Minnesota Golf Association

After Early Bogeys, Smith Bounces Back to Distance Herself at MGA Women's Amateur

July 28, 2020

 
By Nick Hunter
nick@mngolf.org
 
 
  STILLWATER, Minn. – In search of her second win at the Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship over the past four seasons, University of Nebraska golfer Kate Smith took one step closer Tuesday, carding the second round’s only score below par, a 1-under 71 at Stillwater Country Club.
 
When the final round gets underway Wednesday, Smith will have a four-stroke advantage over Isabella McCauley, who posted a second-round 73 to finish 36 holes of play in second place at 145.
 
“I struck the ball really well again today, but didn’t make as many putts as I would’ve liked to,” Smith said following her round Tuesday. “The [birdie] on nine definitely felt good and it was a good kick-start to the rest of the round. My ball-striking and my mental game have been good—I’ve been really happy out there and I’m trying to stay in the present.”
 
Smith got off to a rocky start to open the second round Tuesday, carding a pair of bogeys at the third and fifth holes, but would bounce back by rolling in a 5-footer for birdie at the sixth before chipping in for birdie at the par-4 ninth hole to get back to 2-under for the championship.
 
The defending Women’s State Open champion Smith tucked her birdie look from 12 feet in the cup at the 10th and would cruise over the next eight holes to post a 71 to finish two rounds of play on top of the leaderboard at 3-under 141.
 
“The last couple days I’ve just been playing the course—I enjoy it and I think I can shoot a number out here,” Smith said. “I’m more trying to put myself in good positions and make some than anything.”
 
Taking a three-stroke lead to the final round in 2017 at Northland Country Club, Smith held off both Sarah Burnham and Taylor Ledwein to earn a one-stroke victory. The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native became a fixture of Minnesota golf when she became the only high school golfer to win five individual championships. She was awarded the inaugural Ms. Minnesota Golf award to cap off her senior season in 2016.
 
Smith will have the tall order once again of holding off one of the state’s best in McCauley, who has already claimed the Minnesota Junior Girls’ State Championship and the Minnesota Girls’ Junior PGA Championship this season.
 
McCauley also started slow Tuesday with two bogeys over her first seven holes and would turn at 2-over for the championship after missing a short birdie chance at the ninth. She made a key up-and-down to save par at the 10th before rolling in her only birdie of the day, an 8-foot downhill chance at the 12th and finished the day at 1-over 73 to stay within striking distance of the lead at 1-over 145, four shots back.
 
“Today was a grind round. I had a lot of tough par putts and had to make those,” McCauley said Tuesday. “It was difficult to capitalize on some birdies, which I think put a damper on the round. I played solidly and stayed away from big numbers and stayed steady.
 
“I missed a couple short putts yesterday, but I hit the ball better and was able to make some more birdies. Today was a lot harder ball-striking wise, I had to get up-and-down. I’m hoping tomorrow I can go low. I’m going to go at some pins and try to make some putts.”
 
Needing to post a tournament-low to catch her counterpart during the final round Wednesday, McCauley remains confident a low score is still up for grabs on the final day.
 
“It’s a tough course—I think the way it’s set up, it’s a good course, but it’s really tough. I think low scores are a possibility, but it’ll be a grind.”
 
Shelby Busker posted a 1-over 73 during the second round Tuesday and will begin the final round in a tie for third place with University of Minnesota golfer and 18-hole co-leader Kate Lillie at 4-over 148, while Lillie’s teammate Grace Keller sits in fifth place at 149.
 
Raelyn Spears followed up her opening round 76 by carding a 13-over 85 during the final round Tuesday to claim a two-stroke victory over Carissa Kunst in the First Flight, and a final-round 87 gave Ellen Solem a three-stroke win over Alyssa Klein in the Second Flight.
 
The final round of the 2020 MGA Women’s Amateur Championship is slated to begin at 8 a.m. at Stillwater Country Club.
 
 


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