SANFORD — A sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open can be a grind physically and even tougher on the psyche.
It’s 36 holes of grueling golf, taking almost 10 hours to complete, and played with little communication. There are no on-course scoreboards, no updates.
“It’s so hit-and-miss and you just don’t know,” said Stacey Keating of Australia, who won the sectional Thursday at Carolina Trace Country Club. “You don’t know who’s going to be in the field, you don’t know how you stand.
“I’m coming down the stretch thinking I’m going to be OK but I don’t know. All you can do is hope it’s good enough.”
Rounds of 73 and 67 on the Lake Course were good enough to get Keating to Pinehurst for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Keating, with a 4-under 140 total, finished one shot ahead of Marta Silva of Spain as pro golfers predictably claimed three of the four spots available in the sectional, one of 24 held to fill out the field.
Silva, a four-time All-American at Georgia, put together rounds of 69 and 72 on a warm, sunny day. Wei-Ling Hsu of Chinese Taipei was third at 143 and amateur Ally McDonald of Fulton, Miss., won a one-hole, sudden-death playoff against Rebecca Artis of Australia for the fourth and final spot.
Artis became the first alternate, and N.C. State’s Brittany Marchand topped Duke’s Laetitia Beck in another playoff for second alternate. Marchand made a strong push in the afternoon, rebounding from a 77 for a 4-under 68 and a 145 finish, then sat by a bit anxiously as golfers completed their rounds and posted their scores.
Even Keating, one of the early finishers, warned the media, “Don’t jinx me” when questions popped up about the Open and No. 2.
Keating, Silva and Hsu are members of the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s version of the men’s Web.com Tour. Hsu recently won a Symetra event in Greenwood, S.C., and Silva made her LPGA debut last week in the Airbus LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala.
“I played really well, really solid today,” Silva said. “You have to stay with one shot at a time and wish for the best. You can’t control what others are doing and you don’t know, really.
“That’s good and bad, I guess. If you have to make a few birdies at the end, maybe you try harder. Or maybe you get more nervous.”
The field of 78 golfers who began the sectional made for an interesting mix of ages, experience, nationalities and skill.
Donna Andrews, once a regular on the LPGA Tour and the winner of the 1994 Nabisco Dinah Shore, was hoping to qualify for her 14th U.S. Open at age 47. Emilia Migliaccio of Cary was hoping to play in her first at 15.
Poor putting led to a first-round 76 for Andrews, the runner-up in the 1993 Open, but she bounced back with a 72 in the afternoon.
“I went to the putting green and fixed a couple of things,” Andrews said, smiling. “But I’ve never walked on the putting green, looked around and gone, ‘Oh, my goodness, I’m old enough to be all of these girls’ mom.’”
Migliaccio, the NCHSAA 4A champion at Athens Drive, said she received an excused absence for the qualifier. While the freshman hoped to play better, a 78-79 showing in her first Open sectional was acceptable.
“It was my first time and I was really, really nervous,” she said. “I just came out and played and had fun with my mother. This is the first time she has caddied for me since I was 10. It was nice and I had a good time.”
Ulrika Migliaccio once played college golf at Arizona with fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam. She gave her daughter a big hug Thursday when the long day came to an end.
It’s about 33 miles from Carolina Trace to Pinehurst No. 2. For many Thursday, it may well have been a thousand. But they tried.
“It was just cool to see people out playing, because you can do this at any age,” Miggliaccio said. “I can do this at 50.”
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