Minnesota Golf Association

It's Williams vs. Klasse Again in Sr. Women's Semis; Aldrich Faces Santopietro

June 26, 2020

BECKER -- Brenda Williams and Leigh Klasse put on one of the best matches of the 2019 MGA season a year ago in the semifinals of the Women's Senior Match Play Championship at Dahlgren Golf Club. After tying the first hole with bogeys, they combined for a medal score of 2 under par over the next 16 holes as Williams claimed a 2&1 victory. 

On Friday, they arranged for a rematch. Both players won comfortably in the quarterfinals of this year's Senior Match Play at Pebble Creek. 

Klasse, who won this tournament six years in a row (2012 to 2017), is playing on a painful left hip that needs to be replaced. Nevertheless, she turned in a solid performance while defeating M.J. Graphenteen 8&7.

Williams, who considered withdrawing from the tournament earlier in the day, started slowly, but got better as the round progressed on the way to a 4&3 victory over Christina Payton.

Two-time defending champion Betsy Aldrich is in the other half of the draw, and she also won comfortably.

"I was pretty steady," she said, after going 2 over par in the 12 holes that were required for a 7&6 victory over 2009 champ Ellie Layton. 

Aldrich's opponent in Saturday's other semifinal will be the resilient Jackie Santopietro. She was 4 over par and 2 down after four holes in her match against Cathy White, but she was 1 under for the next 10 holes as she came back to win 5&4. 

This is the first tournament of the year for most of the senior women, and that can cause a little extra nervousness. But for Aldrich and especially for Williams, there may have been more pressure coming from off the course.

"I'm in the middle of moving," Williams explained. "In fact, I was moving things this morning, and packing boxes. It's been a lot of work. I was actually thinking of not playing today, because it's been such a hassle. But Betsy told me I had to play, and she was right. It was fun this afternoon. I just love being out on the course."

As for Aldrich, she is helping to run an estate sale for her family, which made it difficult to focus on the golf at times Friday. 

She played more in Florida this winter than she's played in Minnesota so far this season, but her game didn't show much rust as she cruised to her seventh consecutive victory in this tournament. The 53-year-old former college hockey player (Dartmouth) and high school coach became eligible for the Senior Match Play in 2017, and promptly lost her first match, 4&3 to Barbara Miller. But she hasn't lost since then. 

A year ago, she was in danger of having her winning streak snapped when she was 2 down to Williams with three holes to go in the final. She rallied to win 1 up, thanks in large part to a spectacular cut 6-iron shot from the trees that set up a two-putt birdie on Dahlgren's par-5 17th hole. 

Santopietro has never faced Aldrich in match play. She knows she's the underdog, and that's fine with her. 

"I just have to play my game," she said

That worked on Friday. She started her comeback against White with a birdie at the 418-yard, par-5 fifth hole, then followed that with seven consecutive pars. Santopietro bogeyed the par-4 13th (360 yards), but came back with a birdie at the par-5 14th (425) and closed out the match by winning the 355-yard 15th with a par 4.

Williams, who won this tournament in 2011, has finished second three times. She lost to Klasse twice in the final, in 2012 and 2015, and then last year to Aldrich. But she considered withdrawing this year because she has a lot going on in her life right now. Besides all the tribulations involved in moving, there is a wedding coming up in two weeks. Her son Maclain Williams is marrying Steffi Neisen, the former New Prague High School star who now coaches the Trojans girls golf team.

Normally, the logistics involved in putting on a wedding are complicated enough. In 2020, The Year of Covid 19, the complications have increased almost exponentially -- and the format for the Neisen-Williams wedding is now in its fourth incarnation. 

"At first, they were only going to allow 20 people," Williams noted, grimacing a little. "Now we're up to 250. By the standards of a New Prague wedding, that's still pretty small. They can have as many as 600 people. But for us, 250 will work."

She started her match against Payton with a bogey and a double, but played the next eight holes in 1 over and gained a 4-up lead. Payton cut the deficit in half with pars at the 11th and 12th, but Williams got back to 4 up with a par at the 13th and a birdie at the 14th.

Klasse, who won the fifth of her six MGA Women's Mid-Am titles at Pebble Creek in 2008, turned 50 a year later, on Sept. 22, 2009 (37 days before Williams turned 50). She has been the gold standard for Minnesota senior women's golf ever since. In each of the 10 years that have been completed since then, she has been the MGA Senior Women's Player of the Year.

Before Klasse came along, Bev Vanstrum had the women's record for most Minnesota state championships with 24. Klasse now has 54 state titles, 35 of them in individual events. 

She's still playing well. In late May, she won the Arizona Women's Four-Ball Championship (with partner Kim Eaton) for the fourth time. But her hip has become increasingly troublesome, so much so that she planned to have it replaced earlier this month. In that case, there wouldn't have been any golf for Klasse -- and certainly not any tournament golf -- for three months.

"Basically, my summer would have been wiped out," she said. "But then I found out that the doctor who was going to do the surgery isn't part of the network that's covered by my insurance. So the surgery's on hold, and here I am." 

MGA Women's Senior Match Play Championship

At Pebble Creek Golf Club

Championship Flight


Betsy Aldrich, Woodhill CC, def. Ellie Layton, Rochester G&CC, 7&6

Jackie Santopietro, Monticello CC, def. Cathy White, Royal GC, 5&4

Leigh Klasse, Bolstad/University GC, def. M.J. Graphenteen, Luverne, 8&7

Brenda Williams, Windsong Farm, def. Christina Payton, Keller GC, 4&3

1st Flight


Sheryl Raithel, Keller, def. Kathy Hollenhorst, Pebble Creek GC

Wenmei Qi, Rush Creek GC, def. Colleen Boerboom, Minnewaska, 2&1

Shelley Peterson, Monticello, def. Joan Frie, Monticello, 3&2

Judy Turner, Royal GC, def. Cathlyn Peterson, Royal GC, 2&1

2nd Flight


Alicia Barber, Rush Creek, def. Beth Rubin, Brookview GC, 3&2

Jeri Meola, Bent Creek GC, def. Jan Nelson, Brookview, 9&7

Lynn Cunningham, Rum River Hills GC, def. Shawna Johnson, Keller, 4&3

Kore Grate, Braemar GC, def. Cheryl Lombardi, Shamrock GC

3rd Flight


Tammy Nermyr, Monticello, def. Jean Solheim, Minnewaska, 7&6

Jane Covart, Rum River Hills, def. Robin Dingmann, Pebble Creek, 3&2

Renae Lefebvre, Monticello, def. Pat Hegenbarth, Bunker Hills GC, 5&3

4th Flight


Brenda Ashmore, Pebble Creek, def. Judy Hoy, Brookview, 1 up

Kathryn Sartain, Bunker Hills, def. Sara Schliesing, Pebble Creek, 4&2


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