Kay Daniel continues to defy golfing logic as she gets older.
The sport now embraces young, long and strong as a string of 20-somethings have overtaken the game.
But Daniel, a 44-year-old orthodontist from Covington, has gone against conventional wisdom. As she ages, her game gets better and better, she said.
The former Mississippi State and Pope John Paul II High golfer had her deepest run in the USGA Women’s Mid-Amateur this week, held at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, when she advanced to the quarterfinal round.
Daniel fell to Whitney Britton, 25, there, 5 & 4, on Wednesday. But it was an impressive week as she earned an exemption into next year’s USGA Women’s Mid-Am, set for The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Penn.
In 2013, Daniel made it to the round of 16 in the Women’s
Mid-Am, heretofore, her best showing in the event.
“It’s really cool that I feel like I’ve gotten better every year in the last 10 years or 15 years,’’ said Daniel, a state high school champion at PJP II as well as a seven-time Louisiana Women’s Golf Association Mid-Amateur titlist. “I’m a better golfer now than I was in college. I’m a better golfer now than I was last year. And I’m 44. At this point I can still say that I feel like I’m getting better and there’s more to come. It won’t last forever but it’s really cool that’s it’s here right now.’’
Daniel was the oldest competitor in the quarterfinal round. The mid-amateur level features golfers 25 and older. Lauren Greenlief, 25 and from Oakton, Va., captured the event Thursday with a 2&1 victory against Margaret Shirley, 29, of Rosewell, Ga.
Daniel earned the 11th seed after the 36-hole stroke play portion of the tournament and won three matches against former USGA Mid-Amateur champions.
She defeated Corey Weworski, 4 & 3, in the round of 64. Weworski was the 2004 champ. Daniel then knocked off Julia Potter (2013 champ), 4 & 3, in the round of 32 and Meghan Stasi, 2 & 1, in the round of 16. Stasi is a four-time winner of the event and a former Curtis Cup competitor.
After finishing tied for 10th in stroke play, Daniel said she was excited about earning her highest seed ever (11th) for match play. Then she saw her draw.
“I had my best seed ever and looked at my match play bracket and I’m like, ‘What,’ ‘’ Daniel said. “To make it to where I did given where I was placed in terms of that bracket, it was awesome. It was cool. I couldn’t sleep that night (Tuesday after winning in the round of 16). Maybe that’s because I kept reliving all those shots. It was fun. I had a blast.’’
As was the case with most USGA events, the setup at Squire Creek was tough, especially on the greens, Daniel said.
They were rolling granite table top fast because of little rain this summer.
Daniel said that’s where the difficulty was for the field this week.
“The greens are the challenge at Squire Creek,’’ Daniel said. “They’re huge but they have multi levels. They roll off, they’re very hard. My driver didn’t get me in trouble all week. It was definitely getting into the green, getting there and holding it. Giving yourself a look at a putt that didn’t break five or six feet. It wasn’t like you had many 12-foot birdies putts that were straight. Or just break a little. You hardly ever got a straight putt. You had to match the speed and the read. That’s hard.’’
Daniel said she was pleased with her play the entire week. It was a grind, to be sure. But she was at her best for the week.
“I played my best golf for sure for that many rounds (six) in a row,’’ Daniel said.
“I hit it really well. I was off the last day. But prior to that, I had five good solid rounds in a row. I was pleased with my performances.
“Squire Creek is a course that magnifies your errors. You have to be striking the ball really, really well to score on that course. I didn’t feel like I played bad (in the quarterfinal round). But I got really bad results from things that were a little bit off. I had several shots that I thought I hit really good but that didn’t end up good at all.’’
Daniel gets a total of two days rest before she’ll be back at it this weekend. She’ll be competing in the LWGA Mid-Amateur Championship this weekend at Money Hill Golf and Country Club in Abita Springs, looking to win her eighth crown.
But it’s a course with which she’s very familiar and she said she doesn’t expect a hangover from the USGA Mid-Am.
“I think I’ll do fine,’’ Daniel said. “I had a lot of good rounds in a row. Money Hill is a home course for me. I’m going to feel like a lot of my good shots are going to get rewarded way better than maybe they would have at Squire Creek. I’m excited about it. I’m not going to stress out about it. It’ll be less of a mental grind than the USGA.’’