Thursday, September 27, 2018

Defending Champ Chugg to Face Medalist Johnson in Women’s Mid-Amateur Final

(St. Louis, Mo.) - Defending U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Kelsey Chugg, 27, of Salt Lake City, Utah, won a pair of matches Wednesday at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., to move within one win of defending the title she won last year at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

While Chugg will attempt to become the fourth player to win consecutive Women’s Mid-Amateurs, her opponent in Thursday’s 18-hole championship match will be trying to get over the proverbial hump. Shannon Johnson, 35, of Norton, Mass., finished runner-up in 2016 to Julia Potter-Bobb and made the semifinals last year.

Chugg, the membership director for the Utah Golf Association, ousted four-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 40, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the morning’s quarterfinal match. Chugg won three of the first four holes en route to a 3-and-2 win. Chugg defeated Gretchen Johnson, 32, of Portland, Ore., 2 and 1, in the semifinals. Chugg appeared to be on cruise control against Johnson, winning holes 9-11 for a 5-up lead before Johnson won three of the next four to push the match to the 17th hole.

“Stasi was tough this morning. She had a rough start but really hung in there,” said Chugg. “She’s a veteran player, and she’s really good. So, hanging tough with her helped me out a bit. And then what Gretchen did this afternoon, it was tough to keep playing and keep my mind straight through all that.”

Johnson, a sales representative for Ping Golf, defeated Clare Connolly, 25, of Chevy Chase, Md., in the quarterfinals. After losing the first hole, Johnson won holes 4-6 to go 2 up. Connolly won holes 8 and 9 to square the match but Johnson won three of four holes from 13-17 to seal a 3-and-2 triumph. Johnson had no trouble in her semifinal match against Michelle Butler, 25, of Columbia, Mo. Johnson won the first three holes, including birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, then iced a 7-and-5 win with three straight wins from 11-13, closing with a conceded birdie on No. 13 after Butler missed her birdie try.

“It’s always good to go 1 up after one, kind of loosens you up, frees you up a little bit, and then made two good birdies on 2 and 3, which were huge,” said Johnson of her semifinal victory. “Other than 1, I think I probably hit every fairway, which is awesome. That’s what you’ve got to do, just try and leave it in the right spots on the greens.”

Chugg, on the difficulty of back-to-back days of two matches:
“I had some fatigue on the back nine, and was just hanging on. I was like, just hit fairways and greens, and trying to get through the thing, and [Gretchen] was really clutch coming down the stretch. I was feeling it. I’m feeling OK physically, but I’m looking forward to some rest and hopefully can clear my mind tonight.”

Shannon Johnson on the difference between 2016 and this year:
“I think looking back on a couple years ago, I just was super tentative with my putting. Got a new putter, different, and just trying not to think a lot about it and just kind of let it go. It’s been working so far. I’ve just got to come out swinging and get some good tempo on the first few holes.”

Johnson on the U.S. Women’s Open exemption on the line Thursday:
“I’m just trying not to think about it. Obviously, it would be unbelievable to win and be able to go play in that. Have to maybe ask for a little more time off work in the primetime. We’ll cross that bridge when we need to.”

Meghan Stasi on her quarterfinal loss to Kelsey Chugg:
“She just played solid. She didn’t make any mistakes. Unfortunately, I just got off to a bad start putting. Other than that, it was fine. I hit a couple shots here and there that weren’t pretty, but what are you going to do.”

Michelle Butler on her semifinal run:
“It was such an incredible week, and I was just happy to get to match play, and then obviously I wanted to keep going. But it was so fun. I learned so much, and I feel so great about my game right now. Like I said before, I haven’t played a ton of tournaments just with how busy I’ve been, so this makes me more excited to play more tournaments.”

Shannon Johnson advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive year. She is the first player to make three straight Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinals since Margaret Starosto (nee Shirley) did so from 2013-2015 (won in 2014, lost in the final in 2013 and 2015).

Johnson shot the equivalent of 3 under par through 13 holes in her semifinal win over Michelle Butler, given the usual match-play concessions.

Johnson is the fifth medalist since 2013 to make the Women’s Mid-Amateur championship match. She lost to fellow co-medalist Julia Potter-Bobb in 2016.

Kelsey Chugg reached the semifinals by beating multi-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champions in consecutive matches. She defeated Julia Potter-Bobb (2013 and 2016) in 19 holes in the Round of 16 and Meghan Stasi (2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012), 3 and 2, in the quarterfinals.

Chugg is attempting to become the sixth player to win at least two Women’s Mid-Amateurs. She would join Carol Semple Thompson (1990, 1997), Sarah LeBrun Ingram (1991, 1993, 1994), Ellen Port (1995, 1996, 2000), Stasi and Potter-Bobb.

With a win on Thursday, Chugg would also become the first player to win the Women’s Mid-Amateur in her first two attempts since Stasi in 2006-07.

Gretchen Johnson advanced to the semifinals despite being 2 down to Julia Hodgson in the quarterfinals with two holes remaining. Johnson won 17 and 18 with pars, then birdied the 20th hole to win.

All semifinalists are exempt into the next two Women’s Mid-Amateurs while all quarterfinalists are exempt into next year’s championship at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The 18-hole championship match will begin at 9 a.m. CDT on Thursday. The winner will receive a 10-year exemption into the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship and an exemption into the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.). The runner-up will receive a three-year Women’s Mid-Amateur exemption. The winner is also exempt into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships, while the runner-up is exempt next year at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.

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