Minnesota Golf Association

Aldrich, Klasse Emerge from Senior Women's Semifinals

June 28, 2020

By Mike Fermoyle (mikefermoyle@gmail.com)

BECKER -- In wrestling, a reversal is an official term, meaning to get out from underneath an opponent's control and get on top of or behind the opponent. If you do that, it's worth two points. 

Reversals are not part of the official terminology of golf, but they can happen, especially in match play. You don't get points for those reversals, but they can help you win a match, as top-seeded Betsy Aldrich demonstrated on Saturday in the semifinals of the MGA Women's Senior Match Play Championship.

Aldrich was 1 up going into the 15th hole at Pebble Creek GC, but she had left her putt for par 5 feet short of the cup on the 355-yard par 4. Her opponent, Jackie Santopietro, had a chance to tie the match with a 12-footer for par. She could also square the match if she two-putted and Aldrich missed her bogey putt. 

Instead, Santopietro gunned her downhill par putt 3 1/2 feet past; Aldrich made her 5-footer; and Santopietro missed her comebacker to tie. Suddenly, Aldrich was 2 up with three to go.

"That was when the trumpet started to play," Santopietro lamented afterward. 

Aldrich then executed a kind of mini-reversal on the 16th hole. From 70 yards short in two on the 444-yard par-5, she hit a gorgeous wedge shot to 5 feet. Santopietro was only 20 yards short in two, but had to come over a bunker onto a downhill slope to get at the pin.

"After Betsy hit her shot so close, I didn't have any choice," Santopietro said, "I couldn't play safe."

Trying to flip her third shot barely over the bunker, she came up just short -- and in the bunker. That led to a bogey for her, and she conceded her opponent's birdie, which gave Aldrich, the two-time defending champion, a 3&2 victory.

As a result, she will take on six-time champ Leigh Klasse in the final on Sunday.

Klasse earned her place in the title match with a 3&1 victory over 2011 champ Brenda Williams. 

The Klasse-Williams semifinal was a rematch. A year ago, Klasse and Williams both bogeyed the first hole, but Williams then played the next 16 holes in 2 under -- without a single bogey -- and won 2&1. This time, she wasn't quite as sharp, and it was Klasse who made the clutch putts.

Klasse has won a record 54 Minnesota state titles (35 in individual events, 19 in four-balls), but the 10-time MGA Women's Senior Player of the Year has not looked the part of an irresistable force on the golf course this weekend. She is limping badly, because she needs to have her left hip replaced. That would have been done earlier this month if it weren't for medical insurance issues.

Nevertheless, she is still a force to be reckoned with. For the second day in a row, Williams got off to a slow start. She was able to overcome that in a 4&3 victory over Christina Payton on Friday, but on Saturday Klasse was able to grab a 3-up lead after five holes -- and Williams was never able to get the match back to even. 

Williams rallied on the front nine, winning the seventh hole (350 yards, par 4) with a par and the eighth (320, par 4) with a birdie, thereby cutting Klasse's advantage to 1 hole. But that was as close as she got. 

"Neither of us played all that well," Klasse suggested. Yet Klasse still managed to stay close to par, and she got better as the round went on. She was 3 over after eight holes, and played the last nine holes of the match in 1 over. If she missed a green in regulation, she would either hit her chip close enough for a conceded par, or she would make a 10-footer.

"She made four of those," Williams said. "That wasn't a surprise. Leigh's been doing that forever. How do you think she's won all those tournaments? We've played each other so many times it's impossible to count -- in tournaments here and in national tournaments. There have been three times in national tournaments that we played each other. Leigh's game is just solid, always has been and still is, even with the bad hip."

Klasse won the 315-yard, par-4 11th with a birdie, lost the par-3 12th (128) to Williams' par, but then restored the 2-up lead with a par at the 13th (360, par 4). Both players parred the next three holes. At the 119-yard, par-3 17th, Klasse won the hole with a par to close out the match.

"Now I can go back to moving," said Williams, who is in the always stress-inducing process of relocating her residence, from Minnetrista to Hopkins. Because of that, and a forthcoming wedding that she's helping to plan (her son Maclain Williams is marrying Steffi Neisen in two weeks), she considered withdrawing from the Senior Match Play, and didn't make the final decision to play until Friday morning.

While Klasse holds the record for most state titles, her contemporary Williams (they were born 37 days apart in 1959) has the record for the most runner-up finishes in Minnesota golf history with 25 (she has also won state championships 11 times). Her most recent second-place finish came last year in this tournament, when Aldrich rallied with a couple of spectacular shots from out of the trees on the last two holes of the final and beat Williams 1 up.

Two years ago, Aldrich outlasted Lynn Anderson in a 22-hole epic final. But the day before that, she defeated Klasse 2&1 in the semis, a result that ended Klasse's six-year reign as the Senior Match Play champion -- and snapped her 19-match winning streak in this event.

On Saturday, Aldrich, 53, had her hands full with the 54-year-old Santopietro, who was something of a surprise semifinalist.

"I've been playing in some of these (senior) tournaments since I turned 50," Santopietro said, "but I've never really been in contention to win any of them." 

You couldn't tell that from the way she played this weekend. On Friday, she was 4 over after four holes, then played the next 10 holes in 1 under on the way to a 5&4 quarterfinal victory over Cathy White. She was equally impressive in the semifinals, even if she ended up on the wrong end of the result.

The two semifinal matches were played together in a foursome, and Santopietro was the longest hitter in the group, especially on the par-5's, where she was usually 20 to 25 yards ahead of everyone else. ("I give it a little extra on those holes.") But it was on the first par-5 of the round, No. 2 (445 yards) that Aldrich took a 1-up lead, with a birdie to Santopietro's bogey.

Santopietro came right back, winning the third (338, par 4) and fourth (135, par 3) with pars. 

"It was like that the whole front nine," Aldrich said, "back and forth, one player winning one hole and the other winning the next. And we were both right around par. I was playing well, but Jackie was, too. I thought she played great."

Aldrich won the par-3 sixth (130 yards) with a par, but Santopietro won the 320-yard, par-4 eighth with a birdie, before Aldrich leveled the match again with a par 4 at the 320-yard ninth. 

At the 128-yard, par-3 12th, it appeared that Aldrich would regain the lead when she hit the green with her tee shot and got her first putt close enough for a conceded par. But Santopietro made a 12-footer for par to keep the match even.

"She did that three times on the front nine, too," Aldrich noted.

"Yeah," Santopietro concurred, "but the one on 12 was the last one of those that I made."

She missed her par putt from a similar distance at the 13th (360 yards, par 4), as Aldrich went 1 up with a par.

Both parred the 14th (425, par 5), and then came the 15th hole, which was the crucial one Saturday. Both players missed the green in regulation, and Aldrich was still 25 feet away in three. She made a weak attempt at her par putt, and her 5-footer for bogey was going to break hard from right to left. Advantage Santopietro. But the greens at Pebble Creek can be tricky to read, and Santopietro misjudged the speed of her downhill 12-footer for par, which resulted in the 3 1/2-footer for bogey that she would go on to miss.

Aldrich, who would finish the day 1 over par, didn't miss her 5-footer.

"That was the match right there," Santopietro said ruefully. "I had a chance to be even with three holes to go, and instead I walked off the green 2 down. When you play someone like Betsy, it's tough because you know she's not going to give anything away. But I did. I gave her that 15th hole. She made the putt she needed to make, and I didn't. It was disappointing to lose that way, but I played pretty well -- and I'm getting better. For me, that's the main thing. Just keep getting better."

MGA Women's Senior Match Play Championship

At Pebble Creek Golf Club

Championship Flight


Betsy Aldrich, Woodhill CC, def. Jackie Santopietro, Monticello CC, 3&2

Leigh Klasse, Bolstad/University GC, def. Brenda Williams, Windsong Farm, 3&1

1st Flight


Sheryl Raithel, Keller, def. Wenmei Qi, Rush Creek GC, 2&1

Shelley Peterson, Monticello, def. Judy Turner, Royal GC, 4&2

2nd Flight


Jeri Meola, Bent Creek GC, def. Alicia Barber, Rush Creek, 5&3

Lynn Cunningham, Rum River Hills GC, def.Kore Grate, Braemar GC, 2 up

3rd Flight


Tammy Nermyr, Monticello, bye

Renae Lefebvre, Monticello, def. Jane Covart, Rum River Hills, 1 up

4th Flight


Kathryn Sartain, Bunker Hills, def. Brenda Ashmore, Pebble Creek, 8&7


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