One of the beauties of the game of golf is that players of different generations can compete on an equal fitting. So it was on Friday in the finale of the Philadelphia Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship when 63-year old Ann Laughlin, in search of a record-tying 12th tournament title, squared off against Ashley Cassidy who, at age 21 was competing in the championship for the first time. It was Cassidy who prevailed with a resounding 12 -and-11 win to join a roll call of champions that features some of the greatest names in the history of women’s golf.
The Philadelphia Women’s Amateur was first played in 1897 and is believed to be the oldest women’s regional golf championship in America. For much it’s history there was no such thing as women’s professional golf. Several past Philadelphia Women’s Amateur champions also won U.S. Women’s Amateur titles, including France’s Griscom, Dorothy Campbell Hurd, Florence Vanderbeck, and Glenna Collett Vare. Others, like Helen Sigel Wilson and Nonna Barlow, did virtually everything it was possible to do in the sport except win the U.S. Women’s Amateur title.
And now Ashley Cassidy, who plays out of Commonwealth National Golf Club, is among their number. “It’s an honor to say that you’ve won this,” she said. “I played some great matches, there were some great players here this week and to beat them, it gives do me a lot of confidence. I just feel so lucky to have won this tournament.”
If the environment was new to Cassidy, it was one with which Laughlin was intimately familiar. The Riverton Country Club veteran has been a fixture in the championship for more than four decades, winning 11 times between 1974 and 1993, including seven in a span of eight years. She won four straight from 1974-78 and three more from 1979-81.
Laughlin herself might well have decided to try professional golf save for the fact that in 1974, the year she won her first Women’s Amateur crown, the average LPGA tournament purse (total purse, not the winner’s share) was $50,071.43. So she chose education as a career instead and maintained her amateur status.
On Friday, Laughlin was seeking to tie Wilson’s all-time mark of 12 Women’s Amateur titles. But Cassidy, who will be a senior at the University of Cincinnati this fall, was not to be denied.
The Donald Ross layout at Torresdale played 5,447 yards on the scorecard with a par of 70.
It was Laughlin who seized the early advantage by winning the par-4 second hole, with a par.
She maintained that lead as the two finalists arrived at the green at the par-4 fifth. The greens were treacherous all week and Friday was no exception; both players faced par putts just beyond tap-in range.
Cassidy made her two-and-a-half foot effort leaving Laughlin an 18-inch putt to halve the hole and maintain her lead. She missed however and the match was all square for the second and what turned out to be the last time.
“I thought she was going to make it,” Cassidy said. “I had a putt that was straight downhill so I was like ‘Just be aggressive’ because she definitely makes it.”
Laughlin never won another hole. The 21-year old Cassidy won the sixth, when Laughlin missed a 6-foot par putt, and never trailed again. She won six straight holes to build a 5-up lead through the 10th. After the morning round her lead was 9 up and the concluding round required just seven holes to complete. With the usual concessions off match play, Cassidy was three over par for the 25-hole match.
“It was important for me to be a consistent putter this week,” she said, “and really use my ball stroking to my advantage. I made sure I didn’t try to get to aggressive on things. (In Thursday’s semifinals) I as getting a little antsy and going at pins and you really can’t do that here.”
If nothing else, Cassidy impressed her opponent.”She’s a very solid player,” Laughlin saiid. “I hope she doesn’t give it up. A lot of girls, they finish college and just give up playing golf competitively but I think she has a good chance to be right up there.
“Besides, Laughlin added with a laugh, we need her for the Philadelphia (Intercity Matches) team.
It’s hardly news that Laughlin would like to match Wilson’s record 12 titles before she gives up competitive golf. But overall she was pleased with her week’s work. “My goal was to qualify (for match play),” she said., “and I got way past it. To get to the finals is thrilling. It’s an honor.”
Notes from history-The tournament was billed as the 119th Women’s Amateur Championship. Officials from the Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia have determined however that it was the 115th championship contested at match play. The WGAP conducted a series of medal-play events during World War II but does not consider them official Women’s Amateur championships
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