U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Unflappable Chugg Advances to Consecutive Women's Mid Finals September 26, 2018 | ST. LOUIS, Mo. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Kelsey Chugg is reaping the rewards of last year's Women's Mid-Amateur Championship title. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

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As she attempted to battle back from an early deficit in Wednesday’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur quarterfinal match, four-time champion Meghan Stasi saw something of herself in her opponent, Kelsey Chugg.

“She’s just solid,” said Stasi, 40, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has won 48 matches all time in this championship, No. 3 on the career list. “Just based off today, I think she's probably a little bit like me. You don’t know if she’s 3 under or 3 over, you just have that demeanor, which is nice, especially in match play. You don’t want to get too excited or too low, you know. So, I think that’s great for her.”

Stasi was playing in her 13th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, Chugg in her second, and when Chugg, 27, of Salt Lake City, Utah, notched a 3-and-2 victory, it made her 10-0 in her two championships, having won the 2017 title at Champions Golf Club in Houston. After adding a 2-and-1 afternoon semifinal win over Gretchen Johnson, Chugg will take on No. 1 seed Shannon Johnson on Thursday morning in an attempt to go 12-0 in her first two U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs on Thursday. That would make her the second player in the championship’s 32 years to accomplish the feat – after Stasi in 2006-2007.

As Stasi sought a berth in the semifinal round for the eighth time, and the first since 2014, she made little headway against Chugg after going 3 down through four holes.

“When you hit all the fairways and hit pretty much every green, the game’s a lot easier,” said Stasi admiringly. “And her lag putting was incredible today.”

In her victory last year, Chugg stepped onto the grounds at Champions unheralded and opened with a round of 85. But she rebounded to shoot 72 in Round 2 to earn the No. 50 seed, then defeated two of the three co-medalists en route to the title, which for the first time brought with it entry into the U.S. Women’s Open. Chugg also competed in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur and represented the USA at the South American Amateur in Argentina thanks to her victory.

Those experiences changed her, she said, and gave her newfound confidence when she arrived at Norwood Hills Country Club to defend her title.

“I was actually thinking about that today during the round,” said Chugg after her semifinal victory over Johnson. “Maybe I’m able to control my nerves a little bit more now than I was last year at this time, and that’s due to playing in some of the bigger events and being in this situation before. It certainly helped coming down the stretch to be able to talk myself through some things and walk myself out the ledge.”

Chugg missed the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in May, and the U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee in August, but those events nonetheless paid important dividends.

“I didn’t play well in some of the bigger events, but I felt like my game was as good as some of the top players, and I was able to hang with them,” said Chugg. “It’s helped me a lot this year.”

Now she is on the brink of joining Stasi, Sarah Lebrun Ingram (1993, 1994) and Ellen Port (1995, 1996) as a back-to-back U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion. She has gotten plenty of support from friends, family and her cohorts at the Utah Golf Association, and she also earned another supporter on Wednesday.

“You always want whoever beats you to win,” said Stasi. “So, I’ll be pulling for her.”

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

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