September 19, 2014

Florida Success at U.S. Senior Amateurs

Twelve women and nine men represented Florida at their respective U.S. Senior Amateur Championship

Thursday was the conclusion of both the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur, and Florida was well represented at both.  Twelve women and nine men qualified, or were exempt, for their respective national championships with a goal of bringing the hardware back to Florida.  A few came close, but all-in-all our Florida senior amateurs had great success this week.

The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship was conducted at Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, New Jersey.  With stormy conditions on-and-off all week it was a battle for the entire field. 2013 US Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up, Susan Cohn of Palm Beach Gardens, came back with a vengeance to claim the title this year.  Unfortunately she fell in the Round of 32 matches to Susan West of Alabama.  Fellow Floridian, Gigi Higgins of Cape Coral, also had a successful run, advancing to the Round of 32 matches as well.  Higgins was recently part of the victorious Florida team at the Women’s Southeastern Challenge Matches, winning four of her five matches to help Florida defend the title. Mary Jane Hiestand (pictured right), of Naples, has had quite a successful year already, defending her title in April at the Senior Women’s Amateur and also being part of the victorious Women’s Southeastern Challenge Match team.  Hiestand has been the Women’s Senior Player-of-the-Year from 2010 to 2013, and was the Women’s Amateur Player-of-the-Year in 2007. Mary Jane had a steady and solid game all week, and just closely fell to Kim Eaton from Arizona on the 18th hole in their Round of 32 match.

Other Florida ladies that advanced to the match play portion of the championship included; Linda McMillan of Palm Coast, Robin W. Donnelley of Palm Beach, Joan Ferrieri of Lake Worth, and Tama Caldabaugh of Ponte Vedra Beach.  McMillan has also had an extremely successful year finishing second at the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship and contined to have the best and undefeated record at the Women’s Southeastern Challenge Match. She also earned medalist honors at the US Senior Women’s Amateur qualifier en-route to New Jersey.  McMillan narrowly missed advancing to Round of 32, losing to Maryland’s Lisa Schlesinger.  This was the first year of eligibility for both Ferrieri and Caldabaugh, and they made it count as they advanced to match play but were unfortunately eliminated after the first match. Other Florida women notables that did not advance to match play include; three-time US Senior Women’s Amateur Champion, Diane Lang of Weston, Carolina Hart of Juno Beach, 2012 Florida Senior Women’s Amateur Champion, Lynda Case of Fort Myers, Erin Fitzpatrick of Wauchula, and Sandie St. Onge of Jensen Beach.

Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, California was host to the US Senior Amateur Championship.  The Florida men represented their home state just as well as the women.  Peter Wegmann (pictured right), of Fort Lauderdale, was the furthest to advance, making it to the quarterfinal matches before he lost narrowly, 2 & 1, to Kansas’ Bryan Norton.  Wegmann was the 2008 Florida Mid-Senior champion and placed in the top five at this year’s Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship.  An extremely accomplished player and former University of Florida Head Coach for men’s golf, Stewart “Buddy” Alexander advanced to the Round of 32 matches before Virginia’s James Gallagher stopped him in his tracks.  Alexander has many accolades to his name, including being a two-time national coach of the year and leading the Gators to NCAA titles in 1993 and 2001. He also won the 1986 U.S. Amateur and was a member of the 1987 USA Walker Cup Team.

Starting strong and claiming medalist honors at the qualifier for the championship, Doug Snoap of Apopka, advanced to match play in Newport Beach with stroke play rounds of 75-72-148.  Unfortunately not advancing past the Round of 64 matches, Snoap has an extensive resume both individually and while representing Florida at the Southeastern Challenge Match and at multiple US State Team Championships.  In 2012, Snoap qualified for the US Senior Open Championship and was paired with Tom Watson and Fred Couples.  The other Floridian to advance to match play was Neil Vanleeuwen of Tarpon Springs.  Vanleeuwen was co-medalist at his qualifying site en-route to Newport, unfortunately only seeing Round of 64 matches.  In 2013 he also qualified and advanced to match play at the US Senior Amateur Championship at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, North Carolina.

Other Florida notables that did not advance to match play include; FSGA past president and nine time Florida Player-of-the-Year, Rick Woulfe of Fort Lauderdale, FSGA past president, Chris Wilmot of Orlando, Ken Palladino of Dunedin, Marcus Beck of Tallahassee, and Derrek Waddington of Trinity.

The U.S. Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Women's Amateur consist of 36 holes of stroke play, after which the fields are reduced to the low 64 scorers for match play. Six match-play rounds determine the champions, with an 18-hole final for each.

The U.S. Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Women's Amateur are two of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Photo Credit:  USGA/Fred Vuich & USGA/Chris Keane

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