Ina Kim-Schaad, who returned to golf three years ago after a hiatus of more than a decade, captured the 33rd US Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship with a 3-and-2 victory over fellow New York City resident Talia Campbell in the 18-hole final on Thursday on the Meadow Course at Forest Highlands Golf Club.
Kim-Schaad, 35, earns an exemption into the 2020 US Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, with the victory, as well as exemptions into the next two US Women’s Amateurs and next 10 US Women’s Mid-Amateurs and possession of the Mildred Prunaret Trophy for one year.
“I’m sure it will sink in tonight or maybe later in the week, but it’s pretty amazing,” said Kim-Schaad, a native of Los Angeles who graduated from Northwestern University in 2005 and turns 36 years old on Sunday. “The women I got to play with this week have been amazing. The golf course was amazing. It’s just a pretty surreal experience overall.”
Kim-Schaad won the first and third holes with pars, and from that point on her lead fluctuated between one and two holes until the final hole. She sealed her victory on holes 15 and 16, first with a par-saving six-footer on the short par-4 15th to Campbell’s bogey, followed by a winning birdie putt from 12 feet on the par-4 16th hole.
Kim-Schaad, who was the runner-up in the 2000 US Girls’ Junior, was competing in her eighth USGA championship. Campbell, 25, playing in her first year of eligibility after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, won her first hole of the day with a birdie on the par-5 5th hole, but Kim-Schaad regained her two-hole advantage with a birdie of her own on the par-4 7th hole.
“I tend to get overly amped up, so I was just trying to calm myself down a little bit, just so that I don't get a little too crazy with my yardages,” said Kim-Schaad, who had her husband, Ian Schaad, as her caddie all week. “Other than that, I really tried to think of it as just another golf round, which I know is really hard to do, and I don’t know if I did a great job at it but that was my intent when I started the day.”
Campbell halved the lead again with a two-putt par on No.8 as Kim-Schaad’s five-foot par attempt spun around the hole and out. Campbell was unable to draw even, though, as a couple of birdie chances slipped by on Nos. 9 and 10, and Kim-Schaad went back to 2 up when Campbell three-putted the par-3 11th and conceded Kim-Schaad’s short birdie putt.
“I had a lot of good birdie looks but I just was not able to convert the 10-to 20-foot putts this week,” said Campbell, who was competing in her fourth USGA championship and first since the 2013 US Women’s Amateur. “That was kind of the theme of my week, because most of the birdies I did get were more or less tap-ins or inside of six feet. It’s just the 10-to-20-foot range that wasn't there this week.”
Kim-Schaad missed only her second fairway of the day on the par-5 12th, and it was costly, as she couldn’t get her ball out of the woods on her first attempt, the ball ricocheting off a rock. She got on the green in four and conceded Campbell’s birdie putt after her own par try missed.
The match was decided on holes 14-16 as Kim-Schaad matched Campbell’s two-putt par by converting a testing four-footer on the par-5 14th to keep her 1-up lead. Kim-Schaad then saved par again on No.15 after Campbell flew the green on the short par-4 in the blustery conditions, with winds gusting to more than 30 miles an hour. Kim-Schaad birdied the 384-yard, par-4 16th, and when Campbell missed her attempt, the match was over.
The par-4 15th hole played only 295 yards, but the gusty wind wreaked havoc with the players on their approach shots and helped to decide the final outcome.
“I was 75 yards away and the pin was in the back,” Campbell said. “We were into the wind and I thought I hit a perfect wedge shot, flighted it the trajectory that I wanted, but it flew probably a yard too long, and then because of the hill, a yard turns into 15 yards.”
After watching Campbell’s shot sail over the green, Kim-Schaad struggled to commit to her own shot.
“You know it’s a little wedge, but it’s just so straight into the wind,” Kim-Schaad said. “You know there's a false front, but if you get a little aggressive you're going to be where Talia was. I just found it really hard to attack that pin and I paid for it a bit.”
For the second consecutive hole, Kim-Schaad made a solid stroke on a par-saving putt, this time from about six feet after sending her first putt past the hole. Campbell had nothing to work with from behind the green and made bogey, and Kim-Schaad’s lead went back to 2 up.
“I struggled a bit, especially with the wind kicking up today,” Kim-Schaad said. “It kind of got in my head, especially around the greens. I think I psyched myself out on the speeds and reads a lot. That definitely paid for that. Missed a lot of birdie opportunities and I think Talia did the same thing.”