Minnesota Golf Association

Smith Runs Away with Second MGA Women's Amateur Championship

July 29, 2020

 
By Nick Hunter
nick@mngolf.org
 
 
  STILLWATER, Minn. – Entering the final round of the 2020 Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship with a four-shot lead, University of Nebraska golfer Kate Smith claimed her second title in four seasons by posting a 2-over 74 Wednesday, cruising to victory at Stillwater Country Club.
 
Smith’s cushion never fell below three shots Wednesday despite a rough patch during her final round as she pulled away late, capping off the championship with a short birdie on the last hole to finish six strokes better than Sophia Yoemans at 1-under 215.
 
“This one is really special—any championship win is special. I don’t know how many more [amateur championships] I’ll play in. I was really proud of how I managed my mental game this week and really kept a good head on my shoulders.
 
“It was a huge honor to win two years ago playing with Sarah Burnham and Taylor [Ledwein]. I looked up to Sarah so much and I know I’m playing with girls this week who are going to go on and do great things after I’m gone. It’s a huge honor to win again this year, playing with two younger girls who are really great players. Watching Minnesota golf grow has been really awesome.”
 
With her victory Wednesday, Smith earns her 14th state championship title and now joins 17 other women who’ve claimed multiple Women’s State Amateur wins.
  
Sticking her approach inside of four feet at the par-4 second, Smith rolled in her birdie chance to move to 4-under for the tournament but would take her only double-bogey of the championship at the par-3 eighth. Following a bogey at the ninth, Smith turned at 1-under for the championship with a three-shot lead.
 
Looking to find her footing over the final nine holes, Smith struggled again at the 11th, leading to a second straight bogey before hitting a remarkable second shot from a tough lie left of the 12th fairway, rolling in a 5-footer for birdie to maintain a three-shot lead.
 
Despite a bogey at the 17th, Smith stretched her lead to six heading to the final hole where she would chip inside of three feet and tap in for birdie to claim a six-stroke win over Yoemans, carding a 54-hole tally of 1-under 215.
 
“I got off to a really great start and felt like I was really going to go low, but had a couple weird yardages and made a couple of mistakes here and there,” said Smith. “Sometimes in championships you start playing match play with your group. I sort of reeled it back and said we need to get back to par. Making the turn I was a little flustered, but I got together on the back and got it done. I was more focused on myself and the course than anything.
 
“When I got to 3-over, I thought, ‘Let’s not shoot 75 today,’ but I was kind of fighting my score at the end, trying to get as close to par as I could.”
 
On a difficult Northland Country Club setup in 2017, Smith earned a one-stroke victory by shooting 5-over 218. She finished tied for fifth in 2019 at White Bear Yacht Club three strokes above par and claimed a runner-up finish at last year’s championship at 9-over 228. Still, Smith insists she thrives when the courses play longer and tougher.
 
“I think it’s really fun when shooting under par is tough to do,” Smith said following her win Wednesday on a 6,400-yard Stillwater layout which yielded only four scores below par all week, two of those belonging to her. “On the Tour you just don’t see that anymore.”
 
Earlier this spring, Smith’s senior season at Nebraska was cut short, and she would begin her summer schedule in early June with a tie for 18th at a star-studded Women’s Texas Open, a field consisting of former women’s No. 1 Stacy Lewis and U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang.
 
Thanks to her effort, Smith jumped 40 spots in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and earned an invitation to her first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship next week at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
 
The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native missed the cut for match play at the 2020 North & South Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort two weeks ago, but bounced back by finishing tied for 24th at the Women’s All Pro Tour’s Cooper Communities NWA Classic in Arkansas on Friday, shooting 9-over 297.
 
Already a familiar name in golf circles across the state, Smith found her way into the record books in 2016 when she won her fifth individual high school title her senior season, for which she was named Ms. Minnesota Golf its inaugural year. She also led Detroit Lakes to four team titles as a six-year letter winner.
 
Smith claimed the Minnesota Junior Girls’ State Championship in 2012 and earned medalist honors while leading her foursome to the team title at the MGA Junior Amateur Team Championship in 2013 before winning the Minnesota PGA Junior Players’ Tournament of Champions.
 
In 2016 she claimed the Resorters Tournament before her win at the 2017 MGA Women’s Amateur at Northland Country Club, holding off Burnham and Taylor Ledwein for a one-stroke victory. Her most recent victory came at the Women’s State Open last year where she defeated Jasi Acharya on the first playoff hole after shooting 5-over 147.
 
During her first four seasons at Nebraska, Smith notched 24 finishes inside the top-25 and 16 career top-10 finishes. She owns five school records, including career scoring average of 73.45 over 104 rounds. She was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week three times and this past season became the first Cornhusker to earn the Big Ten Mary Fossum award for posting the lowest stroke average relative to par amongst all conference golfers.

Smith will return to Lincoln, Neb., later this year after being granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA following the cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to COVID-19.
 
“I had planned to professional and after [LPGA Qualifying School] was cancelled, it was a huge moment for me to go back to college,” she said. “Having nine months to get better with my team again will be great and it definitely makes this summer of amateur golf super special.”
 
Beginning her round nine shots off the lead Wednesday, Yoemans played her first six holes in 1-over before driving the green at the par-4 seventh and sank a 30-footer for eagle to creep her way up the leaderboard. She rolled in a second lengthy putt at the 10th and added another birdie at the 11th to climb into contention before a double-bogey at the 13th derailed any momentum she had.   
 
Yoemans chipped within inches on the final hole to quietly finish in second place at 5-over 221 for her third consecutive top-5 finish at the event.
 
“I had a pretty rough start to the tournament and yesterday was a good improvement from the first day,” said Yoemans, a soon-to-be sophomore at the University of Missouri. “Today was an up and down round, but other than one stretch on the back, I was pretty happy with my round today and my irons were really good this week.”
 
“I have one more event next week at [Minnesota Women’s State Open] on a course I know super well—I live really close, so I’m excited to get after it.
 
Isabella McCauley entered Wednesday's final round four strokes off the lead, but faltered down the stretch, posting a 77 on the final day to finish in a tie for third with Shelby Busker at 6-over par 222.


 
 


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