Canada assured of title at U.S. Senior Women's Amateur
A field of 132 golfers from seven countries in the 56th U.S. Senior Women's Amateur is down to two from one.
And the finalists, who will square off in Thursday at Waverley Country Club, live 20 minutes apart in Ontario, Canada.
Judith Kyrinis, 53, will face longtime friend Terrill Samuel, 56, for the title. Their 18-hole match -- the first final in this tournament between two Canadians -- starts at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free.
"We've known each other forever," Kyrisis said. "We're going to be happy whichever way it goes tomorrow, and Canada is going to have the champion. That's the main thing."
"We're just happy to have two Canadians in the final. That's what matters," she said. "Whoever wins, we're going to be excited."
For quite awhile on Wednesday afternoon, though, it looked like Canada would be 0-for-the-semis, after going 2 for 4 in the morning quarterfinals.
Kyrinis fell 3-down after four holes to fellow semifinalist and former LPGA Tour pro Tara Fleming, 50, who was born in Ontario but lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. Right behind them, Samuel was 4-down to Patricia Schremmer, 52, of Honolulu, after seven holes.
But Kyrinis and Samuel chipped away. Kyrinis eventually won 2-up, and Samuel surged on the back nine, then advanced with a winning par-3 on the 19th hole, the short 9th.
"The 'Comeback Canadians,'" Kyrinis said with a smile.
Kyrinis is a registered nurse who had a hole-in-one when 8 1/2 months pregnant with the first of her three children. Her support on Wednesday came from fans, friends and husband Manny.
Samuel had her 80-year-old mother, Cam, as her caddy. "Yesterday I played 38 holes and she was there for all of them, too," Samuel said. "She always keeps me calm. She's my best friend."
Kyrinis' rally came as she won holes 7, 9 and 10 to pull even. Fleming birdied the 11th to go 1-up again, but Kyrinis took the 13th with a par.
On the par-3 16th, Kyrinis holed a putt of 35 feet for a birdie and a 1-up advantage. She then finished off her foe with a par on the 17th.
"You get life, and you just keep battling," said Kyrinis, who has had success in this event but not the ultimate prize. She was medalist and a quarterfinalist last year and was the runner-up in 2014 to Joan Higgins in a 1-up final at Deal, New Jersey.
"It's hard to get here," Kyrinis said of making the final. "I remember being so excited last time, and when I lost I couldn't stop crying. There's so much emotion you have bottled up all week, and you're focusing on every hole, every shot."
Samuel, who was born in England but moved to Ontario when she was 3 months old, is a teacher and high school volleyball coach in Toronto. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto. Growing up and in college, she was a swimmer, not a golfer. And somehow on Wednesday afternoon, she was able to stay afloat against Schremmer, the mother of three national surfing champion daughters.
Samuel was 4-down at the turn. She won the 10th with a par, then claimed Nos. 13 and 14 with pars and the 15th with a birdie to get to all square.
Samuel and Schremmer went par, bogey, par the rest of the way in regulation, sending them to a playoff.
On the extra hole, Samuel hit first and landed nicely, her ball about 15 feet to the left of the flag for what would turn out to be a routine — and decisive — par.
Schremmer wound up further left and had a tricky putt with a ridge between her and the hole. Her first putt finished about five feet above the hole, and she couldn't get the par bid to find the cup.
"We've all been 4-up and 4-down in golf before — you just try to get one back here and there," Samuel said, "and you know if you can get it to 2, the other player is going to start feeling the pressure."
Samuel missed a chance to go 1-up on the 17th when she 3-putted from about 30 feet, leaving her approach putt nearly six feet short. She wound up matching Schremmer's 6 on the hole. Schremmer's drive went into the right rough, and she advanced her ball only slightly with her second shot.
But Samuel said the culprit for her on the 17th really was her third-shot pitch, which came up short. "I thought it would take a bigger bounce," she said, "and in hindsight I could have used the mound behind the hole as a backstop."
Instead of pouting about her missed opportunity to further her momentum, Samuel stayed positive. She reminded herself that "an hour earlier I would have given my right arm to be even going into the 18th hole."
Wednesday's play began with Fleming as the top remaining seed; she was fifth after two rounds of qualifying at Waverley last weekend.
Kyrinis was the No. 9 seed. Schremmer was 30th out of the 64 qualifiers for match play. Samuel was 47th in stroke play.
In the morning quarterfinals, Kyrinis defeated Lisa McGill of Philadelphia, 2 and 1; Fleming downed Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Mary Ann Hayward, 3 and 2; Samuel eliminated the oldest quarterfinalist, 63-year-old Patricia Cornett of Mill Valley, California, 5 and 3; and Schremmer beat British Columbia's Jackie Little, 2 and 1.
Kyrinis and McGill were all square when Kyrinis won the 15th with a birdie and took the 16th with a par.
Fleming won holes 9-12 to go 3-up on Hayward.
Samuel won three of the first four holes versus Cornett and was 5-up after eight. Cornett twice got to within 3-down on the back nine, but Samuel held firm.
Schremmer took a 1-up lead over Little by winning the eighth and ninth holes. A birdie on the par-5 14th gave her a 2-up cushion.
A golfer from Canada has won the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur three times. The most recent to do it was Marlene Streit in 2003.
Thursday's final will pit two Canadians who not only are familiar with each other's Ontario residences but also know each other's golf games extremely well.
Samuel described Kyrinis as "the nicest person in the world" and "an awesome player. She doesn't have flaw. She hits it down the middle, hits great iron shots and is a good putter."
Kyrinis said Samuel "is a very good ball-striker, a phenomenal ball-striker. Sometimes her putter will let her down, but she's just a fantastic player, and very humble, very quiet, a tremendous person to play golf with."