NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Debbie Adams reached the Round of 16 in last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Although it isn’t her best finish in five previous starts, she considers it her most daunting test, because she felt like she was competing not just for herself, but for her entire club membership.
It was the toughest thing I’ve had to go through playing golf, said Adams, 47, who plays out of Biltmore Forest Country Club, in Asheville, N.C., which hosted last year’s championship. This year, I feel like the weight is off because it’s not at my home course. I’m just here – whatever happens, happens.
There is one reminder this week from last year: Karen Rhodin, a fellow Biltmore Forest member and last year’s championship co-chairman, is caddieing for her.
She can’t get rid of me, Rhodin joked during stroke-play qualifying. Rhodin caddied for Adams in sectional qualifying for both the 2012 and 2014 Women’s Mid-Amateurs. In 2012, Adams reached the quarterfinals at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, making her exempt into the field for the 2013 championship on her home course.
As co-chairman for the 2013 championship, Rhodin attended both the 2011 and 2012 championships to garner information as a future host-site representative. She is now attending her fourth straight Women’s Mid-Amateur, and thoroughly enjoying the week.
I was fortunate to be able to go to the two previous championships, where I got to meet a lot of Debbie’s friends, as well as USGA staff and officials, said Rhodin. Each year I kept seeing the same folks and enjoying their company. After being so busy last year [as co-chairman] – and missing all the parties – now I get to go full-circle and enjoy the people again.
Adams qualified as the No. 8 seed with rounds of 73-79, and she moved on to the second round of match play on Monday, defeating Kim Braaten, of Las Vegas, 2 and 1.
She’s a great caddie, said Adams with a smile. What do they say: show up, keep up, shut up?
I’m an encourager, said Rhodin. They ask if I help her read the greens, and I say, heck no, she knows way more than I do. But I love the game, and we play together a lot at home.
Adams made it to this week’s championship via a sectional qualifier at Pinewild Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C., punching two tickets for Harbour Trees in the process.
When it came up, I told her that I would love to come, said Rhodin, who added jokingly, I wasn’t putting any pressure on her to qualify… ‘Come on – we’ve got to make it!’ I probably wouldn’t have come if she hadn’t qualified.
Two more victories, and Adams and her caddie will have earned a place in the field for next year’s championship at Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant, La.
Akins Impresses In First USGA Championship In Over 30 Years
When Audrey Akins survived the 5-for-4 playoff in waning daylight on Sunday evening at Harbour Trees Golf Club, she had secured a spot in a USGA championship match-play bracket for the second time, and the first time since she lost in the Round of 64 in the 1981 U.S. Girls’ Junior. What’s more, she arrived having not competed in a USGA championship since the 1983 Girls’ Junior.
So one could forgive the Windsor, Canada, native if she felt immense pressure when she drew defending champion Julia Potter, but Akins, 47, felt the opposite.
I went OK, well what are you going to do. I do have enough experience, from a long time ago, that you just have to play your game, said Akins, who never led in her match with Potter, but never trailed by more than one hole until a bogey on No. 17 sent her to a 2-and-1 defeat. I didn’t feel nervous, I just said I’ve got nothing to lose. Just play and try to improve on what I’ve been doing the last couple of days, and I was able to do that, so I was happy with that.
Akins had a decorated career at the University of Oklahoma, earning honorable mention All-America honors in 1987, and her three individual victories is tied for the third-most in program history. However, she stepped away from the game for nearly 25 years to raise her children and build a career.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Akins, an English teacher at a secondary school, decided to play competitively again. She played in two tournaments in 2013, and began to round into form this summer, finishing third in the Michigan Women’s Mid-Amateur in mid-July. Two weeks later, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur on her first try. A month later, she was making life difficult for the defending champion.
Competitively, when you’re away from it, you definitely notice the mental errors, but this was lots of fun; I couldn’t ask for more, she said after the match. Julia’s a great player. I let some opportunities go at the end, definitely, but that’s learning too, and that’s just the way I have to look at it.
Stasi Moves Past Familiar Philly Foe
Lisa McGill, of Philadelphia, was one of four players to advance through a five-woman playoff after the conclusion of stroke play. Once she survived that test with a par on the first playoff hole, McGill faced what she considered the ultimate non-pressure match – a meeting with four-time champion Meghan Stasi.
I really wasn’t nervous, said McGill, 55, after her 4-and-2 loss to Stasi. For me, when you’re playing the four-time champion, it’s nothing but gravy and there’s nothing to lose. The pressure is all on the better player.
McGill birdied the first hole for a quick lead, and trailed by only one hole through 13, but three consecutive pars by Stasi sent her opponent on to her next championship, the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, starting Saturday at Hollywood Golf Club, in Deal, N.J.
This wasn’t Stasi and McGill’s first encounter on the course. They have squared off – and teamed up – countless times in women’s amateur events in the Philadelphia area, and Stasi also eliminated McGill in the semifinals of this championship in 2007 at Desert Forest Golf Club, in Carefree, Ariz., en route to her second title.
She thumped me there, said McGill of Stasi’s 6-and-5 triumph. Today I needed to play perfectly and I needed her to make mistakes. She tried to help me out; I know she wasn’t all that happy with her play, but I couldn’t ask for a nicer person to play with and I hope she keeps it going.
For Stasi, the challenge was to keep herself focused on the task at hand.
If you’re not friends with Lisa… she began, then shook her head. She’s just the best person out here. But there are a lot of friends out here, and you’ve got to have your game face on when you come out to play.
Stasi and McGill halved holes 11-13 with bogeys before Stasi went on her run of pars to complete her victory and bring her match-play record to 35-4 in this championship.
I missed a couple of shots and a few putts got away from me, said Stasi. You have to be careful to continue to play your game and not get caught up in the friendship – you have to know when to be friends and when to go into ‘Go’ mode.
For all her pressure is off talk, McGill rued some of the shots she hit – and the strain that Stasi put on her short game.
The fact is, she [Stasi] and her contemporaries hit it so far they are at a whole other level, McGill said. I generally have a really sharp short game, and my utilities are generally pretty good, but I missed a couple of them today. Who knows, maybe it was subconscious pressure.
McGill will face pressure of a different kind next week in New Jersey.
I love the challenge of this championship, she said. But I’m amongst my peers there, on more of a level playing field. I can’t wait.
Herron Rides Iron Play To Early Lead, Victory
This week at Harbour Trees, Tobi Herron is making her fifth appearance in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, and the Columbus, Ind., native has learned an important key to success during her past appearances.
It’s always great if you can get up early in matches, she said after her 5-and-4 Round-of-64 victory over Therese Quinn. I’ve played in this championship several times and I’ve always felt you can never be too far ahead.
Herron, 36, seemed to take this to heart on Monday, winning the first six holes, thanks in large part to sharp iron play. She birdied three of the first four holes, and none of the putts was longer than 4 feet.
Herron, whose best performance in the Women’s Mid-Amateur is the Round of 16 in 2012, admittedly lost a little focus on the inward nine. She made double bogey on the 11th hole after blading a chip over the green and then, after failing to get up and down to save par on the 12th hole, she had her lead cut to 3 holes over Quinn, 63, the oldest player to advance to match play.
Ultimately, the stellar iron play that contributed to her early advantage would give her the lift she needed. She hit her approach shot on the par-4 13th hole to 4 feet, leading to another birdie and giving her a 4-up lead. She would close out the match on the next hole.
I was hitting some quality shots, she said. It’s always good to make short putts.
Stuckey Prevails in Big Ten Battle
Cara Stuckey notched a 2-and-1 victory in her Round-of-64 match over Renata Young on Monday, which came in her USGA championship match-play debut. There was a little extra satisfaction for the Terre Haute, Ind., native, because in defeating Young, she bested a player she used to compete against in the Big Ten Conference. Stuckey was a member of the golf team at Indiana University from 2000-04, while Young played for the University of Illinois from 1999-03.
Anytime you represent your college you want to play well, so anytime it’s a Big Ten foe you want to get one for the Hoosiers, said Stuckey, 34, who played at Indiana for head coach Sam Carmichael, the father of fellow U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor Julie Carmichael. I don’t know if we ever played together, but I do remember seeing her with Illinois.
Whether or not they were ever grouped together, both players earned Big Ten academic honors in 2002 and 2003, and in both of those years, the Fighting Illini finished one place ahead of the Hoosiers in the Big Ten Championship. On Monday, however, it was Stuckey who had the upper hand. She never trailed and took the lead for good after a Young bogey on the par-5 11th hole.Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott Lipsky of the USGA contributed.