Peter Koutroumpis – email@example.com
SANFORD, N.C. – For the sixth year in a row, Carolina Trace Country Club hosted a United States Golf Association (USGA) sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open, and welcomed 78 professional and amateur golfers as they played to earn four entries and two alternate spots on Thursday.
Symetra Tour player Stacey Keating earned medalist honors in posting scores of 73 and 67 respectively to earn a spot in the upcoming 2014 U.S. Women’s Open to be played at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.
Following Keating were pros Marta Silva (69-72-141), Wei-Ling Hsu (71-72-143) and lone amateur Ally McDonald (72-72-144).
McDonald earned the final qualifying entry by beating Rebecca Artis (72-72-144) in a sudden-death playoff which gave Artis the first alternate spot while two other amateurs played two more holes for the second alternate position which went to N.C. State’s Brittany Marchand (77-68-145) who edged out Duke’s Laetitia Beck (74-71-145) in the playoff.
Marchand, a Canadian, started in 10 tournaments for the Wolfpack throughout the 2013-2014 season, and posted four top-10 finishes (T2 – best) while maintaining a 73.6 scoring average.
“I just came of NCAA’s, so I knew my game was there,” Marchand said.
“I just tried to let it happen, move on and I got into a better rhythm and kept it going on the second 18…I just tried to think, ‘make pars and the birdies will drop’.”
Beck, from Israel, was part of Duke’s recent championship-winning squad and had an exemplary season playing in 11 tournaments with six top-10 finishes (2nd ACC – best) and ended her collegiate career with a 72.29 scoring average.
Coming from the NCAA’s, she felt good about her performance during the qualifier, but wished she managed the greens better.
“I played solid all day long,” Beck said.
“I was waiting for putts to drop, but it didn’t happen and didn’t have it today. The greens were pretty tricky.”
With intermittent clouds, the comfortable breeze and sun provided near-ideal conditions to score low most of the day along the course’s tree and water-lined fairways and greens.
Playing 36 holes throughout the day wore down some competitors who withdrew while few like Keating scored lower or stayed close to par and made for an interesting finish to it all.
“It’s tough playing 36 and staying focused out there,” 14-year LPGA veteran and six-time winner on Tour Donna Andrews said.
“I played better my second round. I actually shot better my second round, just didn’t putt well…I just think the hardest thing is keeping your focus out there.”
Andrews, a Tar Heels alum, finished 76-72-148 and missed the opportunity to qualify for her 14th U.S. Women’s Open, an event in which her top finishes included a second and third in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
She enjoyed playing with and was impressed teeing it up with the younger players who were in her group.
“I was playing with an eighth-grader that was hittin’ it up with me today. To watch these girls hit it, just watch how far they hit it, is just amazing to me…It was fun bein’ out there.”
With many of the competitors used to playing in tournaments that have running leaderboards and updated scoring, they could only focus on their game, not knowing where they stood and hoping to finish with scores low enough to make it.
“It’s so hit and miss,” Keating said.
“You don’t know who’s going to be in your field, you don’t know how many spots there’s going to be. There’s nothing – it makes it harder. You don’t know that if I’m coming down the stretch thinking I’m doing okay, but really am I? I don’t know.”
The 6,493 yard, par 72 layout gave up only a few scores below par during the first round of play as Silva led the field, carding a 3-under par 69 followed by Hsu (71) and Artis (72), along with McDonald (72) who wasn’t far behind.
“I played really well today,” Silva said.
“I played really solid and I made good putts. I think I missed two shots, but it was really good…I stayed patient which is a big thing here. I’m really happy with my two rounds.”
Following first-round play, Keating (73) was tied for fifth and had work to do.
At the time, some other local players of note were in the mix as a six-player tie for seventh included Beck (74), UNC’s Katherine Perry (74) and Lee County High School sophomore, Siranon ‘Muk’ Shoomee, the reigning North Carolina 3A girls champion.
In the end, Beck, Perry, and Shoomee missed their opportunity to qualify, but not for lack of trying as the Lakes course layout truly tested the entire field throughout the day.
“It was nice,” Keating said of the course setup.
“I didn’t hole as many putts this morning. I hit it quite well this morning. I just didn’t hole anything. This afternoon, I holed more putts, so that’s where it adds up.”
Thinking she had a week off, Keating’s recent finishes (T18 and 12th) on the Symetra Tour earned her a promotion to the LPGA Tour on a recent reshuffle that took place.
After she posted her second-round and low-round of the day at the qualifier, she was off to New Jersey to compete in the Shoprite LPGA Classic.
“I guess you can get confidence know that you have qualified before,” Keating continued as she prepared to leave not yet knowing that she would need to make plans to return to North Carolina in a few weeks, specifically to the Village of Pinehurst.
“But who knows. You have no idea out there how everyone else is doing. I mean, I might not even go close, I might not qualify, you don’t know. It helps knowing that I have qualified before, but at the end it’s just 36 holes, isn’t it.”
|T4||McDonald, Ally (a)||Even||F||Even||72||72||144|
|T6||Marchand, Brittany (a)||-4||F||+1||77||68||145|
|T6||Beck, Laetitia (a)||-1||F||+1||74||71||145|