(St. Louis, Mo.) - Defending champion Kelsey Chugg, of Salt Lake City, Utah, made consecutive birdies on No. 18 and the first playoff hole on Tuesday to defeat two-time champion Julia Potter-Bobb in 19 holes and advance to the quarterfinals of the 32nd U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Norwood Hills Country Club.
Chugg lost No. 17 to Potter-Bobb to go down a hole, but she converted a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 after Potter-Bobb missed her 14-foot birdie try, sending the match to extra holes. Chugg knocked her approach to 6 feet on the par-4 first hole and made the putt to defeat Potter-Bobb, of Indianapolis, Ind., who won this championship in 2013 and 2016.
Chugg and Potter-Bobb, who both won Round-of-32 matches on Tuesday morning, formed a four-ball partnership and qualified on Sept. 4 for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, which will be played at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., next April. Chugg will now take on four-time champion Meghan Stasi in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. Stasi, 40, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won another matchup of past champions on Tuesday afternoon, defeating 2004 winner Corey Weworski, 56, of Carlsbad, Calif., 1 up.
Medalist and No. 1 seed Shannon Johnson, 35, of Norton, Mass., eliminated four-time champion Ellen Port, 57, of St. Louis, 2 and 1, in the morning Round of 32, before ousting Jordan Craig-Nyiri, 32, of Connellsville, Pa., 6 and 5, in the Round of 16.
“I didn’t make any putts all week, and it carried on to this match,” said Port, who has won seven USGA championships and will seek her fourth U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur title starting Oct. 6 at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club in Vero Beach, Fla. “That was the difference. I missed a couple shots, but she putted well, and I had my opportunities.”
Johnson, who was the runner-up in 2016, will take on Clare Connolly, 25, of Chevy Chase, Md., Wednesday at 8 a.m. CDT in the quarterfinals. Connolly roared back from a four-hole deficit to defeat Courtney McKim, 28, of Raleigh, N.C., in 19 holes after dispatching 2014 champion Margaret Starosto, of Woodstock, Ga., 5 and 4, in the morning.
2015 champion Lauren Greenlief, 28, of Ashburn, Va., has won all three of her matches by 4-and-3 margins, and will take on Michelle Butler, 25, of Columbia, Mo., on Wednesday. Butler, who eliminated Kayla Eckelkamp, 28, of Washington, Mo., on Tuesday afternoon, is competing in her first USGA championship.
Gretchen Johnson, 32, of Portland, Ore., who edged 2017 semifinalist Marissa Mar, 26, of San Francisco, 1 up, in the afternoon, will take on Julia Hodgson, 26, of Canada, who outlasted Tara Joy-Connolly, 45, of North Palm Beach, Fla., in 19 holes.
Medalist Shannon Johnson on her victory over seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port:
“I knew that going against Ellen was going to be a tough match, and I just made it a little harder on myself by not swinging freely; my tempo was a little off. But luckily I was able to make a couple of clutch pars out on some of the tougher holes, and Ellen three-putted the 15th hole while I made a good 6-footer to win. The last few holes are tough, so if you can make par, it’s going to go a long way.”
Johnson, on an adjustment she and caddie Matt Johnson (no relation) made between rounds:
“I came out and hit a few balls and he noticed my shoulders were just pointing a little the wrong way. I was a little open to my target, which would make sense considering where my shots were going this morning. It’s awesome to have another set of eyes, and I really hit it awesome this whole back side today.”
Michelle Butler, of Columbia, Mo., on the 36-hole day:
“I think when you go in mentally prepared that it’s going to be a long day and a physical grind, it helps you out a lot, but I feel like I'm gaining confidence the more I'm out on this course – shot by shot, match by match. I'm definitely playing a lot better than I did in stroke play.”
Butler, a University of Missouri graduate, on her rooting section:
“I've had such a good fan crew out here. My boyfriend Hunter, my dad, my boyfriend's parents… They always call me MB. My boyfriend's dad came up with that. So they're over there yelling, ‘Go MB, go MB.’ It's pretty cool. It's been nice having that support.”
Clare Connolly, on her comeback from four holes down:
“I wanted to play smart golf. I tried to force a lot of things on the front nine, and it just was not working. So went back to the roots and went back to smart golf. If you don't have a shot, hit it out, try to get it up and down. So back to the fundamentals.”
Connolly, on being exempt into the 2019 championship as a quarterfinalist:
“For being my first time here, I'm absolutely thrilled. After playing in the Women’s Am a couple weeks ago and being one of the oldest, it feels good to have the shoe on the other foot, to say the least, so I'm very honored and I'm very excited, so got to keep it going.”
2015 champion Lauren Greenlief, on her comfort level in this championship:
“I think having gone through it before and having made the deep run at the Women’s Am just helps build confidence. A big part of this game is just being confident, making confident swings, so I’m just trying to carry that throughout and leverage my match-play experience.”
Meghan Stasi, on being a four-time champion:
“I don't even think about it, honestly. It feels like just yesterday even though [the last victory] was 2012. It doesn't bother me. I just want to play and compete, and if it happens again, that's incredible, but I've got to get through tomorrow first. It's another long day ahead.”
All of the players who advanced to the quarterfinals are exempt from qualifying for the 2019 championship, which will be played Sept. 14-19 at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. Semifinalists are exempt for two years, the runner-up earns a three-year exemption and the champion is exempt for 10 years.
Tara Joy-Connolly played two extra-hole matches against players from Canada on Tuesday. She defeated 2017 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion Judith Kyrinis in 22 holes in the morning, then lost to Julia Hodgson in 19 holes. Mary Jane Hiestand, the runner-up in this championship to Chugg in 2017 who missed the cut this year, caddied for Joy-Connolly for all 41 holes on Tuesday.
The average age of the eight quarterfinalists is 29.7 years. The average of the 132-player starting field was 38.8 years.
The championship continues with quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Wednesday at Norwood Hills Country Club. The first quarterfinal match is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. CT. The 18-hole championship match will be contested on Thursday with the champion receiving an exemption in the 2019 U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston.