University of Colorado freshman Morgan Miller left the 20-degree below weather for some South Florida sunshine and temperatures in the 70s to make her debut in the 90th edition of the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur Championship at the Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale.
Miller brought the heat as she finished the tournament with a 2-up victory over Jupiter’s Ina Kim-Schaad in the title match.
“This means a lot,” Miller said. “It’s been a while since I last won a tournament in my senior year of high school, so this proves to me I can still do it even though it was a hard competition. I am bringing the trophy back to Colorado, so let’s get it started for my (college) team and start off the semester rolling. I made a lot of putts this week and it just boosts my confidence.”
“It is a lot warmer here,” giggled Miller, who proudly showed off her winter tan following her match. “I got to wear shorts and a tank top, so it was nothing like Colorado.”
“Today was tough,” she admitted. “It was a dogfight. I was 1-up, she was 1-up. Neither of us let anything go. I was just fortunate enough to pull off the win. I won with par-par at the end. I just had to force her to make birdies and I made pars and did my thing.”
Miller, 18, certainly heated up as the week went on to add her name to the list of former champions like Lexi Thompson and three-time champion Alexa Pano. Also on that historic list are World Golf Hall of Famers Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, JoAnne Carner, Marlene Stewart-Streit, and Carol Semple Thompson as well as current and former LPGA Tour pros Charley Hull, Michelle McGann, Natalie Gulbis, and Vicki Goetze.
“I am just proud to share this with them,” added Miller, who was born in Austin, Texas. “Lexi and Alexi have both gone pro and have won a lot of stuff and I am proud to be up there with them and hopefully someday I will follow in their footsteps.
Miller made the key putts when she needed them. In the semifinals, she made a couple of 15-footers to tie the hole and in the championship match she kept the pressure on Kim-Schaad to do the same.
“Speed was everything for me this week, and my driver was great,” Miller said. “I almost hit every single fairway.”
Miller played in the Orlando Am and loves match play, so she decided to enter the Doherty. Miller lauded the course conditions, the staff, and the support crew.
“I love this course,” she said. “It is so pure. This was the best course I have ever played on, and everyone was so great which made that even more special. I decided to stay in the warm weather, and I heard this was a great tournament. I decided to give it a shot and give it my best.”
She said it was hard to compare what was more enjoyable – the wind or the weather.
“I would have to say the win,” Miller said. “Golf is a lot more losing than winning, so you have to cherish all of the wins you got and take it all in.”
Miller, who qualified third won her first two matches over Noelle Maertz and Lea Zeitler 5&4 and then defeated Ashley Zagers 3&2 in the semifinals. Kim-Schaad, 39, had the harder road after qualifying 13th, however, she took out fourth-seeded Dawn Woodard 1-up, fifth-seeded Canice Screene 4&3, and then eliminated medalist Honorine Nobuta Ferry 3&2 to advance to the championship match in her Doherty debut.
Screene downed defending champion Brooke Oberparleiter’s hopes of winning again as she edged the 17-year-old 4&2 in her first-round match. She recorded a 2-up victory in the championship match over three-time Amateur division champion Alexa Pano for the 2022 title.
Oberparleiter, a high school senior who takes online classes while spending winters in Jupiter and the rest of the year in Blackwood, N.J., committed to play for the University of Kentucky in September.
Kim-Schaad, who won the US Mid-Am in 2019 and has won three International Four-Ball championships with Meghan Stasi, decided to play in the event thanks to Stasi’s urging. She splits time between Rhinebeck, New York, and Jupiter.
“Meghan is such a great ambassador for the game,” said Kim-Schaad, whose ball-striking all week was pretty solid. “She has a lot of respect for this club. I was lucky to have happened upon it and give it a try because it is right after the holidays.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of slipups,” she continued. “I was pretty consistent. Morgan played so well. She really did not have many mistakes. I missed a lot of putts out there. I left a lot of shots out there. I just wanted to come out here and compete. It’s been a while since I played in a competition or just with friends. I just wanted to play for the fun of competition.”
Kim-Schaad hadn’t played in a tournament since October, and it had been months before that since she played in an individual event.
“I was pretty solid this week and there weren’t many gaps in my game,” Kim-Schaad said. “The wind got to me a little bit against Morgan, and I couldn’t get the speed of the greens with the wind.
Among the other 23 players in the Amateur field were Stasi, a two-time Doherty champ, who was recently named captain of the 2024 Curtis Cup team, Staci Pla, Ferry of West Palm Beach, and Gia Culler-Guerra of Miami Springs.
The 37th Ione D. Jones/Doherty Senior Women’s Amateur Championship had 40 players ages 50 and over. Due to health issues, Kim Keyer-Scott, 55, of Estero, was unable to defend her Senior championship title.
Shelly Haywood downed 2020 winner Judith Kyrinis, 58, of Thornhill, Ontario for the Senior Championship 1-up after 20 holes as the duo combined for nine birdies, with Haywood getting four. Haywood drained a left-to-right 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff and both parred the first playoff hole after a sensational bunker shot. Haywood dropped an 8-footer on the final hole for the win.”
“It was a close match,” Haywood said. “We made the turn at even and we kept trading birdies back and forth. I was 2-down and birdied 16. I knew I had a chance, but the wind was really crazy. On 17, I literally left my birdie putt hanging on the edge and I made the 15-footer on 18. I wasn’t nervous, but I knew that Judith was a great player.”
Haywood, 55, of Huntington Beach, California, won 1-up after 20 holes. She lost in the quarterfinals of her tournament debut last year. She said the conditions were amazing and the course “fit her eye.” Haywood, who is the reigning Southern California Senior Player of the year, also won the Ladies National Golf Association Senior Championship in Arizona last year.
“I just love the course,” Haywood said. “I fell in love with it last year. It’s a treat to play. It’s in wonderful shape. I am still in shock because this is one of the longest-running women’s senior championships. To be on that list just validates my confidence to know that I can be a major champion.
“My ball striking started off very shaky in the beginning, I did not have my A game,” she added. “The first two matches were not great. It was probably a C minus. Something clicked in my semifinal match, and I was myself again. My ball striking was phenomenal, and my short game saved me, especially my bunker play.”
The senior field was also filled with past Senior champions, including three-time champ Andrea Kraus of Fort Lauderdale, 2011 champ Mary Jane Hiestand of Naples, and 2009 winner Carolyn Creekmore of Ponte Vedra Beach.
Kyrinis fell in the 2017 semifinals before winning in 2020. She was unable to play last year due to Covid and said she had played as an Amateur “way back. Kyrinis said there were a lot of things working well for her this week.
“I was hitting the ball quite well,” she said. “It was simulator golf for me, so I was really happy. I was able to play three or four rounds up at Wellington with Marlene Streit and JoAnne Carner. We had some good practice rounds up there with them.
“They gave me some little tips up there which is always helpful,” added Kyrinis, who played four rounds in November in Arizona, but before that, shut down in October because of the weather. “I am always all ears when they talk. The greens are so pure, and I putted quite well. I changed putters late last fall, and this has been a really good fit for me. If you come in with high expectations, getting to the final is all gravy.”
In addition to Kyrinis, the field also featured several U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur winners, including Creekmore, Anna Schultz of Texas, and three-time champion Diane Lang of Weston.
Scott Fox, PGA Director of Golf at Coral Ridge Country Club, said it was an outstanding tournament with the amount of plus handicaps there were in the field.
“It was exceptional,” Fox said. “A 3.0 was the highest senior index. That was the cut to get in the field. The golf course, since we redid it in 2020 (a month before Covid hit), just continues to improve. It continues to improve over time and the weather was awesome this week.
“We’d like to re-ignite the amateur division field, which would mean reaching out to the (college) athletic directors around the country, which we do, but we would like to get even more of the college players here. It could just be a conflict with their school schedule which doesn’t permit them to get here, whether we move it to a different month where we could get a bigger draw to get more younger players to attend it…Outside of that, we’ll continue to take our notes from this year and make improvements where we can.”
Fox also credited the members of the club with giving up their course for a week to the top-level competition.
“We look forward to this event just as much as they do,” he concluded. “We were up eight players in the Amateur championship over last year.”
In other divisions: Amateur Championship Flight: Ava La Belle, Webster, NY d. Reggie Parker, Hobe Sound, FL (6 & 5); Senior First Flight: Marilyn Hardy, Magnolia, TX d. Susan Temple, Vero Beach, FL (3 & 2); Senior Second Flight: Denise Callahan, Canton, OH d. Carolyn Creekmore, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (1 up 22).
Medalist (Amateur): Honorine Nobuta-Ferry, West Palm Beach; Medalist (Senior): Terrill Samuel of Etobicoke, Canada