Katie Woodruff Completes Hectic Week With Tennessee Women’s Mid-Amateur Title

  • Thursday, September 28, 2023
  • Paul Payne

This will be a week that Katie Woodruff will likely not forget anytime soon.

What began with Woodruff helping coach the University of California’s women’s team to an impressive tournament win early in the week concluded with her capturing her first title as a player since college. Throw in an all-night flight home from San Francisco to barely make her first-round tee time, it’s been a whirlwind experience in the span of four days.

Woodruff overcame a two-shot deficit at the start of the day to win the 7th Tennessee Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Thursday at The Ooltewah Club by two strokes, shooting even par 72 to close the 36-hole event at 3-over 147.

Leslie Letner rallied from an early five-shot deficit to win the 45th Women’s Senior Amateur Championship in a playoff over defending champion Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi, while Gena Ridings captured the Women’s Super Senior title by defeating first-round leader Patty Donahoo by a pair of strokes.

Woodruff, who began on No. 15 in the shotgun start, started well with three birdies in her first six holes. But first-round leader Caroline Caudill of Clarksville held her own with three straight birdies starting at No. 1 to maintain a one-shot lead.

A double-bogey at No. 4 for Caudill was matched by a par from Woodruff, giving the Ooltewah resident the lead with ten holes to play. Caudill, the 2022 Tennessee Women’s Player of the Year, battled through a tough four-hole stretch in 5-over that allowed Woodruff to increase her lead to five shots on the back nine.

A late charge by Nolensville’s Maddi Everts, who grew up playing at the host course, made things interesting. Everts shot a 71 to finish at 5-over 149 and was able to close the deficit to two shots with two holes remaining, but could get no closer.

Caudill finished third at 8-over 152 after finishing with a round of 79.

“I’m not as sharp as I wanted to be after not hitting balls for five days and taking the red-eye flight to get home for the tournament, but I’m happy to win,” Woodruff said. “It just proves that if you putt with good speed, pick correct targets and miss in the proper spots it becomes a simple game. It affirms that what I like to coach applies to everyone, not just the best players.”

The win was Woodruff’s first since 2016 when she played for the University of Louisville. She served as an assistant coach for the women’s teams at Pepperdine University and Southern Cal for six years, and is helping coach Cal’s team this fall while the Golden Bears’ head coach is away on a medical absence.

She returned to competitive golf in 2022 after a six-year layoff when she and her husband, Blaine, moved to Chattanooga after he accepted the head men’s golf coach position at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Blaine served as her caddie for both days, and was instrumental in Woodruff’s success both with her plan of attack and her mental frame of mind.

“We made a strategy at the beginning of the day and stuck to it no matter the situation,” said Woodruff, who plays at Council Fire Golf Club. “Blaine did a good job of slowing me down and keeping me focused. I was battling nerves, anxiety and fatigue out there and I couldn’t have won without him. It’s a good day for us to spend five hours together on the golf course doing what we love.”

Crowning a champion in the Senior division was determined after a chaotic finish when Letner parred No. 18 in the first hole of a playoff. But minutes earlier, the Crossville native was loading her clubs into her car for the drive home completely unaware she was still in contention.

Susan Miller held a five-shot lead with six holes to play before finishing her last three holes in seven-over. Poised to defend her 2022 title by moving into the lead after Miller’s stumble, Switzer-Nadasdi closed with a double-bogey and bogey on her final two holes to cause Letner to be summoned from the parking lot.

Letner had parred the 18th minutes earlier, and now found herself back on the tee with the championship in the balance. Both players found the fairway with their tee balls, but Switzer-Nadasdi was short of the green with her approach. Letner tapped in for par after barely missing her birdie try, while Switzer-Nadasdi missed a five-footer for par to extend the match.

“My knees are shaking from nerves because it’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Letner said. “I’ve won some local events at home, but nothing like this. I don’t look at the leaderboard and didn’t know I was in the playoff until I was putting my clubs in the car and was told to get them back out.”

Letner, who plays out of Fairfield Glade, posted a round of 79 to finish at 17-over 161. Switzer-Nadasdi shot 81 on Thursday, while Miller’s 84 left her in third at 18-over 162.

“I played the Women’s Amateur and the Tennessee Women’s Open earlier this year because I decided I was going to start playing these big state events,” Letner said. “So, I’m absolutely elated to win because this morning I didn’t think I had a chance.”

Ridings’ victory in the Super Senior division was her first Tennessee Golf Association win, but winning is certainly in her family’s DNA. The Franklin resident played college golf at the University of Georgia in the 1970s before becoming a five-time state champion high school volleyball coach in Marietta. Her sons were also outstanding athletes, one who played long-snapper on the Alabama football team.

But after retiring to the Nashville area 13 years ago, Ridings resumed her golf career while competing at the Vanderbilt Legend’s Club.

“I’ve never won before today, so this is special,” Ridings said. “I’ve never known how to finish until today, and I’m proud of finally getting it done.”

Ridings trailed leader Patty Donahoo by one entering the round, finally taking the lead after making the turn. She increased her lead to two with four holes remaining, leading by as many as three shots en route to winning the title with a final round 83 to finish at 21-over 165.

Donahoo, a member of Council Fire Golf Club, posted an 86 to finish second at 23-over 167, while Maggie Scott, two-time Super Senior defending champion and owner of 14 TGA titles, made a late charge to place third at 24-over 168.

For complete results, go to https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/4313943

Paul Payne can be emailed at paulpayne6249@gmail.com

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