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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chugg finishes off magical week at Champions with U.S. Women's Mid-Am title

   The game means a lot to Kelsey Chugg and it’s always nice to see somebody who cares that much about golf hoisting a USGA championship trophy.
   The 26-year-old from Salt Lake City, Utah had a firm grip on the Mildred Prunaret Trophy – nobody does trophies better than the United States Golf Association – and a gold medal around her neck after she claimed a 3 and 1 victory over another golf lifer, Mary Jane Hiestand, 58 years young from Naples, Fla., in the final of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Thursday at Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek Course in Houston.
   Chugg played college golf at Weber State. She has won the Utah Women’s Amateur four times. She is the membership director for the Utah Golf Association. That Mildred Prunaret Trophy will probably be a must-see item for half the people who play golf in the state of Utah for the next year. That’s what Chugg was excited about Thursday.
   “It’s just been a crazy week – I can’t believe I pulled it off,” Chugg told the USGA website. “This is really exciting for me to be able to bring this home for Utah and the golf community there.”
   Chugg was making her U.S. Women’s Mid-Am debut and the jitters showed in an opening-round 85 in qualifying. But she trusted her talent while carding an even-par 72 in the second round that got her into the match-play bracket.
   One by one she picked off good player after good player, including 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief in the round of 16 and Marissa Mar, who, along with Greenlief and Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion Katie Miller, was a co-medalist in qualifying, in the semifinals.
   While no Chugg match ever made it to the 18th hole, Hiestand, playing in her 43rd USGA championship, was pulling out close victories, wielding her putter to devastating effect.
   Hiestand called the 6,022-yard, par-72 Cypress Creek layout a “putter’s course,” and Chugg beat her at her own game Thursday.
   Hiestand grabbed a quick lead by winning the first hole with a par, but Chugg squared the match by taking the second hole with a par.
   The match turned on the par-4 third hole with Chugg missing the green and then chipping poorly, her ball still 38 feet from the hole. Hiestand was on in two, just outside of Chugg’s ball. Hiestand lagged her birdie putt four feet from the hole.
   Chugg got to see the line and she lined up her 38-footer for par and knocked it right in the cup. Naturally, the hole suddenly a little smaller after Chugg's make, Hiestand’s par putt slid by. It was a classic match-play turnaround with Hiestand looking at winning the hole and walking off the green 1-down. She was never able to get to all-square again.
   Chugg won the fifth hole with a par and the 10th hole with a par. When she dropped in a testy five-and-a-half footer for par at the par-5 13th, she was 4-up with five to play. Chugg made a double bogey on the 14th and sent her tee shot over the green on the par-3 16th and Hiestand won both holes to cut her deficit to 2-down.
   But when Hiestand missed her par putt on the 17th, she conceded Chugg’s short par putt and it was over.
   When Chugg finally stops staring at that Mildred Prunaret Trophy, when she finally takes that gold medal from around her neck, she’ll start to realize the value of all the exemptions she earned by capturing the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
   For the first time, the U.S. Women’s Mid-Am winner earns a spot in next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tenn.? She’s in.
   And Chugg can ignore sweating out a U.S. Women’s Mid-Am qualifier for the next 10 years. She’ll probably help the Utah Golf Association run the thing.
   She can just show up next September at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, head to the range and start hitting some balls.
   Oh, they’ll probably make her do some interviews as the defending champion and all. But she’ll have a starting time in the first round of qualifying and probably a little less of a case of jitters than she had at Champions.

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