Julanna Zhang Wins 103rd Cincinnati Metropolitan Tournament
By Mark Schmetzer
Julanna Zhang knew from the first tee that Isabel York, her opponent in the match play finals of the 103rd Metropolitan Women’s Amateur Championship, was motivated.
“Right from the start, I noticed that Isabel was very driven,” Zhang, a Mason High School senior-to-be, said. “She was totally going for the trophy. I almost felt like I didn’t have the same amount of motivation. Seeing her from previous tournaments, I almost thought she had more skills than I had. My dad (Wei) helped me a little bit. I just decided to hold on and play the best I could.”
York, a Saint Ursula graduate who plays at Tennessee Tech, took one-hole leads four times over the first 14 holes of their June 8 match at Summit Hills Country Club in Crestview Hills, Ky., but Zhang dropped in a 30-40-foot downhill putt on the par-3 17th hole to take her first lead. She clinched Greater Cincinnati’s most prestigious championship and, by her own admission, the biggest win of her young career by breaking even on the 18th hole.
“I’ve made longer ones, but that was probably the hardest putt I’ve made in my entire life,” said Zhang, who said she started playing golf in the seventh grade.
Zhang’s championship capped an impressive week of golf at Summit Hills that was blessed by cooperative weather.
“It was really nice,” Zhang said. “It was a bit hot on a couple of days. I got sunburnt – again. We were really lucky.”
Kelsey Wessels, who works at and plays out of Neumann Golf Course, decisively captured the First Flight championship with a 4-and-3 finals win over Alexandra Gomez. Elizabeth Chamberlin won the Second Flight title over Macy Luebbers. Sharon Voelker captured the Joan Comisar Flight over Unae Mueller, while Leslie Moreton edged Young Romero to win the Judy Diem Hayes Flight. Diane Herndon won the Jane DeGroff Flight with a 2-up win over Marilyn Miller.
“I was hoping to play my game and hope for the best,” said Wessels, an Oak Hills High School graduate and Northern Kentucky University junior who bounced back from a disappointing 20-over par 90 in stroke-play qualifying to win her flight. “I was hitting my driver during match play. As long as I was putting the ball in play, I was fine. I definitely didn’t play well during stroke play, but in match play, I was much more comfortable.”
Defending-champion Ali Green opened the week by earning the match-play top seed with a 2-over-par 72, good enough to earn medalist honors in the June 5 stroke-play qualifier by three strokes over Zhang. Emily Stipanovich, the 2014 Met champion, finished third with a 77, one stroke ahead of 2017 runnerup Megan Creager and York.
Green seemed to be well on her way to becoming the first woman to win back-to-back Met championships since Kerry Zebeck in 1995 and 1996 after reaching the semifinals with a 6-and-5 win over K.C. Bell and 5-and-4 win over Katie Guy, but York derailed Green’s rush with a 2-and-1 win in the semifinals to set up the finals match against Zhang, whose path to finals was more tricky. She needed 19 holes to edge Janisa Bondoc in the quarterfinals and 20 holes to squeeze past Stipanovich into the finals.
By then, Zhang was battle-tested, which came in handy as she and York approached the 160-yard 17th hole.
“We both got on to the green,” Zhang said. “I had a really far 30-40-foot downhill putt. It’s a two-tiered green, and I was on the higher tier. I wasn’t expecting much. I just wanted to try to get as close to the hole as possible. Isabel was closer to the hole, but looking at it from her angle, it wasn’t an easy putt. There were a lot of breaks. I was just trying to even the hole, but I made the putt somehow. That put some pressure on her.”
Zhang still had to even the par-4 18 to clinch the title. “It’s kind of a tight fairway,” she said from New Haven, Conn., traveling with her family on visits to Ivy League universities. “You have to hit it at a certain angle and distance. I think the adrenaline from 17 helped me hit it. I didn’t hit it entirely straight. I hit it toward the bunker, but I think the adrenaline helped me hit it over the bunker. Isabel went left into the trees and had to punch out on to the fairway. She had to hit three shots to get on to the green. Her third shot was good. She had a 4-foot putt for par. Once I got over the bunker, I had a clear shot toward the green. I just hit it normally and had two putts for par.” That was all she needed.
The tournament bracket summary can be found at: https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/1086957
Spring Team Wrap up
By Mark Schmetzer
Linda Coffey really can’t put her finger on why her Hamilton Elks squad has become THE standard for Division I Spring Team competition.
“I don’t know,” the team captain said. “We just show up and play well, I suppose. We are just steady golfers.”
Hamilton Elks has reached a level not approached in the Greater Cincinnati Women’s Golf Association since Kenwood Country Club won seven straight Spring Team Division I championships from 1987 through 1993. Hamilton Elks never finished lower than third out of six teams and logged two first-place finishes to hold off Miami View and capture by a 10-point margin its seventh division championship in the last nine seasons.
While Division I saw familiar faces holding the trophy, Divisions II and III experienced turnover. Western Hills, led by newcomer Allison Mayborg, captured the Division II title for the first time in what Laurie Brunsman said was her “five or six years” as team captain.
“I know we’ve won in the fall before, but I don’t recall as long as I’ve been doing the spring that we’ve won,” she said. “We’re real excited about it.”
Meanwhile, Summit Hills – already celebrating hosting the Women’s Metropolitan this year for the first time since 2006 – used depth to capture the Division III championship, its first since winning the 2011 Division III title, according to team captain Terri Roeding.
“It took a village,” Roeding said. “It really did. We never actually had our first six people ever. We never had a full team. It really did take a village.”
Coffey’s team of eight – including Brandi Duckwall, Julie Sizemore, Toni Soule, Jody Rusche, Stacey Hinckle, Vicki Felver and Sandy Roark – never trailed in the standings after piling up 35.5 points at Bel-Wood in the third of five rounds to take an 11.5-point lead over Terrace Park. The final margin over Miami View was short of 2017’s 31-point bulge, but it was decisive.
“We usually start at the top of the handicaps of the Elks people and start down the roster and see who’s available,” Coffey said. “We love competition.
“I have to admit this year, Toni Soule led two of the matches,” Coffey added. “She took over as captain when I had to leave. Maybe I should ask her her secret.”
Mayborg, a district champion and three-time state qualifier at Ursuline Academy who also played at the University of Cincinnati, bolstered a Western Hills team that finished third in Division II last spring.
“She’s a 3 or 4 handicap,” Brunsman said. “That’s probably what did it. She’s new to the team and fairly new to the club. We have a lot of young members who might be ready to help in future years. This might pique more interest in years to come.”
Of course, Mayborg couldn’t do it alone. “We had a couple of people who had to fill in,” Brunsman said. “Trisha Reperowitz has really worked hard on her game. One of our long-standing members, Linda Ratterman, couldn’t play in the last match and Trisha filled in.”
Western Hills built a 10-point lead over Camargo through the third of the division’s five rounds, but teams in the division must take a bye to when it’s their turn to host and Camargo was able to grab a 20-point lead over idle Western Hills. Western Hills returned the favor in the last week, sailing past idle Camargo to capture the championship by 10.5 points.
“Everybody came together and pulled it out,” Brunsman said. “We had a good group of friends that played together.”
Home course advantage played a key role in Summit Hills’s rise to the top. Four Bridges led by two points after the first of three rounds, Summit Hills piled up a whopping 39.5 points in Week Two at home before clinching the title with a narrow second-place behind Oasis in Week Three.
Becky Wesdorp and Lisa Witzgall were two of several players who stepped up to fill lineup holes in the first two weeks of the short season, Roeding said. Amy Pugliano, Shelli Bitter, Jenny Brallier, Cheri Myers and Sue Averdick joined Roeding on the team that closed the deal on a 16.5-point margin – the widest of the three divisions.
Roeding gained an extra measure of satisfaction at seeing her team outscore Cincinnati and Four Bridges on their home courses. “It showed, like with basketball players, our bench was deep,” she said. “Last year, we ended up last, so we’ve made great strides.”
Fall Team play for 24 teams in four divisions is scheduled to start on September 6.