Written by: Greg Johnson
GLADWIN – Lori Schlicher of Lewiston has let victory slip through her fingers before, but this time she got a good grip on it and won the 19th Michigan Women’s Senior Amateur Championship presented by Stifel Investments Services Tuesday at Sugar Springs Golf Club.
Schlicher, who will be 62 on Wednesday, rallied from a 2-down deficit and beat defending champion and three-time winner Julie Massa of Pentwater 1-up in the final match to win a Golf Association of Michigan state tournament for the first time.
“I feel like the whole difference in my game is that I can make putts now and before I struggled with my putter, well, for my whole life,” she said after accepting the Jean Murray Trophy.
“Happy birthday to me. It’s nice to win. I always thought I could do it. I don’t think Julie had her best, but it can’t happen every week and she has her name on that trophy a few times.”
Massa won the first two holes of the match and maintained at least a 1-up lead through 15 holes.
It was at 15, however, where Schlicher’s rally started. She hit her tee shot on the par 3 to two-feet for a winning birdie, then on the par 5 16th she hit her third-shot wedge to three-feet for a winning birdie to finally tie the match.
She took a 1-up lead at 17 with a par when Massa made a three-putt bogey, and then matched Massa’s par on 18 for the win.
“I thought I was going to make that first putt at 17, but then it just kept going past about six feet, and then I missed coming back,” Massa said. “But Lori hit some great shots and you know I don’t feel bad losing to birdies. She played great on the last four holes and it was a great match. It was fun. I feel like Lori just got me this time with some great shots.”
Schlicher said earlier this year she went to a new putting grip. It is similar to the popular claw grip, but she said it’s an abbreviated version that she was told is called the painter’s grip.
“I started off the year with a long putter, then went cross-handed and then this,” she said. “It helps me for some reason. I’m making putts. I feel confident with it. I think I finally got putting figured out a little bit.”
Schlicher, who was stroke play medalist Monday morning and the top seed in the championship bracket with a 1-under 71, beat Donna Benford of Linden 4 and 2 in Tuesday’s morning semifinal round. Massa advanced by winning the last three holes of her semifinal match to turn back Donna Tepper of Grosse Pointe Park 2-up.
Winners were also crowned in other flights (see results at GAM.org).
Sugar Springs hosted for the second consecutive year and members held a yard party bordering the hole 16 fairway. They wore “Team Kelly” shirts for member Kelly Freeman of Chesaning, who won the championship’s consolation bracket, and they cheered each player in the tournament as they made their way down the hole.