GOLF’s Jessica Marksbury Plays the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur: Round 2

October 5, 2015

After completing the second and final round of stroke play here at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championship, I can report that Arnold Palmer and I now share a special distinction: We both carded a 12 in competition.

Arnie’s occurred at the 1961 Los Angeles Open. When he was asked how a player of his caliber could possibly make such a number, he famously replied, “I missed a three-footer for an 11.”

Not so with my 12. Not only did I keep the ball in play the whole time — no penalty strokes to blame! — but I made a tricky 10-footer! Did I mention it was on my second hole of the day? No. 2 is a 528-yard par 5 that was playing into the wind. I doubled it in the first round and was looking forward to a bit of redemption today. If I only knew of the torment that lay ahead. Here’s the breakdown:

A pull-hook drive left landed in the fescue. One.
We found the ball and I gouged it out about 20 yards to the edge of the rough. Two.
A decent 3-wood bounded down the fairway, ending up in the left rough. Three.
A bad lie in the rough made a regular approach impossible, so I chipped out again, to about 95 yards. Four.
The 95-yarder was on an uneven lie slightly below my feet. I fanned my wedge ever so slightly to the right of the green, where it took off on the false front slope into the greenside bunker. Five.

An aside: Here’s where I started hyperventilating a bit. As you know, my bunker game isn’t in peak form right now, and this one is steep, with a green that runs away and a creek on the other side. In other words, an easy shot for most, but a terrifying one for me.

I set up with my newly established technique, take a big swing, and the ball hits the lip and rolls back at me. Six.
Second attempt at extraction: same result. Seven.
Third attempt at extraction: same result. Eight.

So now I’m really freaking out. Wild thoughts start crossing my mind.
What if I never get out of this bunker? What’s the highest score ever recorded on a single hole? Most importantly, how can I end this humiliating misery? I regroup, hit it again, and the ball clears the lip — barely. I’m out. Hallelujah! Nine.

My hands are literally shaking as I approach my chip from the top of the lip. I’m trying to control my breathing, and my shot is predictably lackluster. I get about halfway to the hole. Ten.

I’m still away. Poor Paul is trying to speak soothing words to me but I can barely hear him. At this point, I’m thinking of those nine-hole scores being posted at the turn and how, despite all my confidence heading into today, I will likely post an even worse score than yesterday. “Play happy” has officially left the building. 

Paul reads the putt and I stroke it about five feet wide of his line. Eleven.
I now have a 10-footer, down grain, to save a 12. Somehow, by the grace of the Lord, it goes in. Twelve.

I look at Martha Leach, who’s keeping my card, and I tell her the number. She puts her hand on my shoulder and says, “It’s okay, honey.” Let me tell you, my playing partners are some of the classiest women I’ve ever met. The next hole is a downhill par-3, playing about 160 yards, all carry. I’m last to hit of course, and as it turns out, it’s my best swing of the day, a towering hybrid that lands three feet from the hole. When I sink the putt for birdie, Patricia and Martha are genuinely thrilled for me. “What a comeback!” they said. I think there’s a word for going from a 12 to a 2. Oh yeah: Golf.

Despite the 12, my ballstriking on Sunday was incredibly better today than it was Saturday. I got around the front side in 47, and finally put a good side together on the back for 39. I felt proud of my final 86, like a gladiator. That round brought me to the brink of despair, but quitting was not an option. You just have to keep grinding, and I’m so glad I did.

I finished T121 in a field of 132. Not my best display of golf, unfortunately, but what an experience it’s been to play in a national championship. Both the USGA and Squire Creek really laid out the red carpet for us, and the hospitality has been second to none.

Paul and I will make our way back to New York on Monday evening, but not before heading back to Squire Creek one final time to watch Martha and Patricia compete in their first-round matches. Thank you so much for reading this daily account of my time here in Choudrant, and for all the support you’ve given me over the last week. Here’s to 2016!