Some familiar names are once again near the top the leader board in Round 1 of the rain-delayed U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, including a group of players within two strokes of the lead who have combined to win 16 USGA titles.
2017 champion Kelsey Chugg holds the clubhouse lead after a 2-under 70. She is joined at 2 under by three others: 2015 champion Lauren Greenlief, 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur winner Judith Kyrinis and Ana Alicia Malagon Perez, of Mexico, all of whom were still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness at 7:24 p.m. EDT.
2021 Women’s Mid-Am stroke-play medalist Jennifer Peng and Old Dominion University head women’s golf coach Mallory Kane carded 1-under 71s, while two-time quarterfinalist Katie Miller is 1 under through 17 holes. A group at even par includes four-time Women’s Mid-Am winner Meghan Stasi, two-time titlist Julia Potter-Bobb and seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port (through 12 holes).
Chugg, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, started quickly with a birdie on the short par-5 opening hole at the 6,199-yard, par-72 Fiddlesticks Country Club (Long Mean Course) in Fort Myers, Fla. She dropped strokes on Nos. 4 and 5 but would not have another blemish on her scorecard. She added birdies at the short par-4 seventh, par-5 11th and par-3 17th.
“I was pretty steady,” said Chugg, who has made match play in each of her four Women’s Mid-Am appearances. “I hit a lot of fairways and a ton of greens. I made a couple of good up-and-downs in the middle of the round that really kept the momentum going.”
Peng picked up where she left off in the stroke play portion of last year’s championship. The 2018 graduate of Yale University made three birdies on the outward nine at Fiddlesticks (Nos. 2, 4 and 9). Despite a double bogey at No. 15, she closed with an eagle on the par-5 18th to pull within one of the lead.
Last year, Peng set championship records for the lowest round (66) and the lowest 36-hole stroke-play total (136), but lost to No. 64 seed Aliea Clark, 1 down, in the Round of 64.
“That was my first competitive event since returning to the game after college,” said Peng, 26, of San Diego, Calif. “It’s been so much fun, having my brother come out and caddie for me. I’m just really looking to improve my finish from last year.”
Kane, 35, of Virginia Beach, Va., will be busy in the coming days. In addition to playing for a national championship herself, her team is competing in their first tournament of the season, the three-day Badger Invitational in Madison, Wis., which starts tomorrow.
“I'm sure they haven’t even noticed I'm not there,” joked Kane, who has led the Monarchs to five straight NCAA tournament appearances. “I know they can go play well without me. I appreciate their support. They know I also have dreams and aspirations in golf that aren’t tied to coaching.”
Potter-Bobb, 34, of Indianapolis, Ind., birdied her opening hole and was under par for most of the day until late bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. Still, the Director of Business Operations and Membership for Indiana Golf is well within striking distance of earning stroke-play medalist honors for the fourth time, which would tie the championship record owned by Port.
Defending champion Blakesly Brock, who is looking to become the first player to win back-to-back titles since Stasi in 2006 and 2007, birdied her final hole, the par-5 18th, for a 1-over 73 – better than either stroke-play round last year at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, S.C., when she earned the No. 27 seed.
“I was more excited than feeling any extra pressure,” said Brock, 26, of Chattanooga, Tenn. “I just tried to take it one shot at a time and it’s a long week. Marathon, not a sprint.”
Round 1 of stroke play will resume at 7:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday, followed by Round 2 of stroke play. The low 64 players will qualify for match play, which will begin on Monday. If necessary, a playoff to determine the final match-play spots will take place on Monday morning.
The entire morning wave completed their opening round, but 60 golfers from the afternoon wave will complete Round 1 on Sunday morning.
Martha Leach extended her own record by starting her 33rd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, six more than Ellen Port. Leach (1 over through 11 holes) also seems to be in good position to make match play for a record 30th time.
Aliea Clark, the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, shot a 6-over 78 on Saturday. The 26-year-old from New York, N.Y., was the only mid-amateur to make match play in last month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay.
Connor Macon, 38, of Charlotte, N.C., is playing in her first USGA championship and is 17 weeks pregnant with her third child. Her father, Bert Atkinson, who was runner-up in the 1991 U.S. Mid-Amateur, is caddieing for her this week. She opened with a 5-over 77.
2018 champion Shannon Johnson (illness) withdrew on Saturday morning about 90 minutes before her 8:25 a.m. tee time. First alternate Audrey Dalton took her place and shot a 10-over 82.
The Long Mean Course at Fiddlesticks C.C. lived up to its name on Saturday, especially at the 15th. The 367-yard par 4 played as the toughest hole (4.92 stroke average) thus far in Round 1. It has 27 double bogeys, nearly double any other hole, and 13 “others,” which is nearly half the total of all 17 other holes combined.
“I had basically given up on golf three years ago when I graduated from college. Getting those experiences now as a Mid-Am, after I thought I missed out on them, really meant the world. It's been the best preparation for this championship. I’ve had a lot of rounds in big events under my belt so far this year and that’ll hopefully work to my advantage.” – Blakesly Brock on getting to play in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica and U.S. Women’s Amateur by exemptions earned from winning the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur
“I had not been playing golf at a competitive level ever since the 2018 Mid-Am at Norwood Hills. This year I opened my mailbox and saw the invitation for this year’s tournament and I left it on my kitchen shelf. My 7-year-old nephew saw it and told me I should go back and compete. He said he knew that’s what really made me happy and that I should trust him; I did and here I am. He and his mom came all the way from Mexico to be with me here this year.” – Ana Alicia Malagon Perez
“I haven’t had a rain delay in a while [being from San Diego] and if it’s raining, I just choose not to play. So I'm just going to chill, grab some food and wait it out. Nothing too much on the agenda.” – Jennifer Peng on her plans during the weather delay in Round 1
“I’ve played a lot of golf this year, so I feel like I know my game right now which is nice. I tried to come in with no expectations and make a bunch of birdies.” – Kelsey Chugg