Stratford (July 24) Meghan Mitchell played the steadiest golf Thursday at Oronoque Country Club and steady is what it took to win the 54th Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship.
With dad Steve on the bag urging her to “stay calm,” the 18-year-old New Canaan High graduate who led her high school team to three consecutive state titles, won the biggest tournament of her young career on her home course. She shot 76 to go with Wednesday’s 81 to edge out 15-year-old Alex Fox of Ellington Ridge Country Club, and a wave of teenagers who took four of the first five spots.
But steady can be nerve-racking, too.
“I’ve never been so anxious in my life,” said Mitchell of the final five holes, after she had re-gained the lead on No. 13. One ahead after nine, and tied going into the 13th, Mitchell made five on the par 4 while runner up Alex Fox of Ellington Ridge Country Club tripled.
“I came in today just wanting to stay steady," Said Mitchell. "Yesterday I had a rough round and I was a little upset but I knew today I was going to come out and play better and that’s what I did and I’m really happy.”
Mitchell made two bogeys on the front, four on the back, one, on the 18th when she had a two-shot cushion. Along with Gia Watkins, she was the only player in the top 10 to escape double or worse on a course with out of bounds on nearly every hole.
Besides Mitchell and Fox (photo), Ridgewood Country Club’s Mia Scarpati, 16, and Emily Cohen, 18, of the Country Club of Darien, shared 4th.
Mitchell, who was tied for third with 81 on day one, worked on her putting Wednesday night and Thursday morning in order, she said, to avoid the “four or five” three-putts she had in round one. She found the answer. “I was really comfortable with the speed of the greens [today]. They were not too fast, not too slow. I thought they were the perfect pace.”
Level par on the front nine with two birdies and two bogeys, Mitchell took a one stroke lead over Fox, who was second after round one.
For overnight leader Kyra Cox, who led by four at the onset, but who began the day with a tree-knocking triple, the front nine was a nightmare from which she couldn’t awake. She was 7 over on the first 9 holes and never found the reins. “I had a really hard time with my swing and with my game and this was all the frustration with it. I’m not seeing the results I normally see. I haven’t been in a situation where I can’t fix anything. That was frustrating."
“I was surprised,” said Mitchell of Cox’s collapse. “I know she’s a great player, but golf’s a game and it happens to everyone. Still, she’s amazing.” Cox shot 76-91-167 to tie for sixth with Watkins of Brooklawn Country Club, who won the Super Senior Division of the championship.
Jen Holland, the 2018 Player of the Year, who was tied fourth after the first round, improved to third but could not make the run at the title she’d hoped for. She shot 81, three better than Wednesday, and won the Senior Division.
For Mitchell, this is the perfect sendoff to Appalachian State, where she’ll play on the Mountaineer golf team. She had played well prior to now—finishing T-10 in the PGA Section Girls’ Junior Championship She did not plan on today’s victory, she said, but wasn’t about to settle for a top-ten Thursday.
“I didn’t want to play it safe. I had a lot of confidence in my driver and my hybrid and and the confidence was able to get me where I needed to be. I wasn’t doubting anything, and I was able to make the shots the I needed.”
For Fox, who will be a junior at Ellington High School in the fall, it was all good. She didn’t check electronic scoring or ask about who was leading, “but I knew it was really close.” She said looking at a leaderboard would have made her more nervous. “You don’t want to get into your own head,” said Fox, who wore strips of kinesioogy tape on her shins because she sometimes has discomfort there when she walks a golf course. “It’s nice when you can just focus on playing.” Which she did, performing just as steadily throughout as Mitchell, except for the triple at No. 13, a tough dogleg par-4 where both she and the winner layed up and played for bogey. Fox missed her pitch, leaving it short, then three-putted when she did get on in four. She was philisophical about a bogey after a massive drive on the par-4 16th. (Both Mitchell and Fox play fast, hit it 250 yards plus, and seem fearless in the way they approach a course). "Not every shot’s going to go the way you want, so you've got to just deal with what you get,” said Fox.
Today she got second. One thinks there will be tons of firsts to come.
Oronoque, designed by Desmond Muirhead, once made a list of the toughest golf courss in the country by Golf Digest, along with the likes of Oakmont and Medinah. For the women of the 54th Connecticut Women's Amateur Championship, it played that way. The late Muirhead was a great architect, but his occasionally out-of-the-box ideas tended to define him: bunkers shaped like shark’s teeth, for example. At Oronoque, he let let the layout itself, and large, perplexing, greens provide the teeth. Completed in 1972, Oronoque is a narrow course where mastery of those greens, and of the angles created by its many doglegs, provided the sternest challenge to Connecticut's women amateurs in years.