When Joan Higgins Went Into The Final Match Of The Women's Mid-Amateur, She Ran Into A Familiar Face. (Sort Of.)
2008 Championship Annual: The Year In Review
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
This is what golf is all about. Joan Higgins wins a national championship and the person who is happiest for her is Lynn Simmons, the lady she just beat in the final!
|Joan Higgins missed but one green on the second nine during the final. (John Mummert/USGA)|
How does this sort of thing happen? Well, Higgins, who hails from Glendora, Calif., and Simmons, from Phoenix, Ariz., happened to be paired together in stroke-play qualifying for this year's U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Championship at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was the first time they'd ever met. "But we just had a good time," Higgins explained later. "We talked out there, and then when we saw each other the next day, it was, 'Hey, see you in the final!'
"We both were kidding. And then, when we were playing our semifinal matches, it was, 'See you tomorrow!'
"And it happened. Lynn was thrilled for me as I would be for her. She's a great lady."
Not that Higgins wasn't great herself. In overcoming Simmons by a score of 1 up, she became the oldest Women's Mid-Am champion in history. "I'm still in shock," the 52-year-old Higgins said afterward. "I just can't believe it. Last night I was tossing and turning, thinking 'You could be a national champion, but don't think about it, because it's not going to happen. She's probably going to clean your clock.' "
Clock not cleaned. Higgins, who had Ken Hartmann, the Golf Association of Michigan's director of rules and competitions, as her caddie, won the first hole and, although the match was all square for a total of six holes, she never fell behind. The key was Higgins' tight play on the second nine, when she missed but one green.
Higgins, the mother of two sons, went 1 up on the par-3 11th hole when Simmons bogeyed, but Simmons, 40, brought the match back to all square when Higgins bogeyed the par-4 14th. Higgins then took the lead again on the 15th when Simmons missed with her approach shot and bogeyed. Simmons then lost an opportunity to square the match on the par-5 17th, when a birdie putt came up short.
Both players then parred the 18th to halve the hole and give the title to Higgins.
The congratulatory hug on the 18th green at Barton Hills marked the end of a championship — and the beginning of what's sure to be a fast friendship. Pete Kowalski is the USGA's manager of Media Relations.This article first appeared in the 2008 Championship Annual, a special publication mailed to USGA Members in November.