U.S. WOMEN'S MID-AMATEUR
Round 2: Five Things to Know September 22, 2018 | St. Louis, Mo. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Kallie Harrison, who is competing at her home club this week, is hoping for a strong Sunday and a spot in match play. (USGA/Matt Sullivan) 

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The players in the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship were greeted by excellent weather on Saturday for Round 1 of stroke play, but the West Course at Norwood Hills Country Club provided a very stern test nonetheless. Only one player, four-time champion Meghan Stasi, bettered the par of 72 on the Wayne Stiles design, and those players who shot 80 or better are very much in the mix to make the match-play bracket when the field is cut to 64 players after Round 2 on Sunday.

Here are five things to know for Round 2.

The Show Me State:

The 132-player field includes seven players from Missouri, and it’s time for them to show their stuff or go home. Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, also a four-time winner of this championship, opened with an uncharacteristic 79, making seven bogeys against no birdies. Carmen Titus, of Greenwood, the 2014 Missouri Women’s Mid-Am champion, had the low in-state card with a 4-over 76. Michelle Butler, of Columbia, a University of Missouri graduate, shot 78 in her USGA championship debut . The other four Missourians, including Kallie Harrison of the host club, shot 80 or higher and will need a bounce-back round. All seven will play on Sunday afternoon.

Figure Out the Winds or Go Home:

For the third day in a row, the wind is expected to change direction. While the course featured a southwest breeze during practice rounds on Thursday and Friday, the wind did a 180 for Saturday’s Round 1 and blew from the northeast. It is expected to turn again, this time to the east, with wind speeds of 6 to 12 mph by the afternoon. A stronger southeast wind is expected to return for Monday’s opening round of match play.

No. 9, the Stuff of Nightmares, Part 1:

The par-4 ninth hole, which played at 374 yards on Saturday, was by far the toughest hole on the course, playing to more than a full shot over par at a 5.08 stroke average. Nearly twice as many players (60) bogeyed the hole as parred it (35), and 36 competitors made double bogey or worse. Only one player (Clare Connolly) birdied the hole on Saturday.

“There are a number of things that make this hole difficult, but the biggest factor in my opinion is that the green is severely sloped from back to front and there’s not a flat hole location on it,” said Rachel Sadowski, the championship director for the USGA. “You’re not guaranteed a two-putt, even from the middle of the green.”

No. 9, the Stuff of Nightmares, Part 2:

The difficulty of No. 9 ramps up on the putting green, but it starts with the tee shot and the landing area. “Because of the ravine of rough that fronts the green, you can’t get very close from the tee to have a short shot into the green,” noted Sadowski. “If you take the risk of hitting a driver, you’ve got a very narrow landing area. If you want to give yourself a wider landing area, you can do that, but now you’re leaving yourself a much longer shot in. A lot of players are running their tee shots through the fairway, and we’ve got bermudagrass rough there, which is extremely gnarly.”

Players who lay back to assure themselves of being in the fairway leave themselves 160 to 170 yards in, which is a short iron for some in the field, but as much as a hybrid for others. That’s a long club to be hitting into such a severe green. “All of the factors come together to make it a very difficult hole. I’m not surprised that it’s the hardest hole out here,” said Sadowski.

Par 5s Will Provide Chances to Catch Up

Just as a par will feel like a birdie on No. 9, the four par 5s at Norwood Hills give players a chance to get back into the mix for a match-play spot. The four par 5s are playing as the 10th-, 14th-, 16th- and 18th-ranked holes through Round 1. “The field for this championship includes players with a wide range of distances off the tee,” said Sadowski. “Our average drive distance is 215 yards, but the range is about 180 yards to 270 yards.”

Nonetheless, par-5 holes typically come down to precision on the third shot, and these players are displaying that capability at Norwood Hills, where the par 5s ranged from 443 to 490 yards on Saturday. Nearly half of the birdies made by the field in Round 1 (70 of 152) were on the four par 5s. That is likely to continue throughout the week.

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

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