Donald Ross isn’t asking for much.
First, you’ve got to drive the ball into the proper landing zone of the rolling and canted fairways of his 1922 course at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C., in order to have the best look at the day’s hole location. And the longer, the better. The course will play 6,152 yards for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship in October, but many greens are elevated and a number of fairways are sloped toward the tee, knocking off the prospect for bounce and roll with the driver.
Second, you’ve got to leave your approach shot under the hole. The greens are small, slick and gently sloped in every directional imaginable. A 20-foot putt below the hole beats a 6-foot slider from above it most every time.
And third, you’ve got have a jeweler’s touch on the putting greens. Ross’s putting surfaces demand exquisite feel and distance on longer lag putts and a smooth, firm stroke on the four-foot comebacks.
If one leg of the tripod’s not solid, your game will fall apart on this 91-year-old course that will be host the finest female amateur golfers 25 and older on Oct. 5-10, in the championship conducted by the United States Golf Association.
“I think this golf course will identify the best all-around player in the championship,” says Jon Rector, the head professional at Biltmore Forest. “You have to start at the greens and work your way back. It’s critical you put the ball on the right places on the greens. To do that, you have to be in the fairway. If you’re in the rough, you can’t put it in the right spot of the green.”
Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi toured the course for the first time in early July and was excited about the prospects of defending the title she won in 2012 at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio.
“The harder, the better,” Stasi says. “I think Biltmore Forest will be great for the championship. I had heard that you’d have to drive the ball well, hit to the right spots in the greens and be a really good putter. I saw that for myself today. I can’t wait to come back in October and learn more about the golf course.”
Ben Wright, the English golf writer and commentator, was lured from his New York home to western North Carolina in the late 1980s and joined Biltmore Forest. He currently lives in nearby Flat Rock.
“Biltmore Forest is a Donald Ross masterpiece. What else needs be said?” Wright says.
“It will examine every part of your game. If anything’s lacking, you’ll have a long day indeed.”
The USGA received 420 entries for the championship, and that field will be cut through
sectional qualifying in late August and early September to the final list of 132 players who will travel to Asheville. At Biltmore Forest, they’ll play two rounds of stroke-play qualifying on
Saturday and Sunday, with the low 64 players squaring off in six rounds of match play. The
championship will culminate with the 18-hole final match on Thursday.
This will be Biltmore Forest’s second USGA national championship, the first being the
1999 U.S. Women’s Amateur won by Dorothy Delasin.
The Women’s Mid-Amateur field will include mothers, wives, working professionals,
reinstated amateurs — running the gamut of golfers who juggle keeping a sharp competitive
game along with the demands of everyday life. The 2012 field included 47 players in their 50s compared to just 41 in their 20s and 30s combined. Players in their 40s and 50s made up 65 percent of the field.
“Championships like the Women’s Mid-Am are the backbone of the USGA,” says Jim
Hyler, a Biltmore Forest member and former president of the USGA. “The U.S. Open, the
Women’s Open and the Senior Open pay the bills. The 10 other championships the USGA
conducts represent the everyday golfer, the people who love the game and play it for the
competition and the fun of it.”
Stasi represents the prototypical Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor. The 34-year-old
New Jersey native is a former college golfer (Tulane) and college golf coach (Ole Miss) who
now lives in Oakland Park, Fla., where she and husband, Danny, own and operate an oyster bar restaurant. She won the Mid-Amateur in 2006 and 2007 under her maiden name of Bolger. By virtue of her 2012 victory in San Antonio, she became only the 16th golfer ever to have won one USGA title four times or more — putting her in the company of players such as Ben Hogan, Bob Jones and Jack Nicklaus.
“About my junior year in college, it occurred to me that a bad shot wasn’t the end of the
world,” Stasi says. “From then on, my attitude has been to have fun and enjoy the game. I am very competitive and I want to win, but as you mature you can keep the game in better
Another four-time Women’s Mid-Amateur champion is Ellen Port, who won in 1995,
1996, 2000 and 2011. She is coming off another USGA championship victory in 2012, having taken the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. Port, a high school teacher and golf coach in St.Louis, will serve as captain of the USA Team for the 2014 Curtis Cup Match, to be played at St. Louis Country Club. Port played in the 1999 Women’s Amateur held at Biltmore Forest, though she missed the stroke-play cut.
There are also three players with local and statewide ties who hope to be in the mix.
Debbie Adams is a member at Biltmore Forest and was a quarterfinalist last year at
Briggs Ranch. She and husband, Anthony, both collegiate golfers at Ohio State, moved to
Asheville in 1996 from Florida. Knowing that the 2013 championship was set for her home club in Asheville, Debbie’s goal in 2012 was to advance to the final eight, thus earning an automatic qualifying berth to the 2013 championship.
“That’s all I wanted to do was come to this tournament and get exempt,” Adams said after winning her third match and securing a spot in the quarterfinals. “The pressure is off. I’m excited now.”