Hunt, Brodd Fall In First Round Of Women's State Amateur
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—In a tournament with as deep a field as the Tennessee Women’s Amateur, there’s almost no such thing as an upset once match play begins.
Take Tuesday’s opening round at The Honors Course for example. Sara Hunt, the No. 2 seed and qualifying medalist, and No. 3 Jillian Brodd both were sent packing to the consolation bracket. But though their conquerors were seeded 30th and 31st, respectively, that didn’t mean they couldn’t play.
Mallory Bishop, who ground out a 3 and 1 victory over Hunt, shot 80 in qualifying and had to endure a five-player playoff for her spot in the championship bracket. But she was just 1 over par through 14 holes of the qualifier before running into disaster with consecutive triple bogeys at 15 and 16. And she’s a veteran college player (Middle Tennessee) with years of competitive experience.
Likewise Lorie Warren, who defeated Brodd, 4 and 3. Warren, too, had to scrape her way into the championship bracket in a playoff, but all she’s done recently was earn Atlantic Sun Player-of-the-Year honors after helping lead Belmont to a third-place finish in the league, finishing second individually and compiling a solid 74.7 stroke average over 25 competitive rounds.
“There are a lot of good players out here,” said Dawn Woodard, who should know. She’s the defending champion and the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
She looked the part on Tuesday. And though Chattanooga’s Georgia McCravey played valiantly in defeat, even taking a 1-up lead with a birdie at No. 3, she was hard pressed to halt Woodard’s momentum once she got rolling.
After McCravey took her lead, Woodard steamrolled back by winning the next four holes to go 3-up. McCravey won No. 10 with a par, but Woodard claimed the next two holes. She closed the door on a 5 and 4 victory at the par-3 14th with a perfectly struck 9-iron that never left the flag, coming to rest a foot and a half from the hole.
“I love it when my caddy tells me it’s a perfect yardage,” said Woodard, the 2007 player of the year in Tennessee. “And that was the perfect distance for the 9-iron.”
McCravey, the senior player of the year in the state last year, has played tournament golf for a long time. And though she never played competitively against her pal, Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Betty Probasco, she’s faced just about every other great player in the state the last couple of decades. She ranks Woodard with the best of them.
“She plays at a different level,” said McCravey, who got a sneak preview of what she was up against last week, when during a friendly round with Woodard and Probasco at The Honors, Woodard shot 1-under-par from the orange tees. “She’s as good as [Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer] Sarah Ingram, as good as anybody I’ve seen or played against. She could easily have played at the next level.”
But the next level never appealed to Woodard, who played at Furman and graduated in 1996. She got married, had three children, and quickly realized there was more to life than chasing around a little white ball.
“I never wanted that [LPGA] lifestyle,” Woodard said. “Oh, I guess I toyed around with the idea. But I wanted a family, and I wanted to be home with my kids. What I love most about golf now is its secondary in my life. This is just a game.”
Woodard gets to play just enough national amateur tournaments to whet her competitive appetite. And when she does play, she’s usually right in the mix. Woodard won the qualifying medal at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur the last two years. In 2007, she lost on the last hole in the quarterfinals of match play to eventual champion Meghan Bolger.
Woodard is trying to continue a trend in the Women’s Amateur. Since 1967-68, when Ann Baker Furrow won back-to-back championships, 11 players have won this tournament in successive years, and the feat has been accomplished 13 times in all (Baker Furrow and Connie Day did it twice.) In this decade alone, Paula Carter (2000, 2001), Sarah Jacobs (2002, 2003) and Rachel Smith (2004, 2005) have done the deed.
On Tuesday, Woodard looked as though she’ll be hard to keep off that of list back-to-back winners, but she’s not a big believer in past success having any bearing on the present.
“What happened last year makes no difference this year,” she said. “It was on a different course, it was a different situation. And match play can be funny. You can play well and lose, and play poorly and win.”
If Bishop had any lingering effects from that triple-triple punch to the jaw she absorbed during Monday qualifying, she didn’t show it against Hunt. Playing in her first tournament of the summer, thanks in part to a lingering elbow injury that kept her on the sidelines for most of the spring season at Middle Tennessee, Bishop was eager to get back into high-level competition.
Bishop claimed her spot in the championship bracket by quickly making par on the first hole of a five-player playoff. And against No. 2 seeded Hunt, she didn’t let her foot off the accelerator. She birdied the first hole to take a 1-up lead, which she saw as a good sign.
“After that, I had a good feeling about the whole day,” Bishop said. “I’ve always thought that the way you start off determines how your round is going to go, and I wanted to get off to a great start.”
Mission accomplished. She won holes No. 4 and 5 with pars to take a 3-up lead, and maintained at least a 2-up advantage the rest of the way. A birdie at the par-4 12th left Bishop at 3-up heading into a crucial stretch of holes where matches are often decided at The Honors. And though she bogeyed No. 13, she quickly won the par-3 14th with a par to go 3-up. Hunt won 15 with a par to force the match as far as the 17th, but Bishop walked off that green a 3 and 1 winner.
She’ll play Stephanie Smith, a 3 and 2 winner over Beth Ann Burns, on Wednesday. Woodard will play No. 16 seeded Sarah Mathews, who defeated No. 17 Karen Williams, 5 and 3.
Woodard wasn’t the only lower seed to hold form. No. 4 Kendall Martindale, just 15 years old, defeated Lynda Wimberly, 4 and 2. And No. 5 Ashley Lance, who’ll be a red-shirt freshman at Ole Miss this fall, outlasted Kaitlyn Hutcherson, 2-up.