverine State has her name on it (the Garety-Hiestand Trophy, in honor of her and partner, Joan Garety). But success on the USGA level has been tougher to come by.
“So here I am,” said Hiestand after her twin wins on Tuesday, as if to convince herself. “I didn’t expect this at all. I just went out to play golf this afternoon and see what happens.”
Hiestand had been here before – at Champions Golf Club, that is. She is one of six players in the 132-player field who competed in the 1998 Women’s Mid-Amateur at Champions, and she recalled a wet week that ended quickly.
“We had beaucoup rain, so the golf course was totally different,” said Hiestand. “It was very wet, soggy, and very long. It was very difficult for me in ’98. I played Virginia [Derby Grimes, the eventual champion] in the first round. I don’t know how bad I lost, but it was pretty bad.”
Hiestand’s furthest advancement in her 43 USGA starts is the semifinal round in the 2013 Senior Women’s Amateur. Her victory over Stasi in the afternoon on Tuesday was set up by an even more dramatic victory in the morning, when she trailed Kay Daniel by one hole going into No. 17. She squared the match by hitting the flagstick to get up and down on the par-4 17th.
“So I got back to even, and then I nuked a 4-wood – a choked-down 4-wood into the wind on this hole,” Hiestand said of the 369-yard, par-4 18th, where she hit it to 2 feet for a match-clinching birdie.
Hiestand and Stasi had never squared off in USGA competition, and they had met once in the Florida Women’s Amateur, a 2008 match won by Stasi.
“MJ played great,” said Stasi of Hiestand. “She probably only made two bogeys, although it felt like she didn’t make any. She didn’t make any mistakes. What are you gonna do?”
What Hiestand needed to do was rearrange travel plans for herself and her husband after getting through to Wednesday. Having known each other in the past, they reconnected at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Eureka, Mo., in 2001, so this championship has even more resonance for them.
“He’s my biggest fan, my rock,” said Hiestand. “He just keeps me calm, gets me to slow down a little, and just keeps saying, trust every shot. And the last three matches, I’ve been pretty calm. So I’m not having the highs and lows that I can have.”
Player and caddie have certainly kept things on the up and up so far this week. And with that, Hiestand was off to change some flights.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.