U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Round 1: Five Things to Know September 21, 2018 | ST. LOUIS, MO. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

To score well at Norwood Hills, players will have to contend with undulating greens that are the course's main defense. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Home

After receiving some inspired words from five-time USGA champion Juli Inkster at Friday night’s opening dinner, players begin their quest to capture the 32nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship on Saturday at Norwood Hills Country Club.

As if they need further inspiration, they are competing on a golf course – Norwood Hills’ West Course – that has produced champions such as Ben Hogan (1948 PGA Championship); Louise Suggs, Kathy Whitworth and Sandra Haynie (St. Louis Women’s Invitational in the 1950s and 1960s); and Gene Littler and Lee Trevino (Greater St. Louis Golf Classic in the early 1970s). This week’s winner will join one USGA champion (Kemp Richardson, 2001 U.S. Senior Amateur) on that illustrious list, while also gaining a berth in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.).

Here are five things to know for Round 1 of stroke play:

Norwood Hills’ Defense

Norwood Hills professional Ryan Roy says that the ability to read and manage the greens is an important virtue on the West Course. “There is a lot of variety in the architecture here – uphill, downhill, doglegs left and right,” said Roy of the Wayne Stiles design that debuted in 1922. “Most of the birdie opportunities are on the front nine. The greens have always been our course’s biggest defense, though: the subtleness of the breaks, the awkward pitch to some of them, and a lot of front-to-back slopes where you wouldn’t expect them. If players don’t put the ball in the right spot on these greens, they’re going to have a difficult time getting some of their first putts close.”

 

One Bad Round is Not the End

Rachel Sadowski, the championship director for the USGA, doesn’t expect to see many low scores in the two rounds of stroke play. And one high score won’t necessarily end someone’s chances of being among the 64 who advance to match play starting on Monday. Just ask Kelsey Chugg. The Utah native struggled to an 85 on the first day of last year’s championship at Champions Golf Club, but she rebounded with 72 on Day 2 to earn the No. 50 seed in match play. She then reeled off six victories to earn the title and the first-ever U.S. Women’s Open berth awarded to the champion.

A Different Look?

The players prepared for this championship on Thursday and Friday in a prevailing southwest wind. The breeze is expected to change completely to a northeast wind on Saturday, so some of the holes will likely play much differently. “No. 18 (a 460-yard par 5) has been playing downwind during practice,” said Sadowski, “but on Saturday the wind will probably be in the players’ faces. It will be just the opposite on No. 2, another par 5. That will require us moving some tees around. The main thing, though, as always, is that players need to be patient out there, especially on the greens. They’re extremely undulating.”

Daunting Start on No. 10

Those players who begin their round on the 10th hole – and every player will do so either Saturday or Sunday – will start with a pair of par-3 holes, measuring 169 yards and 191 yards, respectively, sandwiched around the 286-yard, par-4 11th. The par-4 13th features a runoff in the landing area, which led three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur medalist Dawn Woodard to note, “Many players may not hit their driver until the 14th hole.” Roy terms the holes immediately after the turn “the meat of the golf course.” It will make for an exacting start as players try to make their way inside the top 64. 

Youthful Contenders

The average age of the competitors is 38.7, which is well above the minimum age of 25 for players to enter. However, that figure is trending downward: This year’s average age is nearly five years lower than it was in 2011, when the players who competed at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., averaged 43.5 years old. This week’s field of 132 includes several players in their first year of eligibility. .

The last five champions – and eight of the last 10 finalists – have been in their 20s, with “twentysomethings” Julia Potter, Margaret Shirley-Starosto and Lauren Greenlief making up the finalists from 2013-2015. Only twice previously in championship history had players in their 20s squared off in the final (1993, 1994). Youth is being served.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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