Klasse Overtakes Santopietro to Win 11th Sr. Women's Am

August 16, 2022
By Michael R Fermoyle

HASTINGS -- It was like watching a car crash in slow motion. 

Jacqueline Santropietro had played better than anyone else in the 2022 MGA Women's Senior Amateur for 17 holes on Tuesday, and held a one-stroke lead over 10-time champion Leigh Klasse as she stood over her second shot on the 300-yard, par-4 18th hole at Hastings Golf Club. She was about 80 yards from the pin, which was on the raised back half of the green. 

Klasse had already hit her approach and was on the green, 18 feet above the cup.

Santopietro then pulled her second shot to the left of the bunker that's to the left of the green. The next shot was the killer. Trying to loft a high shot that wouldn't run too far beyond the hole, she hit a tree branch, and the ball came straight down into the bunker -- and plugged. Her lead was now gone. From the plugged lie, she would need to get up and down in two just to save bogey and get into a playoff with Klasse for the title.

Not surprisingly, the bunker shot from the plugged lie came out hot and rolled just beyond the back fringe. Santopietro debated the club selection for the next shot for about 30 seconds and hit a chip that came up 5 feet short. She missed the 5-footer, but that didn't really matter.

Despite the disastrous finish, she still shot the third-best score of the day on a difficult course, an 8-over-par 82. But the resulting 36-hole total of 162 was two too many.

Klasse signed for an 81, which gave her a two-day total of 160, and with that, she had her 11th Women's Senior Amateur title in the 13 years since she turned 50 and became eligible to play in this tournament. And this was her 56th state championship (37 individual and 19 four-ball), more than any other Minnesota golfer has won. (Well, actually, it was her 61st state title, because she has won one individual state championship and four four-ball titles in Arizona.)

Barb Miller, who was tied for first after 18 holes, closed with an 85 and tied for third at 164, along with Linda Goodno, who had the best score of the day, an 80. Sara Martinson also shot 85, and she finished alone in fifth place at 168. Adele Peterson, who won the Women's Senior Am two years ago, was sixth at 169, after an 87.

Santopietro, who is one of the most popular senior players, took the disappointment of her last-hole loss remarkably well. She didn't need to go off and be alone to compose herself. Instead, she talked to friends and tournament officials right from the time she finished the round, and seemed happy to have played as well as she did.

"Sometimes, your head just gets in the way," she lamented. "Obviously, I'd like to have the last hole back. But this is my best finish in a senior tournament. Last year I was third; this year I was second."

No one is ever all that unhappy about winning, but Klasse conceded that she had mixed emotions.

"I feel so sorry (for Santopietro)," she said. "She played so well, much better than I did. She was definitely the best player on the course today, and she showed me that it is possible to make birdie putts, because I couldn't make any."

Klasse described her round as "pretty ugly," but it started well enough. She parred the first four holes. But she bogeyed the par-4 fifth and doubled the par-3 sixth on the way to a front-nine 41. (The 415-yard first hole and the 422-yard eighth were changed from par 4s to par 5s for the tournament; so the par for the front nine was 38.) 

Meanwhile, Santopietro birdied the first two holes, bogeyed the fourth and fifth and went birdie-bogey on the eighth and ninth, for a 38. So as she made the turn, she was two ahead of Klasse, and one ahead of Miller, who shot 40, with a birdie on the first hole and bogeys on the fourth, eighth and ninth. Santopietro increased her lead by making pars on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th holes. Klasse and Miller, playing in the same threesome, both bogeyed both of those holes.

Klasse was now four behind with seven holes to play, and she was still four back with five to go, after she and Santopietro both bogeyed the 345-yard, par-4 13th.

That hasn't been the pattern for most of Klasse's victories. Big comebacks have been rare.

"In most of the tournaments that I've won," she noted, "I've been leading or tied for the lead going into the final rounds, and I've led for most of the final rounds."

But her strategy coming down the stretch on Tuesday was pretty much the same as it's always been.

"I was just trying to hit the fairways, hit the greens and give myself chances to make birdie putts," she said. "I didn't make any birdie putts today, but that's what I was trying to do. That's all I can do, and it's all anyone can do. Basically, I always try to do that, and whatever happens happens." 

On Tuesday, what happened was that even though she wasn't making birdies as she played the last five holes at Hastings, she was making pars -- and gaining ground. 

Miller doubled the par-4 14th (325 yards) and the par-3 15th (133), which knocked her back into third place, and she then bogeyed the last three holes.

Santopietro followed her bogey at the 13th with a double at the 14th. She was in danger of making another double at the par-5 16th, but she made a nice putt and escaped with a bogey. She was still one ahead of Klasse.

"When she made that putt on 16, and then I missed my little putt for par on 17," Klasse admitted afterward, "I was starting to think that that was it, and this was her day."

But then along came 18.

*With the victory, Klasse earned 125 MGA Player Points to take a 60-point lead over Peterson in the MGA Senior Player of the Year award, which she won 10 years in a row, from 2010 (her first year as a senior) to 2019.

In 2020, she played in only one tournament before undergoing hip replacement surgery. Betsy Aldrich succeeded her as Senior Player of the Year, and she won the award again last year, with 267.5 points. Klasse was second with 207.5.

This year, Klasse has 260 points, Peterson sits at 200 and Brenda Williams still remains in contention with 165 points. 

*The MGA Senior Women's player point race will likely conclude following the MGA Women's Mid-Amateur Championship August 31-September 1.

2022 MGA Women's Senior Amateur Championship

At Hastings Golf Club

Par 74

Final results

Championship Flight

1. Leigh Klasse                   79-81--160

2. Jacqueline Santopietro    80-82--162

T3. Barb Miller                      79-85--164

T3. Linda Goodno                 84-80--164

5. Sara Martinson                 83-85--168

6. Adele Peterson                 82-87--169

T7. Brenda Williams              85-89--174

T7. Cathy White                    82-92--174

T7. Christine Dean                85-89--174

T10. Lynn Anderson             88-87--175

T10. Alison Hurley                87-88--175

12. Lisa Lawry                      89-89--178

13. Krista Larsen                  92-88--180

14. Merrridith Joly                 88-93--181

First Flight 

1. Vickii Burns                        85-89--174

2. MJ Graphenteen               89-85--174

3. Cheryl Jones                     87-88--175

4. Molly Baker                       92-86--178

5. Ellie Layton                        91-88--179

6. Christina Payton                85-95--180

Michael R Fermoyle

Mike Fermoyle’s amateur golf career features state titles in five different decades, beginning with the State Public Links (1969), three State Amateurs (1970, 1973 and 1980), and four State Four-Ball championships (1972, 1985, 1993 and 2001). Fermoyle was medalist at the Pine to Palm in 1971, won the Resorters in 1972, made the cut at the State Amateur 18 consecutive years (1969 to 1986), the last being 2000, and amassed 13 top-ten finishes. Fermoyle also made it to the semi-final matches at the MGA’s annual match play championship, the Players’, in 1982 and 1987.

Fermoyle enjoyed a career as a sportswriter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch before retiring in 2006. Two years later he began a second career covering the golf beat exclusively for the MGA and its website, mngolf.org, where he ranks individual prep golfers and teams, provides coverage on local amateur and professional tournaments and keeps tabs on how Minnesotans are faring on the various professional tours.

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