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It’s Garner vs. Blair; Podlesny vs. Cluff in VERY UNUSUAL Women’s State Am
The first day of match play at the Women’s Utah State Am has so many story lines that there has to be four leads to the story. Take your pick. It’s a day for cut and paste.
(1) Emily Podlesny upsets two-time champion Kelsey Chugg in the quarterfinals.
(2) Tara Green comes within a whisker of upsetting super-star Sirene Blair.
(3) The day’s results provide a rematch of last year’s semifinal between Blair and two-time medalist Lea Garner.
(4) A never before perfect seeding in the first round.
In the morning Round of 16 something very unusual happened—nothing unusual happened! There were no upsets in the first round of match play. The lower seed won every match and none of them even went extra holes and that can only be described as VERY UNUSUAL. The quarterfinalists, the final eight, were all seeded one through eight. A perfect seeding.
With all the top seeds advancing to the afternoon quarterfinals it set the stage for some tight matches and sure enough all four matches went to the 18th hole and eighth seeded Emily Podlesny turned the seeding cart upside down by edging two-time defending champion and number one seed Kelsey Chugg, 2-up.
It was a remarkable showing of poise and grit by Podlesny, who works part time in the Ogden Golf and Country Club pro shop. She had the first hole handed to her on a silver platter, but after eight holes she found herself three down to the reigning champion and things weren’t looking good. At the turn she gave herself a little pep talk and promptly ran off three straight birdies to square the match. The two then flip-flopped bogeys and it was all square going to the last two holes and Podlesny won them both with pars to pull off the only upset of the afternoon.
And the match of the day, another one that could be the lead in this story, saw Sirene Blair and Tara Green engage in a tete-e-tete that went right to the final hole.
Green, one of the scrappiest players in Utah, birdied the third hole to take a one-up lead over Blair, who is the most decorated girl’s prep player in Utah history and who is now a freshman star at San Diego State. Blair made her first birdie on seven to tie the match and then birdied the eighth to go one-up at the turn.
Green promptly birdied the difficult tenth hole to square the match and from there on it was en ‘garde. They matched six consecutive pars and the match was still square until the 17th hole when a bogey finally penetrated Green’s armor and Blair took a one-up lead to the final hole.
The final hole at Ogden Country Club is very, very special and the par three over a gulley with deathly trouble right and difficulty all around has been the deciding scene of many historical matches in Utah golf and now you can add another match to that list of dramatic endings.
Blair, with a one-up lead needs a par, and Green knows that to stay alive she must make birdie or Blair must bogey. Blair, with tee honors, takes bogey out of the equation by hitting her tee shot 20 feet from the pin. Now Green must make birdie and sure enough, the gutsy dame hits it inside Blair and on the same line. She is going to get a good read on Blair’s putt and that helps her birdie chances, and sure enough she got a good read on the putt, in fact too good—-as Blair drilled it in the heart of the cup and Green for a match ending birdie.
In the morning Round of 16 two time defending champion Kelsey Chugg disposed of 16th seed Annette Gaiotti, 5 and 3; eighth seed Emily Podlesney edged ninth seed Kendra Dalton, 1-up; Allison Cluff, the number four seed, downed Kristie Jensen, 1-up; and Sadie Palmer, the fifth seed, bumped past champion Sue Nyhus, the 12th seed, 2 and 1.
In the Lower Bracket, medalist Lea Garner defeated her BYU teammate, Brooklyn Anderson, 3 and 2; Kimberly Nyhus, the seventh seed, knocked off Madi Rooker, the tenth seed, 2 and 1; Sirene Blair, the third seed, had little trouble in ousting Xena Motes, 5 and 4; and Tara Green, the sixth seed, had to go all 18 holes before defeating Annie Yang, 1-up.
The semifinals will begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Ogden Golf and Country Club with eighth seed Emily Podlesny battling fourth seed Allison Cluff, and at 7:45 a.m. in a classic rematch of last year’s semifinals Lea Garner, will play third seed Sirene Blair.
Last year Blair and Garner played an error semifinal match and neither one missed a fairway all day. Blair gained a one-up victory on the last hole when Garner’s ten-foot slightly breaking birdie putt slid over the left edge of the cup.
Garner and Blair finished one and two in the 36-hole qualifying test and the winner of this semifinal match will be the clear favorite in the afternoon championship match.
Round of 16 Results
Kelsey Chugg def. Annette Gaiotti, 5-3
Emily Podlesny def. Kendra Dalton, 1-up
Allison Cluff def. Kristie Jensen, 1-up
Sadie Palmer def. Sue Nyhus, 2-1
Lea Garner def. Brooklyn Anderson, 3-2
Kimberly Nyhus def. Madi Rooker, 2-1
Sirene Blair def. Xena Motes, 5-4
Tara Green def. Anni Yang, 1-up
Podlesny def. Chugg, 2-up
Cluff def. Palmer, 1-up
Garner def. Nyhus, 2-1
Blair def. Green 1-up
7:30 a.m. – Podlesny vs. Cluff
7:45 a.m. – Garner vs. Blair