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By Nick Hunter
MINNETRISTA, Minn. – Moments after the flagstick denied her birdie putt from 65 feet at the 17th hole Tuesday, a fired-up Claudia Pilot dropped a 20-footer for birdie on the final hole to lift her and partner, Brenda Williams, to a one-stroke victory at the 2021 Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“After what happened with the putt on 17, hitting the pin and staying a couple inches away, stepping up to that putt [on 18], I just had the line," Pilot said.
"It’s been a long time since I’ve won anything, so it feels really good. Being together, having a blast and grinding it out.”
“It feels great,” Williams smiled.
Tuesday’s win is the fourth MGA Women’s Senior Amateur Four-Ball title for Pilot and Williams and first since 2014, when they claimed the championship at Northland Country Club. Pilot and Williams fell to defending champions Betsy Aldrich and Barbara Miller in a four-hole playoff a year ago at Forest Hills Golf Club.
On Tuesday both Pilot and Williams birdied their opening hole of the tournament on their way to a round of 72 to enter Tuesday’s final round two shots off the lead.
“Yesterday was a day of survival,” Williams said of temperatures nearing triple digits during Monday’s opening round. “Getting through each hole was crazy because it was so hot—it was hard to hold on to the club.”
Asked her team’s mindset entering another steamy round on the course and within striking distance of the leaders, Pilot replied, “Fairways, greens and lets make par. If we make an occasional birdie, great, and if we have an occasional bogey, it is what it is. One shot at a time and no looking ahead.”
Pilot converted her uphill birdie chance at the par-4 sixth hole to put her team at 1-under for the championship and into a share of the lead. The two maintained a one-stroke lead despite a bogey at the par-4 10th, but would fall into a three-way tie for the lead following their second bogey at the 14th.
Tapping in for par at the 17th after bouncing her birdie chance off the pin, Pilot would then drop in another sweeping putt to clinch the championship with her last-minute heroics, shooting a 36-hole tally of even par 144 for a one-stroke victory.
Pilot and Williams claimed their first victory together in 2010 at Ridgeview Country Club, and added a second win two years later at Red Wing Golf Club. Pilot earned back-to-back victories in 2008 and 2009 when she teamed with Mary Hoisser.
Following a two-year absence at the event due to injuries, the team of Anderson and Klasse posted a 3-over 75 Tuesday put them into a tie for second with Aldrich and Miller at 1-over par 145.
The team of Nicki Reuterfeldt and Krista Larsen posted rounds of 81 and 80, respectively, to finish in sixth place in the Championship Flight, but, more importantly, the two became the first mother-daughter combination to team up in the tournament’s 27-year history.
“I’m a new senior, but we’ve been eying this for probably 10 years,” said Larsen, who turns 51 on Wednesday. “She always said that she hopes she’s still playing when I become a senior.”
Playing together as a team for 30 years prior to Monday’s first senior event together, Reuterfeldt was asked the most memorable moment of her week Tuesday, she pointed to her daughter and said, “Playing with her. We could’ve played better, but we played just fine. We really just wanted to come out and enjoy ourselves.”
“She made an amazing putt on 18 for par yesterday,” Larsen said. “That was the highlight for me because then she told me, ‘That’ll make the beer taste better.’”
Elected to the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, Reuterfeldt, now 76, owns more than 15 state championship titles, including a combined 11 Minnesota Women’s Golf Association and Minnesota Women’s Public Golf Association Women’s Amateur victories. Her most recent win came at the 2009 MWPGA Women’s Senior Amateur.
Karla Ryshavy provided some fireworks early in the round Tuesday, carding an ace at the 128-yard 11th hole with a 5-hybrid.
Carey Dubbs and Clare Pobanz carded a final-round 78 Tuesday to earn a one-stroke victory in the First Flight over the pairing of Christina Payton and Sheryl Raithel, tallying a 6-over 150. A 6-over 78 helped the team of Barb Johnson and Lee Ann Townsend to victory in the Second Flight, finishing at 14-over 158, five shots better than the twosome of Sheri Hoistad and Chris Schommer.
Taking a four-stroke lead following their round of 78 to begin the championship Monday, Cara Mia Antonello and Shawna Johnson posted an 8-over 80 during Tuesday’s final round to cruise to a six-stroke win the Third Flight by shooting 14-over 158.
Marion Holly and Fran Page captured a victory in the Fourth Flight Tuesday, shooting a 36-hole score of 28-over 172 to defeat the team of Terri Knutson and Julie Whitaker by three shots, while Jean Buller and Katie Deeg claimed a four-stroke victory in the Fifth Flight with back-to-back rounds of 92.