A 74 Earns McCullough a Ticket to Her Fifth Consecutive U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur
August 6, 2019
By Nick Hunter
DELLWOOD, Minn. – Overcoming a rocky start to begin her round Tuesday at Dellwood Country Club, former University of Minnesota golfer Paige McCullough played her final 13 holes in 1-under par, posting a 2-over par 74 to claim medalist honors and a ticket to her fifth consecutive U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
McCullough earned the lone qualifying spot for this year’s national championship, which will be played Sept. 14-19 at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. In her five previous appearances at the championship, McCullough has advanced to match play each time with her best performance coming in 2015, where she advanced to the quarterfinal round at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La.
“This is so special. I set my entire year up to try and play well right at this time and peak at this time,” McCullough, a two-year letterwinner with Minnesota in 2008-09, said after qualifying Tuesday. “I started working with my old swing coach and got some distance back and got some confidence with my putter. It’s really fun to play with these gals and fun to compete.”
Beginning her round with three bogeys over the first five holes Tuesday, McCullough limited the damage by rolling in an uphill putt for birdie at the par-5 eighth to turn in 2-over. A three-putt bogey at the 10th put McCullough back to 3-over for the round, but she found her stride shortly after.
McCullough nearly holed her tee shot at the 123-yard 12th hole, tapping in for birdie before lipping out her birdie chance on the following hole. Rolling in her downhill birdie chance from 10 feet at the 14th, McCullough moved to 1-over before watching Olivia Herrick hole out for eagle at the 15th to pull within two shots of the lead following a McCullough bogey.
Steady off the tee for the remaining three holes, McCullough carded consecutive pars to post a 2-over 74 to claim medalist honors by three strokes over Herrick.
“Pin placements were really difficult today, so being on the right side of the pin was important,” McCullough said. “I started off slow and became more aggressive with my driver to put myself in better position to make a putt, or at least two-putt.
“There are a fair amount of doglegs here and I started getting confident with my driver and then was laying up to about 100 yards and manipulating my wedge to hit that yardage on the dot.”
Playing in just two state championships since winning the Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at New Prague Golf Club in 2017, adapting her game to the competitive realm was the biggest challenge for McCullough entering the week.
“Not playing a lot of competitive golf, I had a couple of three-putts in there,” she said. “I had one par-5 that I was trying to attack and ran into trouble. I was able to hack it out and make a bogey out of that.
“Playing in the same group as all the people attempting to qualify, I knew exactly where I stood, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing. What was working for me was to stay aggressive and keep a driver my hand and I was able to close it out.”
McCullough first qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2011 before beginning her streak of five straight appearances beginning in 2015.
Herrick, who advanced to the semifinal round of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in 2016, posted a 5-over 77 to finish as first alternate, while 14-time sectional qualifier Leigh Klasse finished as second alternate.
Opening in 1999, the Tom Weiskopf designed Forest Highlands Golf Club will host its fourth USGA event next month, previously contesting the 1996 U.S. Junior Amateur, the 2006 U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur in 2014.