University of Virginia senior Calle Nielson and University of Mississippi sophomore Ashley Lance survived a two-match marathon at Cleveland Country Club Thursday in the 70th annual Tennessee Women’s Amateur Golf Championship.
The two finalists ... who are good friends ... have already won major golf titles this year. Nielson, of Nashville, won the NCAA West Regional title for her university, while Lance, of Franklin, recently blew away the field in winning the prestigious Southern Women’s Amateur title at Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain Golf Club.
A pair of local ladies also returned to CCC this morning to play for championships in their respective consolation finals.
Cleveland’s Lisa Daubner defeated Mary Kelly 3-1 in the First Flight Consolation semifinal round Thursday and was set to face Katie Legge for title this morning.
Former Bradley Central standout and Lee University signee Chelsea Rakestraw teed off for the Second Flight Consolation crown against Kenlyn Stewart. Rakestraw advanced with a 7-6 win over fellow Clevelander Deborah Patterson Thursday.
Lance, the longest hitter in the tournament field, pulled off a 1-up victory over teenager and defending state champion Kendall Martindale of Jefferson City in her semifinal match.
Martindale had earlier ousted Cleveland Country Club member and local favorite Maggie Scott, 4-3. Scott missed several crucial putts before being closed out at the long, par-four 15th hole.
Martindale then missed three very makeable putts for birdies on the final three holes of her semifinal defeat to Lance, and later kidded Scott that she must have left her putter in her bag.
Lance also had a tight match in the quarterfinals, defeating longtime standout Sara Hunt of Columbia, 2-1, to advance opposite Martindale.
Nielson had the most physical challenge Thursday, walking and carrying her bag in the sweltering heat for two rounds. She defeated young Shay Sullivan of Smithville handily in the quarterfinals, 5-4, but needed two extra holes to get past teenager Jordan Britt in the semifinal, 1-up.
Martindale and Britt, both defeated in Thursday’s semifinals, are still junior golfers. They will play in “The Wally” this weekend at Old Hickory Golf and Country Club. “The Wally” is an invitational event held each year for Tennessee’s top junior golfers. Martindale has won the title once and finished second another time in her five appearances.
Nielson and Lance were both pleased with their play, and victories, in Thursday’s competition.
Lance held the upper hand most of the way in her match with Hunt, which may have boosted her confidence for the afternoon battle with the defending champion.
The semifinal round between Lance and Martindale was close all the way. Neither golfer held more than a 1-up lead, with Martindale’s balky putter on the final three holes paving the way for Lance’s win. The defending champion missed putts inside 10 feet at 16 and 17 and then left a downhill 20-footer inches short on the final hole.
Lance was superb off the tee, plummeting her drives down the middle of the fairway 20 to 40 yards by Martindale on most holes. It was much the same distance as Martindale had outdriven Scott earlier in the day.
Lance said her 3-under-par 69 was her best competitive round since dominating the Southern Amateur.
Nielson was also pleased with her play during the day, but did admit she became a little fatigued late in the semifinal match. She dodged elimination on the first extra hole when Britt chipped long from the front fringe and missed a birdie putt on the long par-five hole.
The University of Virginia golfer then closed out the match with a sidehill 25-foot putt for a birdie on No. 2 ... earning a spot in today’s final. This is Neilson’s first appearance in the state tournament.
Britt, probably the second longest driver in the tournament behind Lance, used her length to subdue Rachel Deaton in Thursday morning’s quarterfinal round, 6-4. Deaton is from Falcon Ridge Golf Club in Jackson.
Martindale and Scott stayed close early in their quarterfinal match. Scott three-putted No. 2 to give the defending champ a 1-up led, but Martindale returned the favor at No. 5. Martindale went back up at No. 8, but Scott won No. 9 to keep it even at the turn.
A wayward drive was costly to Scott at the par-five 10th, and Martindale’s birdie at No. 11 put her 2-up. The 17-year-old used her length for another birdie at the par-five 14th and then closed out her opponent at the long par-four 15th.
The Lance-Martindale match was an up-and-down affair. Martindale won No. 1 with a birdie, but Lance got the hole back when Martindale three-putted No. 3. Lance went a hole up at No. 4, but Martindale bounced back with a birdie at No. 5. Lance won the par-five seventh with a birdie and remained 1-up until Martindale’s birdie at No. 11 again evened the score.
Martindale took the lead with a birdie 3 at No. 12, but bogeyed No. 13. Lance’s huge drive on No. 15 led to a birdie, a 1-up lead, and was the eventually difference in the match.
Martindale had her chances at 16, 17 and 18, but couldn’t get it done. She missed from eight feet at the long, par-four 16th, and missed again from six feet at No. 17. Both putts sailed over the edge of the hole.
The defending champion hit her approach to the back fringe at 18, 20 feet from the cup. Lance was at the front edge of the green with a 30-foot putt. Lance made a superb approach to within inches of the hole, while Martindale’s downhill effort stopped inches short to end her hopes of a repeat title.
Martindale has reached the tournament’s semifinals for four consecutive years. She was defeated in the round of 8 as a 14-year-old, was runner-up two years ago, and won the title a year ago in Memphis.
Martindale has a busy summer of golf remaining, before classes begin at Jefferson County High School in August. She has The Wally this weekend, will attempt to qualify for the USGA Junior at The Legends in Franklin, will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and has two AJGA tournaments and the Tennessee State Junior.
Nielson had to rally from a two-down deficit to defeat young Jordan Britt. She got even on the backside and the two golfers came to 18 all-square. Two fours on the final hole sent the match to extra holes.
Britt had an edge on the par-five No. 1. She followed a long tee shot with a fairway wood to within three feet of the putting surface. Nielson’s wedge only reached the front of the green, 30 feet away from the cup.
Britt’s poor chip soared 15 feet by the cup, and she missed the comeback birdie. Nielson two-putted to send the match to a second extra hole.
Positioned tee shots by both golfers resulted in shots to the green on No. 2. Britt finished 30 past the hole, while Neilson was 25 feet left. Britt made a good lag putt to within three feet, but Neilson rolled her chance into the cup to abruptly end the exciting match and set up today’s title match with Lance.
Title match was played this morning, the state title match being the tournament’s final event with Nielson and Lance teeing off at 9:30 a.m.
In other matches Thursday:
Championship Consolation: Quarterfinals — Savanna Schubert of Oak Ridge d. Mary Funk of Nashville, 1-up; Ashley Haggard of Savannah d. Karen Williams of Bean Station, 2-1; Katherine Bell of Jackson d. Jordan Hollinshead of Old Hickory, 4-3; and Jillian Brodd of Knoxville d. Amanda Randolph of Cookeville, 4-3. Semifinals — Haggard d. Schubert, 3-2; and Bell d. Brodd, 3-2.
First Flight: Semifinals — Leigh Henderson of Knoxville d. C. Agree of Dyersburg, 4-3; and Megan Murphy of Ooltewah d. Ashley Averitt of Oakland, 3-2. Consolation semifinals — Lisa Daubner of Cleveland d. Mary Kelly of Mt. Juliet, 3-1; and Katie Legge of Portland d. Caroline Stitts of Chattanooga, 2-1.
Second Flight: Semifinals —Marianne Fischer of Bristol d. Denise Pridemore of Madison, 1-up; and Kelsey Schwartz of Arlington d. Delores Haynie of Cleveland, 1-up. Consolation semifinals — Chelsea Rakestraw of Cleveland d. Deborah Patterson of Cleveland, 7-6; and Kenlyn Stewart of Knoxville d. Karen Neidhardt of Knoxville, 3-2.
Third Flight: Championship final — Lyn Thompson of Niota d. Carrie Davis of Cleveland, 2-up. Consolation final — Pam Morrow of Cleveland defeated Wanda Evans of Cleveland, 2-up.