published Friday, September 16th, 2011

USGA has new champ

Terri Frohnmayer, 55, of Salem, Ore., putts on the green during the final match of the USGA Senior Women's Amateur at the Honour's Course against Mina Hardin Thursday morning.  Frohnmayer defeated Hardin, winning the championship.
Terri Frohnmayer, 55, of Salem, Ore., putts on the green during the final match of the USGA Senior Women's Amateur at the Honour's Course against Mina Hardin Thursday morning. Frohnmayer defeated Hardin, winning the championship.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

Terri Frohnmayer wrapped her tiny arms around the neck of caddie Bob Lawson, who lifted the 5-foot-nothing golfer off the ground in celebration.

Frohnmayer arrived at the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur late last week without her husband, without any family to cheer for her and with barely any friends who knew her. The 55-year-old from Salem, Ore., was a teenager the last time she played in a USGA national event -- the U.S. Girls' Junior.

But each day of this tournament at The Honors Course, she met new people, made friends with competitors, drew the support of course caddies who work with Lawson and dined on the town with a couple of volunteers who picked up the checks.

Only local icons Betty Probasco and Alice Lupton surpassed her in popularity by the end of the tournament, which Frohnmayer won 2 and 1 over defending champion Mina Hardin of Fort Worth, Texas.

"I'm probably the luckiest person today on this golf course," said Frohnmayer, who became quick friends with a couple that her caddie has known for years.

That couple owns a scratch-'n'-sniff fragrance company and designed a special scent, a mix of lavender and vanilla called "Victory," and gave a patch to Frohnmayer.

"I haven't scratched it," she said. "[I'm sure] it smells damned good.

"It's really special to have people like that come out."

Frohnmayer's path to the championship included earning the No. 28 seed after shooting a 13-over-par 157 in qualifying. Then she defeated area star Maggie Scott of Cleveland Country Club 3 and 1 in the opening round.

She eliminated 2004 champion Carolyn Creekmore and former U.S. Women's Amateur champion Mary Budke on Tuesday. Then Wednesday, she dispatched former pro Kim Eaton and knocked out medalist Lisa Schlesinger in 20 holes in the longest match of the tournament.

The weeklong underdog finished her title run by taking down the one wearing the crown -- Hardin.

"I'm certainly not a long-ball hitter like she is, but it's not the drive, it's how you arrive," Frohnmayer said. "I just [tried] to stay in the middle and get it on the green in regulation and two-putt. If I'm fortunate to birdie, I do."

Hardin led 2 up through four holes in the final, but they made the turn all-square and remained so through the 10th hole.

A pulled tee shot into wispy, brown, shin-high grass resulted in a bogey and a lost hole on No. 11 for Hardin. Frohnmayer stuffed her approach on No. 12 and tapped in from less than three feet on No. 12.

Then Hardin pulled another tee shot, this time into a small hazard, on No. 13 and lost. The speed of Hardin's potential par putt fooled her, and she dropped to 3 down with five holes to play.

"If I would not have lost that hole, I think things could have turned around," Hardin said. "As it was, I didn't hit the putt firm enough."

Frohnmayer was dormie as they headed to the par-3 16th hole. She splashed into the water, necessitating that they play the par-5 17th.

Hardin had to score a birdie with a big right-to-left-breaking putt from 45 feet away. She missed by less than the length of a tee. Frohnmayer nestled her birdie attempt to within a foot.

Hardin conceded the hole, the match, the championship and her trophy. Then she hugged Frohnmayer and said, "You played beautiful. It was a wonderful match. Enjoy it."

Frohnmayer then turned to Lawson, who lifted her on her tiptoes and then a few inches off the ground in celebration.

Lawson is an Ooltewah resident who has caddied full and part time since the course opened. Following tradition, he removed the flag from its stick, a prize that he'll frame and keep in his bedroom next to an autograph from Michael Jordan.

"We got out there, we got 2 down and she may have been a little nervous, but I told her, 'Calm down, hit your shots and we'll be fine,'" said Lawson, whose second hug Thursday came from fellow longtime caddie Randy Duckett. "Actually I may have been more nervous than her. My hand was shaking holding the flag on No. 4.

"All my help was on the greens."

And that helped the little lady wearing yellow earn a gold medal.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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