Link to championship page and results: Women’s Am
SPRING LAKE – Elayna Bowser’s first phone call after winning the 103rd Michigan Women’s Amateur was to her brother Evan, who is playing on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada.
“He played in his share of Michigan Amateurs, but never got the title, so I got the edge on him,” she said and laughed. “He said ‘congrats, you are officially the better Bowser golfer.’”
Bowser, a 22-year-old Dearborn resident who is turning professional for LPGA Qualifying in a few weeks, turned back Michigan Golf Hall of Famer Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll of Haslett 4 and 3 in the championship match Friday afternoon at Spring Lake Country Club.
“It means a lot,” she said of winning the championship presented by Carl’s Golfland. “It is the top women’s amateur tournament in Michigan and to win it feels like I reached the ultimate goal for a Michigan amateur golfer.”
Bowser, who recently graduated from Loyola University in Chicago, was a runner-up last year to Kerri Parks of Flushing in a tense 19-holes final, and she admitted it played a role in her approach to the tournament this year.
“It was a part of it, a lot of it actually, and knowing this was going to be my last amateur tournament, I wanted to finish strong,” she said.
Slobodnik-Stoll, the winningest golfer in Golf Association of Michigan history with 18 titles, including two amateurs in 1996 and ’98, said Bowser played great.
“She is obviously very steady, and she got up and down when she needed to,” said the 47-year-old golfer who is also the successful Michigan State University women’s golf head coach. “She didn’t really make any mistakes. She is hard to beat. She is a super nice young woman and I wish her the best of luck in Q-School. It will be nice to follow another Michigan golfer playing in Q-School.”
Bowser took the first lead of the final match on No. 4 and went 2-up on No. 5 when Slobodnik-Stoll flew the green with a sand-shot. The coach won No. 8 with a par to pull closer, but Bowser rolled in a 12-foot putt for birdie on No. 9 to go back to 2-up.
Par-saving putts on Nos. 10 and 11 were critical for Bowser.
“Those were the key putts where I kept the lead and the momentum,” she said.
Slobodnik-Stoll said she wanted her birdie-putt effort back on No. 11.
“If I make birdie there and win the hole maybe things change or it swings momentum,” she said. “But the greens were fast. I felt like I had to be careful and I didn’t make it, and she made all the putts she had to make.”
Bowser won holes 12 and 13 with pars as Slobodnik-Stoll made bogeys to go 4-up and then closed out the match at No. 15 with a par.
“I didn’t have my best golf of the week – I think I shot around even (par) in the afternoon – but I made some key putts when I needed to and was able to grind it out,” Bowser said.
“You know (Slobodnik-Stoll) is a Michigan golf legend and you know she is going to bring it each time she plays. She is just a solid player. I stuck to my game plan though and was able to come out on top. It feels good especially after last year finishing second in 19 holes. It is the icing on top. It is going to help me move forward in my career and give me some confidence.”
Bowser earned her spot in the finals with a 4 and 3 win over Abbey Pierce of Bloomfield Hills and Grand Valley State University in the morning semifinals. Slobodnik-Stoll beat Heather Forthusniak of Brighton and Kansas State University 6 and 4 in the other semifinal.
Bowser said a persistent butterfly that swirled around her and her caddie/father Brett as she lined up to putt on No. 14 in the title match made her think of her late mother Karen, who passed away when she was 14-years-old in the summer of 2011 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).
“Did you see that butterfly? I was like, wait, I have a putt to win the match and this butterfly won’t go away,” she said. “I started thinking it’s a sign. I mean I knew she was definitely there watching every hole this week. It felt good, knowing she is there.”
Her 57-year-old father, who continues to compete in GAM tournaments and often watches when his golfing children caddie for each other in tournaments, said Elayna wasn’t the child he expected would win the Michigan Amateur.
“As a kid she didn’t want to golf,” he said. “But it became a little family rivalry. She wanted to do a little better than her brother. This means a lot. It’s wonderful. She played hard and played great. We’re all proud of her.”
-Greg Johnson, [email protected], 616-560-8995