In the late afternoon twilight at Troon Country Club, one of Thursday’s finalists, Brenda Corrie Kuehn, of Asheville, N.C., was back on the practice range after defeating Linda Jeffrey, of Prattville, Ala., 3 and 2.
Over on the first green, her 19th hole of the match, Sarah Gallagher, of Canton, Ga., was making a 4-foot birdie putt to edge Kim Keyer-Scott, of Bonita Springs, Fla., for the other spot in the final match of the 61st U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.
Kuehn, who defeated Martha Leach, 3 and 2, in the quarterfinals, took the lead for good in her semifinal match with a par on the par-3 seventh, and then extended it to 4-up through 12 holes. After losing the 14th, she made pars on 15 and 16 to advance, leaving her with one emotion.
“Relieved,” she said. “We had a nice match. She's a nice lady, a really nice lady. We had a good time. Just relieved. You're always relieved when you win.”
“I just didn't make anything.,” said Jeffrey, who defeated Sarah LeBrun Ingram, 2 and 1, to reach the semifinals. “You know, she [Kuehn] gave me couple door openings and I stubbed my toe going through the door. That happens in golf. I mean, she won it. I helped along, but she won that match. Fantastic player.”
Securing a spot in the finals was well off Kuehn’s radar coming into the championship.
“I did not expect to be here, so I'm just going to go out tomorrow and try to play the best golf I can; try and find the swing, try and put it in the fairway, try and hit the greens and try and putt,” she said. “I literally have no expectations.”
For Jeffrey, her inaugural appearance in the Senior Women’s Amateur was a memorable one.
“You know, the people who have run this and put this together, it's been incredible,” she said. “Being my first Senior [Women’s Amateur], I finally graduated to my age group. Yeah, I've been missing that. I've been an old Mid-Am and you can only go so long with that.”
In the other semifinal match, Keyer-Scott grabbed a 1-up lead on the opening hole, but Gallagher tied things up with a birdie on the par-5 third. The two then matched pars for the next 12 holes, before Gallagher won the 16th hole. Then Keyer-Scott won the 18th with a par to extend the match.
“I knew that she was going to be super tough,” said Gallagher. “She’s super steady and can get up and down from everywhere. So I just had to very steady and stay on top of it. I was trying to be patient and hopefully a putt would go in, and one finally did.”
Keyer-Scott wasn’t sure she was coming back to golf after completing breast cancer treatment six months ago, but she has slowly regained what she estimates to be 80 percent of her strength.
“I knew if I played well that I was going to beat some people,” she said. “You know, but to take her [Gallagher] to 19 holes, I mean, she's so good, so long. You know, she was outdriving me by 30 yards, so for me to take her to 19 holes, that was pretty cool.”
Gallagher was quick to give credit to her caddie and friend, Erin Packer, who used to caddie for her father, two-time U.S. Senior Open winner Allen Doyle, on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I cannot express enough how important it’s been to have Erin on my bag,” said Gallagher. “We play very similarly, so we can talk through things. She’s an incredible green reader, so I can get confidence over the putt. It’s been huge.”
After her win, Gallagher exchanged a warm hug with Kuehn, her opponent in the final on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Gallagher. “She’s a hell of a player, so it’s going to be a great day. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”
The championship match will begin at 8:30 a.m. (MST) on Thursday. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend.
“Yes, still struggling off the tee. That's the story of my life.” – Brenda Corrie Kuehn on the part of her game she’s been concerned most about this week.
“I’m going to go have a martini in the bar and something to eat. Then I’m going to bed.” – Sarah Gallagher when asked about her post-round plans ahead of Thursday’s final match.
“I’ve got lots of patience. I have a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old. There is patience through the roof.” Sarah Gallagher on whether today’s matches exhausted all of her patience.
“I'm just six months out of breast cancer treatment so this is all gravy and it's fun. This course was phenomenal.” – Kim Keyer-Scott on her perspective this week.
“But now I just look at it like, you know what, there are worse places to be than on a golf course. Whether you're playing good golf or bad golf, there are worse places to be.” – Kim Keyer-Scott on playing golf after going through breast cancer.
“That's what I learned from him (her brother who passed away from pancreatic cancer), just keep trucking on. What's the worst that can happen, you know. You just got to keep going. You got to keep making the good choices to do your treatments and to live healthy. You know, it is what it is. Cancer is not something you can prevent. It's just something you have to deal with and treat.” – Kim Keyer-Scott on her attitude dealing with through breast cancer.
“So she's – we served in the Air Force together. Met doing that. She is a retired colonel and I'm just lucky enough that I've, I've had three colonels on my bag, including my husband and another good friend. I do really well with them. They just tell me what to do and I follow orders.” – Linda Jeffrey, a 23-year Air Force veteran who is an instructor at Squadron Officer's School on Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama., on her caddie who drove up from Tucson to help her beginning on Sunday.
Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.