I’ve played well in our state amateur and I’ve won that four times in Utah, but by far, this is the coolest thing ever. Not even in my amateur career, just my life. This is awesome. —Kelsey Chugg
HOUSTON — Following her semifinal win a day earlier, Kelsey Chugg said advancing to the championship match of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship was the biggest thing that has happened to her.
Now she really has something to be excited about. The Salt Lake City resident can add national champion to her expanding resume.
On Thursday at Champions Golf Club, the 26-year-old Chugg defeated Mary Jane Hiestand of Naples, Florida, 3 and 1 in the championship match on the Cypress Creek Course, which will be the site of the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I’ve played well in our state amateur and I’ve won that four times in Utah, but by far, this is the coolest thing ever,” said Chugg. “Not even in my amateur career, just my life. This is awesome.
“This is exciting for me to bring this home for Utah and the golf community there.” Chugg is the fifth person from Utah to win a USGA national championship and the first since 2005.
The championship week didn’t start out well for Chugg, who opened with an 85 on Saturday, the first of two stroke-play rounds that set the seeding for the 64 match-play qualifiers.
After shooting 85-72 in stroke play, Chugg excelled in the match-play portion. She eliminated two of the three co-medalists en route to her championship, which exempts her for next year’s U.S. Women’s Open and a 10-year exemption to this championship.
“It’s been a crazy week,” said Chugg, who is coached by Lynsey Myers. “I can’t believe I pulled it off. It’s incredible. I am so pumped to go to the U.S. Open. That’s been a lifelong goal.”
In the round of 16 on Tuesday, the 50th seed Chugg ousted 2015 champion Lauren Greenlief of Ashburn, Virginia, 3 and 2, and in Wednesday’s semifinals, Chugg took out Marissa Mar of San Francisco in 19 holes. Chugg was never more than 1 down against two of the heavyweights in women’s mid-amateur golf.
Over 93 holes covering four days of match play, Chugg never trailed in any of her six matches after the sixth hole.
Some of the opponents may have underestimated Chugg, an excellent ball striker who made a number of big putts throughout the week on the Bermuda greens. “I was going into the quarters against Greenlief,” Chugg said. “(Last year's champion) Julia Potter’s fiancée was like, ‘That’s going to be a tough match (for Greenlief). She doesn’t know who she’s up against.’”
Chugg will be known nationally after this win. She already is known in Utah, having been an All-Big Sky Conference selection at Weber State and a three-time Utah Golf Association Player of the Year. She is membership director of the Utah Golf Association, which happened to hold its annual meeting this week.
Chugg, whose biggest lead in the championship match was 4 up, trailed only once in Thursday’s scheduled 18 holes after the 58-year-old Hiestand won the first hole. Chugg won the next two holes, but it was the third hole that turned the momentum into Chugg’s favor. On the par-4 No. 3 hole, Chugg drained a 38-foot putt for par.
“She had a similar line,” Chugg said. “I saw her ball kind of go down. I was like, I can make this. I said, keep your head down and hit the putt, and it went right in the center.”
Neither Chugg or Hiestand made a birdie on Thursday. All the holes were won on pars. The difference was that Chugg made more par putts.
“Kudos to her because that’s what it takes to win a championship,” said Hiestand, who was playing in the championship match of this event for the first time in her 22nd appearance. “She’s a real solid player. Nice gal. It was really nice to play with her.”
Chugg credited her caddie Chris Schuhmann for helping her select clubs and reading putts.
“She’s a spectacular player,” said Schuhmann, who has been on the bag for PGA Tour players Jim Gallagher Jr. and Ed Fiori. “This is awesome.”