Minnesota Golf Association

Kellar Perseveres and Overcomes Acharya on 4th Extra Hole

June 26, 2019

By Mike Fermoyle (mikefermoyle@gmail.com) 

CHASKA -- For Grace Kellar, it's never been a question of talent. The 19-year-old University of Minnesota junior-to-be has a gorgeous swing, seemingly effortless power and surprising accuracy for someone who hits it as far as she does. 

"I tend to get emotional," she admits, and that has been a problem at times. 

On Wednesday, for example, during her match against Jasi Acharya in the final of the MGA Women's Amateur Match Play at Dahlgreen Golf Club. Kellar was so upset after she missed a short putt for par at the eighth hole that she fired her caddy, who also happens to be her mother, and she basically gave away the ninth hole, too, with a double bogey. But she regained her composure, reconnected with her mom/caddy and rallied on the back nine.

Then, just as it appeared she had victory secured, she three-putted the 18th green, missing a 3-footer for her par, and was forced into extra holes. 

All in all, this was a roller coaster ride of a match that would have tested the emotional equilibrium of even the most level-headed golfer. But Kellar hung in there, bounced back from several brushes with adversity and eventually prevailed, winning the match -- and her first individual state title -- with a tap-in par on the 22nd hole.

Acharya, a former professional who spent several seasons on the LPGA's main feeder tour, the Symetra, was giving up roughly 30 yards on average off the tee. She compensated effectively with solid iron play and some exquisite wedge shots, but a thinned wedge shot on the fourth extra hole (300 yards, par 4) was her undoiing. It led to a bogey. For her second shot, Kellar was 55 yards from the pin, in the left rough with a bunker to clear. She hit a soft wedge that stopped quickly and left her with an easy two-putt from 10 feet for her par.

Kellar was the No. 1 player for the Gophers during the 2018-19 season, and this was her first tournament since the Big Ten, which was played the third weekend in April. Evidently, the lack of competition for the last three months wasn't a problem. 

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," she said. "I think it helped that I played a teammate in one of my matches ( a 2&1 victory over Kate Lillie in the semifinals). The atmosphere for that match was a little more relaxed than it would have been if I'd been playing someone I didn't know." 

Kellar, who was hitting occasional 300-yard drives from the time that she was in high school, playing on three state championship teams at Edina, took advantage of her length early in Wednesday's match, as she went 1 up with a birdie at the 448-yard, par-5 third hole. But she lost the lengthy par-3 sixth hole (181 yards) to Acharya's birdie, and then came the trouble and the end of the outward nine.

With the match even, Kellar was in good shape at No. 8 (341 yards, par 4), not that far from the hole in two, but she three-putted to lose the hole, and promptly relieved her mother, Andrea Kellar -- a former two-time Florida State Amateur champion and a member of Miami's NCAA championship team in 1984 -- of her caddying duties. 

"I just needed to calm down," Grace said later. "It took me about a half a hole to do that."

In the meantime, she snap-hooked her tee shot at the ninth hole on her way to a 6.

So she started the back nine 2 down. But by now her mother was back on the bag, and the match turned around once more. Kellar won the 10th (362 yards, par 4) and the 11th (500, par 5) with pars. She made it three holes in a row with a 30-foot putt for birdie at the 140-yard, par-3 12th, and suddenly the 2-down deficit was transformed into a 1-up lead. It didn't last very long, however. Both players hit good approach shots to the 13th (396 yards, par 4), but Kellar's birdie putt from 18 feet above the hole trickled 4 feet past the cup, and she missed that one, too.

The 14th hole at Dahlgreen is a 160-yard par 3. Acharya, who is from Montana (she was a two-time state high school champ there) but moved to the Twin Cities recently and taken a job as a sales rep for PXG golf equipment, hit another iron shot to within 20 feet and two-putted for par. Kellar flaired her tee shot to the right of the green, chipped 15 feet past the hole and missed the par putt. 

Acharya hadn't missed many fairways all week, but she pulled her tee shot into the trees at the 402-yard, par-4 16th and had to punch out from there. Her third shot wasn't as close as Kellar's 150-yard 9-iron second shot, and Kellar's par evened the match once again.

At the 460-yard, par-5 17th, Kellar appeared to have the advantage when she hit a 3-wood second shot pin high, just a few feet to the left of the green. Acharya was facing a 75-yard wedge shot over a bunker to a green that was running away from her, but she hit what might have been her best shot of the day, to within 4 feet. Kellar chipped her ball to 3 feet, and both players made birdies. 

The 18th hole is a 362-yard par 4, with a tight fairway and and an elevated green that isn't entirely visible from the fairway. Acharya's tee shot ended up behind a tree on the left, and she did well to run her second shot up the hill to within 20 yards of the green. Kellar hit her drive down the middle of the fairway and pulled second shot slightly, but was on the green about 30 feet away, with a downhill putt. Acharya pitlched her ball too far and was still 35 feet away, putting for par.

Kellar's birdie putt was pretty fast, and she was overly cautious, leaving it 3 feet short. After Acharya missed her par putt, Kellar needed only to make her 3-footer to claim the first-place trophy she missed it to the right.

Both players appeared to hit reasonably good drives at No. 1 (346 yards, par 4), the first extra hole, but the fairway turns to the left, and Kellar and Acharya both were too far right -- with a tree between them and the green. Both hit low seconds, trying to run the ball onto the green. Neither made it. Kellar ended up 30 yards short, Acharya 15. They both came up short with their pitch shots, as well. 

"I thought my ball would release more than it did," Kellar said. 

She was left with a 12-foot putt for par, and she made it. That put the pressure on Acharya, who had a 6-footer for her par, but she dropped her putt in on top of Kellar's.

"Sometimes 12-footers are easier than 3-footers," Kellar noted, smiling. 

There were chances for birdies at the par-3 second and the par-5 third, but it was two-putt pars all around on both holes.     



2019 MGA Women's Amateur Match Play Championship

At Dahlgreen Golf Club

Par 72, 6,163 yards

Chaska

Final


Grace Kellar def.Jasi Acharya 22 holes


 


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