PORTLAND, Ore. – For the first time in USGA championship history, two Canadian players – Judith Kyrinis and Terrill Samuel – will meet in a final match. The two will face off in the 18-hole final of the 56th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at seven-time USGA championship host site Waverley Country Club, which is set up at 5,836 yards and a par of 72, at 8:30 a.m. PDT Thursday.
Kyrinis, who was 3 down through four holes in Wednesday’s semifinal match against former LPGA Tour professional Tara Fleming, of Jersey City, N.J., started to chip away at her opponent’s lead starting on the par-4 7th hole when Fleming bogeyed.
“I thought, ‘There’s lots of golf still in front of me, so be resilient and keep battling,’” said Kyrinis, who made it to the finals of the 2014 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, losing to Joan Higgins. “I’ve been playing well, so there’s no reason that I wouldn’t – that I couldn’t climb my way back. But, Tara is obviously a very accomplished golfer.”
A registered nurse and mother of three in suburban Toronto, Kyrinis birdied the par-3 16th hole with a 35-foot birdie from the fringe to take the lead from Fleming – a member of New Jersey’s winning team in the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship – for the first time in the match.
“I can’t remember who said it, but a bad putt is way better than a bad chip,” said Kyrinis of her decision to go for the difficult putt on the 16th hole. “I try to stay calm in ups, and I try to stay calm in the downs. Just try to stay even keel, and I think I do that pretty well. I don’t get too high, and I don’t get too low.”
Kyrinis clinched the 2-and-1 semifinal win on the 17th hole. After Kyrinis missed a short birdie putt to pick up a conceded par, Fleming missed a 6-foot downhill putt that would have extended the match.
“I’m going to stick to the same game plan of driving it well, putting it well, and the goal will be to hit the irons a little bit better tomorrow,” said Kyrinis of her strategy for the final against Samuel, who also lives in suburban Toronto, approximately 25 minutes from Kyrinis.
Kyrinis, 53, also notched a 2-and-1 win in the morning’s quarterfinals against Lisa McGill, of Philadelphia, Pa. She made a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-4 15th hole to regain a 1-up lead over McGill, who never led. Kyrinis’ path to the final also included second- and third-round wins against USGA champions Martha Leach (2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur) and Sherry Herman (2009 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur), respectively.
Samuel also made a comeback on the inward nine against a former LPGA Tour player – Patricia Schremmer, 51, of Honolulu, Hawaii, to win her semifinal match. A teacher in the Toronto District School Board, Samuel, 56, won the match in 19 holes.
“It was going along OK, and then I made a couple of bad bogeys with wedges, and then she made two birdies, then I’m 4 down in four holes just like that,” said Samuel of Schremmer winning four consecutive holes starting with a 6-footer for birdie on No. 4. “And then it just turned around. You just hang in.”
With her 80-year-old mother and best friend, Cam Samuel, serving as her caddie, Samuel won three holes in a row starting with a 3-foot par on the 13th to cut Schremmer’s lead to 2 up. Samuel then posted a conceded birdie on the par-3 14th. To square the match on No. 15, Samuel hit a tee shot 30 yards past the mid-fairway bunkers, sticking her approach to 10 feet with a sand wedge before draining her birdie putt.
“It was pretty good,” said Samuel of the approach shot. “[After squaring a match], your adrenaline starts going.
Before, you’re just trying to stay relaxed and you’re fine, and just going along with whatever happens. Then, all of a sudden, you’re all square, and it becomes nerve-racking.”
The next three holes, 16-18, were halved, sending the match to the first extra hole, the par-3 ninth. On the 19th hole, Samuel’s par putt was conceded, and Schremmer missed her opportunity to extend the match by pulling her putt just left.
Samuel, the 2012 and 2015 Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur champion, never trailed in defeating two-time USA Curtis Cup competitor Patricia Cornett, of Mill Valley, Calif., 5 and 3, in the morning quarterfinal. Playing in her sixth U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Samuel’s previous best finish was in 2014 when she made it to the Round of 32.
Marlene Stewart Streit is the most recent Canadian to win the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, doing so in 2003. Gayle Borthwick is the only other Canadian to win the championship, winning in 1996 and 1998. Mary Ann Hayward, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion who lost her morning quarterfinal match, 3 and 2, to Fleming, is the most recent USGA champion from Canada.
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, open to female amateurs age 50 and older with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 18.4, consists of two 18-hole rounds of stroke play and six rounds of match play. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Both finalists receive an exemption from qualifying into the inaugural 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship at the historic Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., with the winner receiving a two-year exemption into the championship. Both finalists also receive a two-year exemption into the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur (2017 and 2018) and exemptions for future U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs – 10 years for the winner and three for the runner-up. All of the semifinalists are exempt into the next two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs, currently scheduled to be conducted at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club in Vero Beach, Fla., in 2018, and Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Country Club in 2019.