Aldrich Edges Klasse for 3rd Consecutive Senior Women's Match Play Title
June 28, 2020
By Mike Fermoyle (email@example.com)
BECKER -- Betsy Aldrich was 2 up after two holes on Sunday in the MGA Women's Senior Match Play final. She was 3 up after 11, and she closed out six-time champion Leigh Klasse on the 17th hole.
But the 2&1 victory at Pebble Creek Golf Club that gave Aldrich her third consecutive championship in this tournament wasn't as comfortable as that makes it sound.
Klasse has a left hip that needs to be replaced, and as a result she was missing 15 to 20 yards with her driver. At times, she had trouble getting through the ball and uncharacteristically lost a few shots to the right. But the 10-time MGA Senior Women's Player of the Year refused to give up, and she made Aldrich work to win her ninth consecutive match in this event.
"I never expected anything else," Aldrich said afterward. "Leigh healthy, or Leigh injured, she's still a great player. I knew this was going to be tough."
The 60-year-old Klasse, who has won 35 individual state titles in Minnesota, plus 19 four-ball championships, could have used a good start on Sunday, given the condition of her hip (she was limping badly during all three days of the tournament). But she didn't get it. Instead, she lipped out her par putt on the 356-yard, par-4 first hole and then followed that with another bogey at the par-5 second (445 yards).
"But I came back," Klasse said.
A wedge shot to 4 feet set up her birdie at the 338-yard, par-4 third, and she won the par-3 fourth (135 yards), as well, to square the match.
Aldrich, 53, birdied the seventh (350, par 4) and ninth (304, par 4), however, and was 2 up again at the turn.
Klasse left another approach shot out to the right at the 11th hole (315, par 4). She was about a foot off the green, 60 feet from the cup, and she decided to putt from there.
"That was probably a mistake," she conceded. "The lie wasn't the best, and the putt didn't come out all that cleanly."
She left that first putt 8 feet short, and missed the next one for par. Aldrich, who nearly hit the pin with her second shot, two-putted from 25 feet to go 3 up.
Klasse made a tired-looking swing at the par-3 12th (128 yards), and came up 15 yards short of the green. Her chip left her with a 12-footer for par. Aldrich putted for birdie from 30 feet and had only a 1-footer to clean up for her par. So it looked as though she was going to be 4 up with six holes to play -- but Klasse made her par putt and remained 3 down.
At the 13th (360 yards, par 4), Klasse missed the green once again but saved par with an 8-foot putt. Aldrich hit what looked like a pretty good approach shot, basically at the pin, but the greens were firm on Sunday, and the ball ended up in the rough behind the green. Her chip from there slid 5 feet past the cup, and she missed the putt for par.
"That was just kind of unlucky," she said. "I hit the shots I wanted to hit and ended up with a bogey. Sometimes that happens."
Klasse would say "I didn't quit," with some pride when the match was over. That was true both literally and figuratively. She never gave up, or in, and by salvaging those pars at the 12th and 13th, she transformed what could potentially have been a 5-up advantage for Aldrich into a 2-up lead.
And she trimmed it to 1 up by winning the 14th with a par. Klasse was 80 yards short of the green in two on the 425-yard par 5, and hit a wedge to 10 feet. Aldrich was 10 yards closer in two, but thinned her wedge shot 15 yards over the green into an almost impossible position, from which she ended up making a 7.
If Aldrich were inclined to panic, that would have been the time to do it. But she didn't.
"I knew that I was playing well," she explained. "I had been hitting the shots I wanted to hit -- except for the one skulled wedge. Mostly I'd been a little unlucky. I knew that if I just kept hitting the ball the way I'd been hitting it, I'd be fine."
As it turned out, the two holes that settled the issue on Sunday were the 15th, a 355-yard par 4, and the 16th, a 444-yard par 5.
On the 15th, it was Klasse who was unlucky. She didn't quite get all the way through her swing with her driver, and the ball splashed into the sand at the far end of a bunker to the right of the fairway. It settled into the grass a couple of inches beyond the bunker, leaving her with an awkward stance (especially for someone with a painful hip) and a horrible lie for her second shot.
"I would have been a lot better off if it had stayed in the sand," Klasse said later. "It was in a hole. I thought I could get a 5-wood out of there -- but I couldn't. I should have used an iron. That swing really hurt."
Her ball trundled 30 yards into the middle of the fairway, putting her even with Aldrich's drive. Aldrich hit another good approach and two-putted for her par. Klasse missed the green with her third shot. She was left with a tough shot (her fourth) from the rough left of the green, but hit a nifty little pitch from there to within a foot of the cup. Even so, the resulting bogey meant that she was 2 down once again.
At the 16th, Aldrich hit her second shot a few yards left of the fairway. She was only 50 yards short of the green, but she had to keep her third shot under a tree, and it ran over the green, 60 feet past the pin. From there, she hit a chip to 4 feet and made the putt for par. Klasse had a 15-foot birdie putt but couldn't convert it and she, too, made a par.
"I made a mistake with that second shot," Aldrich admitted. "After that, I really had to grind just to make a 5. It was a really good par, and it was crucial. I didn't want to be back to 1 up again."
Aldrich had to go 22 holes against Lynn Anderson to win the first of her Senior Match Play titles two years ago. Last year, she needed to hit a couple of miracle iron shots from the trees on the last two holes, as she came back from a 2-down deficit with three to go to beat Brenda Williams 1 up. (The last time anyone other than Klasse or Aldrich won this event, it was Williams, in 2011, and she beat Klasse in that final.)
On Sunday, Aldrich got to celebrate a little earlier. Her tee shot never left the pin at the 119-yard, par-3 17th, and she needed only to two-putt from 10 feet to match Klasse's two-putt par from 45 feet.
Aldrich, who was 4 over par for the match, now has five state titles on her resume. She and Ede Rice won the MWGA Four-Ball Championship in 2006, and Betsy and her brother Mark won the Mixed Team in 2007. Aldrich has also won the Resorters (another match play tournament) three times.
"I like match play," the three-time champ said after re-taking possession of the Senior Match Play traveling trophy. "It fits my game, because I make my share of birdies, but I throw in a double bogey every so often, and they're not as costly in this format as they are in medal play. You saw that double I made today at the 14th. Leigh didn't make any, as usual. She never makes doubles. Absolutely never."
That was the case over the weekend, as Klasse played a total of 45 holes in her three matches and made zero double bogeys.
There was an expression of relief on her face as she limped back to her cart after the 17th hole, but Klasse said she was glad she played in the tournament, in spite of the pain.
"It was fun being out here, and seeing everyone again," she said. "I enjoyed it. But this might be the last time you'll see me this year."
Klasse was actually a little bit surprised to be available for the Senior Match Play. She had been hoping to have her hip replaced earlier in the month, which would have wiped out her summer golf schedule. Typically, anyone who undergoes hip replacement surgery is on the DL for at least three months. But there are problems with Klasse's medical insurance and the network coverage that it provides.
"It's not my doctor," she pointed out. "He's in the network. The problem is that the hospital where he works isn't. So my insurance won't cover the operation. I appealed, and tried to get the insurance company to make an exception in this case, but they refused."
As a result, the surgery has had to be postponed. Klasse won't even have her next doctor's appointment until July 15th.
MGA Women's Senior Match Play Championship
At Pebble Creek Golf Club
Betsy Aldrich, Woodhill CC, def. Leigh Klasse, Bolstad/University GC, 2&1
M.J. Graphenteen, Luverne CC, def. Ellile Layton, Rochester G&CC, 3&2
Sheryl Raithel, Keller GC, halved with Shelley Peterson, Monticello
Colleen Boerboom, Minnewaska GC, def. Joan Frie, Monticello GC, 1 up
Lynn Cunningham, Rum River Hills GC, def. Jeri Meola, Bent Creek GC, 5&3
Cheryl Lombardi, Shamrock GC, def. Shawna Johnson, Keller, 3&1
Renae Lefebvre, Monticello, def. Tammy Nermyr, Monticello, 2&1
Pat Hegenbarth, Pebble Creek GC, def. Robin Dingmann, Bunker Hills GC, 4&3
Kathryn Sartain, Bunker Hills, def. Brenda Ashmore, Pebble Creek, 8&7