By Claire Welsh
(STRATFORD, ON) – Aurora resident and Canadian amateur standout Mary Ann Hayward captured her third Investors Group Ontario Senior Women’s Amateur title on Thursday by a phenomenal 15-stroke margin at Stratford Country Club.
Hayward, the 2010 and 2012 champion, went wire-to-wire across 54 holes of competition, dominating the field of Ontario’s best female amateurs age 50 and over. The Canadian, Ontario and Quebec Golf Hall of Famer opened with the low round of the tournament, a 68 (-4), before following up with a 70 and 71 to close out the championship with a three-day total score of 209, seven-under par.
"The first day was absolutely awesome," said Hayward of her birdie-filled 68. "I think I miss-hit only one shot all day. It was probably closest to the most perfect round I’ve ever had."
Wednesday was a bumpier ride, with Hayward carding a mixed bag of five birdies, three bogeys, an eagle and a double bogey for a one-under 70.
"The only thing I didn’t do very well (on day one) was my wedge play, which is normally pretty good but it was a little off. Then the second day, the wedge play was the only thing I did well. My hitting was all over the place, so it was a complete reversal," she explained. "My putting was great all week so that saved me."
Hayward teed up her final round with a seven-stroke advantage, and was in fine form as she steadily made her way around the course, widening her lead as the day went on.
"It was tougher conditions today, the course played much harder so the 71 today was probably every bit as good as the 68 on the first day," she said after picking up the trophy for a third time.
With the win, Hayward notches another victory on her long and impressive list of accomplishments in amateur golf. She is a four-time Canadian Amateur champion, a six-time Quebec Amateur champion, a five-time Ontario amateur champion, and in 2005 became the first Canadian to win the US Women’s Mid-Amateur.
"I’m just really happy to be scoring again, I haven’t scored that well the last couple of years so I’ve been working on playing more and just scoring – so it’s nice to see it pay off," she explained when asked how the win stacked up against her previous victories.
After what she considered to be a disappointing year in 2012, Hayward came into 2013 with a clear game plan; more golf, more often. She has made a concerted effort to get out on the course several times a week, and also put her game to the test earlier this year at the PGA of Canada Women’s Championship where she finished T27 against some of Canada’s best professionals and up-and-coming amateurs.
"My game changed in those three days tremendously," she said of the competition, which she played at her home course, The Club at North Halton. "I haven’t played with amateurs and pros in five years so it just sort of opened my eyes a bit and I realized I really haven’t fallen off that much. I was hitting it past some of the pros so it boosted my confidence a little bit."
Hayward’s win this week marks her second provincial victory at Stratford Country Club – she won one of her fourteen Ontario Women’s Mid-Amateur titles there in 2007, and was happy to be back on the parkland-style track.
"I’d sort of forgotten the course until I played the practice round and remembered just how much I loved it," she said of Stratford, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. "The members are so into having us play here, they’re out watching and cheering us on so I was really looking forward to coming back. They take so much pride in their place and I definitely felt very welcomed which made it so much better."
The 2010 and 2011 Canadian Senior Women’s Amateur champion will now try to keep her momentum going as she looks to earn her third national senior title later this month at Spallumcheen Golf & Country Club in Vernon, BC.
"It’s going to be tougher there, (2008 and 2009 champion) Jackie Little is back playing again and we’ve always had good battles so I’m expecting a nice battle there," she said. "I’m really looking forward to Canadians because I’ve been playing better than I have over the last couple of years."
Two golfers playing in their first Ontario Senior Women’s provincial championship finished tied for second place at eight-over par; Kingston’s Andrea Blackwell and Gatineau, QC resident Diane Dolan.
Blackwell, a former Olympic basketball player and member of the Canada Basketball Hall of Fame, is new to the senior ranks and is also making a name for herself in golf. The 50-year-old Cataraqui Golf and Country Club member sat in runner-up position through all three rounds, putting together three solid rounds of 72, 73 and 79 to pick up a silver medal.
Dolan is a member at Hylands Golf Club in Ottawa and is coming off a victory at the Ottawa Valley Golf Association’s Women’s City and District Championship in mid-July, her third win at that event. Playing in her inaugural senior women’s provincial championship in Ontario, Dolan carded rounds of 73, 76, and 75 to finish strong near the top of the leaderboard.
Closing out the competition alone in fourth place was two-time champion Ivy Steinberg of Stouffville. The Granite Golf Club member and 2008 and 2009 winner played in the final grouping on Thursday and delivered scores of 75, 71, and 80 for a three-day total tally of 226, +10.
Allyson Harrison of Kingston finished in fifth place at 229 (+13), followed by Ridgeville’s Sandra Billyard at 230 (+14) in sixth place. Toronto’s Debbie Court shared seventh place with Amherstburg’s Cheryll Damphouse after both players came in at 231, +15.
Mary Lou Henderson of Essex finished in 10th spot with a 3-day total of 233, 17-over, and Amherstburg’s Karen Rockliff ended up tied for 38th at 39 over, 255 total.
Earning the gold medal in the women’s 60+ division was Theresa deLuis of Brockville, who finished ninth overall with a total score of 232 (76-76-8), +16.
In the District Teams competition, the Scarborough District team of Steinberg, Joey Bush of Aurora, Kelly Koselek of Toronto and Angela Colm of Ajax captured the District Gross title with an overall combined score of 705 (+57). In the District Net competition, the Northern District team of Barb Wellard and Ria Poulin-Snell of North Bay, Carrie Bell of Callander, and Margaret Barnes of Corbeil tied for first place alongside the Waterloo District team of Martha Jakowlew of Guelph, Cathy Welsand and Jan Atkinson Hall of Cambridge, and Diana Higgins of Kitchener. Both teams closed out the competition with a combined net score of 440 (+8).