Two-year-old Conrad Carman is much too young to realize what his mother accomplished on the Long Mean Course at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday, or the reason for the ensuing celebratory trip across the state to Disney World.
But Krissy Carman will have plenty of stories, photos, articles and videos to share with her son in future years after Thursday’s 2-and-1 triumph over Aliea Clark in the 18-hole final of the 35th U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, as she became the first mother to win this title since Ellen Port in 2011.
The victory also earns Carman a spot in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica at iconic Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
Clark, 26, a third-year graduate student at New York University, saw her dreams of a title dashed for a second consecutive year. The Carlsbad, Calif., native, who reached the final in 2021 as a Cinderella No. 64 seed, joins Page Marsh Lea (1988-89) as the only players to lose consecutive championship matches in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
It turned out to be quite a week along Florida’s Gulf Coast for the entire Carman family. Husband Mitch served as Krissy’s caddie, while her 67-year-old mother, Suzanne Peterson, who preceded her as an Oregon State University golfer, took care of young Conrad, born just days before COVID-19 shut down the country in March 2020.
“I'm in disbelief; feels amazing,” said Carman with a smile. “Obviously I planned out our outfits for the week. I was just hoping that we would be able to wear all the matching ones, and it happened.”
Golf has been in Carman’s DNA since she was a toddler in Eugene, Ore. Suzanne and her late husband, Richard, met at Rose City Golf Course in Portland, and Krissy followed her mom to Oregon State before transferring to Portland State prior to her junior season. In 2018, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with partner Hannah Swanson, but once she got married and had Conrad, the game took a backseat to family.
Only within the last year, when the couple discovered that Conrad loved being in a jogging stroller while they played golf, has Krissy, 27, rekindled her competitive juices.
“My siblings, everyone was just like, do it, do it, do it,” said Carman. “It's incredible. I just had so much support the past couple weeks and past couple months playing in events again.”
That showed up this week in her first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur start when she earned the No. 5 seed in stroke play and proceeded to plow her way through the bracket. She trailed for the first time in 62 match-play holes when medalist Jennifer Peng grabbed an early 1-up lead in their semifinal encounter on Wednesday. It was short-lived as Carman rallied for a 3-and-2 win.
Clark, who had trailed in four of her five matches leading into the final, twice led Carman by a hole, but a balky putter eventually would betray the former UCLA golfer. Clark failed to make a birdie and missed a few short par putts that kept the momentum with Carman.
Winning pars on Nos. 15 and 17 eventually sealed the title for Carman, the latter coming when Clark failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker on the 142-yard par 3.
“I was exhausted, but I did my best,” said Clark. “I just felt like all week I didn't even think twice about 5-footers. I had the line, put a good roll on it; and today I thought I had the line, I kept my head down, and I was just really shocked they weren't in the hole. That's not a great feeling.”
Carman registered the first of her two birdies on the par-5 fourth hole when her 75-yard wedge approach hit the flagstick and stopped 4 feet from the hole to tie the match. She added a birdie on the 335-yard seventh hole for a 1-up lead, but made consecutive bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 to give Clark a 1-up advantage.
After both players bogeyed No. 10, Carman strung together seven consecutive pars while her opponent struggled to find the putting touch that carried her throughout the week.
Clark now heads back to New York to complete her three-year double-master’s degree in business administration and fine arts. Having interned this summer in the Atlanta, Ga., office of McKinsey & Company, she has a job lined up with the global management consulting firm next year, following graduation and a tour of Europe.
“We're going to Disney World!” – Krissy Carman on how they plan to celebrate the victory
“I had a really hard delivery with Conrad, and then I didn't get to play at all that summer after he was born [in 2020]. It wasn't until the following spring, summer, we just went out to Pine Ridge Golf Course out in Springfield, Oregon, and decided to bring him in the jogging stroller. I strapped my clubs up underneath and he just loved it. We were like, OK, we'll play nine, see how it goes. We were able to play 18, and then we did it again and then we did it again, and then we realized that this could be a thing..” – Carman on rekindling her competitive golf game after becoming a mom
“I absolutely loved playing against every single person that I met this week. They were quality individuals inside and out. I think I made a ton of genuine new friends. Everyone was incredibly respectful both in my stroke-play group and in the final match. I would've been thrilled to lose to anyone that I played. Her son, Conrad, is the cutest little thing. What an incredible family. I think we had a ton of fun.” – Aliea Clark
“I'm going to take away that I'm just so grateful for the opportunity and to be at a place in life where I'm able to play golf at this level with such awesome competitors and great friends. I absolutely live for being in contention, and I'm super fortunate that I have a family that supports that and a job that I'll continue to do so with. … I worked super hard. I practice putting all the time, but you can't win if it doesn't go in the hole.” – Clark
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jonathan Coe, a senior manager of championship communications for the USGA, contributed to this article from Fiddlesticks Country Club.