After losing a playoff in the Georgia Women’s Open at Brookfield Country Club, Kaylin Yost can identify with Jordan Spieth’s experience in the 2016 Masters.
Like Spieth, Yost held a sizeable lead on the back nine when two ill-timed and poorly hit shots on a par-3 resulted in a quadruple bogey and the loss of her lead.
Yost went from four shots ahead to tied after making a 7 on the par-3 15th at Brookfield, and needed a birdie on the demanding par-4 17th to force a playoff with former college rival Meagan Wallace. Both players had excellent opportunities to birdie the first playoff hole – the par- 5 18th — but only Wallace was able to cash in and claim the title in just her second start as a professional.
Wallace, who shot 68 in the first round to trail Yost by two, put herself in an immediate hole the final day when she pulled her opening tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. Her deficit reached six shots after seven holes, but Wallace responded with four birdies over her next nine holes to take the lead for the first time after 16 holes.
Yost birdied the 17th to pull even with one hole to play before both players parred the 18th to finish the tournament at 6-under 138. Shabril Brewer surged into contention when she birdied four holes on the back nine to get to 6-under, but bogeyed the 18th to finish third at 139 after a final round 68.
Neither Wallace nor Brewer is a Georgia resident and Yost has only lived in the state a few months, currently residing in Kennesaw. Wallace is from Charlotte and played college golf in South Carolina at Winthrop. Yost, who still resides part time in south Florida, played at Campbell in North Carolina, like Winthrop a member of the Big South Conference. Both schools are part of the Big South Conference. Brewer is from Fairfax, Va., and played college golf in her home state at James Madison.
Both Wallace and Yost graduated in 2014, with Yost turning pro immediately after completing her college career and Wallace waiting until this year to compete professionally. Brewer graduated in 2015 and has played professionally since then.
Yost was playing on the Symetra Tour last year and enjoying little success when she decided to give up the sport. She said she quit playing golf for about six month and got a full-time job before returning to golf as a career earlier this year. She has mainly been playing in LPGA qualifiers in 2016, and will attempt to qualify for the LPGA or Symetra Tours later this year.
Wallace has been looking for tournaments to play, and discovered the Georgia Women’s Open in a Google search. The tournament has been open to players from outside the state the past few years, with this year the first time that non-Georgia residents had a significant impact on the event.
Prior to the Georgia Women’s Open, Wallace had played in only one professional tournament and said winning in second pro start was “pretty good. I don’t think it gets better than first place.”
Even though Wallace was playing in the final group with Yost in the second round, she said she was unaware of where she stood in relation to her playing partner.
“I had no idea where I stood. I thought she had me by one shot. I didn’t know we were in a playoff until after the 18th hole.”
Beginning her round with an out of bounds tee shot that cost her a double bogey was “frustrating,” Wallace said, but she came back to hit her second drive “right down the middle. You have to leave it behind,” she said of the opening double bogey.
Wallace remained four shots behind until a Yost birdie and Wallace bogey at the par-4 sixth widened the gap to six. Birdies at 8 and 11, both par 3s, pulled Wallace within four of the lead, but Yost birdied the par-4 12th with a well-struck approach shot to expand the lead to five. Wallace birdied the par-5 14th with a chip and a short putt to again close within four when Yost pulled both her tee shot and her shorter second into the hazard left of the 15th green.
“I just did not commit to the shot,” Yost said. “I was not confident with it.”
Wallace went ahead with a birdie after a delicate wedge shot into the par-5 16th, but Yost pulled even with a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th. She was in position for a winning birdie at the 18th, but caught her third shot heavy, and needed to save par with a chip and a putt to force the playoff,
Both players hit accurate wedge shots to the 18th green in the playoff, but Yost left herself a sharp-breaking putt and missed on the low side. Wallace had a slippery downhill putt from closer range and holed it to take home first place money of $1,600. Yost earned $1,100 for her runner-up finish.
Wallace said she will not attempt LPGA/Symetra qualifying until next year, noting, “I’m trying to get as much experience as I can.”
Although Yost’s mishap on the 15th was a large component of Wallace’s victory, Wallace joined Masters champion Danny Willett in playing a strong final round, especially down the stretch.
“You can’t change the way it happened, but I played well coming in on the back nine,” Wallace said.
Wallace shot 3-under 34 on the final nine at Brookfield, and played her last 11 holes in 4-under to overtake Yost.
Despite her problems on the 15th that cost her the victory, Yost said she was “overall happy with the way I played and happy to birdie the 17th. This was my best finish as a pro.”
Brewer was third at 139, with Mercer golfer Payton Schanen, who played her high school golf in north Fulton at Cambridge, fourth at 140 and low amateur after scores of 69-71. Schanen had five birdies in the final round after opening with back-to-back bogeys.
Jessica Haigwood, who played her high school golf at Brookfield as a member of the golf team at Roswell, was fifth at 141 after finishing second each of the previous three years in the Georgia Women’s Open at Brookfield CC. She had a relatively short eagle putt at the 18th to tie Schanen, but settled for her fifth birdie of the day.
Tying for sixth at 142 was a trio of SEC golfers – Ji Eun Baek of Mississippi State, and Michaela Owen and Kayley Marschke, both of Auburn. Baik, from Newnan, shot 72-70, with Owen matching Brewer for the low score of the second round at 68. Marschke, who will be a freshman at Auburn this Fall, had back-to-back 71s.
Four players tied for ninth at 144, including former champions Kendall Wright of Duluth and Druid Hills assistant professional Karen Paolozzi. Wright, who won in 2012 at Callaway Gardens, closed with a 70, while Paolozzi, who won in 2014 at Brookfield and tied for second last year, shot 73 in the final round after being close to the lead early on the back nine. She was 3-over for her final seven holes.
Pro Jessica Welch of Lavonia, also a runner-up last year, closed with a 70 for a 144 total, with Moultrie’s Marin Hanna, Schanen’s teammate at Mercer, posting scores of 73-71.
Defending champion Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville, who is struggling as a rookie on the LPGA Tour this season, was tied for third after an opening 69, but suffered through a difficult final round, shooting 77 to tie for 17th at 146. Ramsey dominated the field last year, winning by seven shots with a tournament record store of 12-under 132, but was not the same player this time, especially in the final round when she failed to make a birdie.
The tournament drew a field of 75 players, one of the largest in the event’s history, which dates back to 1995.