Mary Ann Hayward of the St. Thomas Golf & Country Club has once again worked her way through the field to win the Empire Life Eastern Provinces Championship at Cataraqui Golf & Country Club in Kingston, Ontario. She topped off the tournament with a 4&3 victory over Gail Pimm of the Whitevale Golf Club on Monday, June 11.
It’s hardly unfamiliar territory for the 58-year-old Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member. She first earned the match play title in 1983 and went on to have her name etched on the trophy in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2002, and 2016, respectively. To say she is well-acquainted with the historic Stanley Thompson layout would be an understatement. In fact, when asked, she could not even estimate how many times she has played the century old layout, a course where she also won a Ontario Women’s Amateur Championship in 1996.
Hayward, the #3 seed after the Saturday Field Day, advanced to the championship final after matches won over Connie McRae, Ivy Steinburg, and a dramatic 20-hole affair with host club member Abbie Anghelescu.
Pimm, who won the Field Day, continued her fine play in the match pay portion of the event, getting past Stephanie Elsey, past champion Patti Hogeboom, and Jessie Mercer to reach the closing match.
It was set to be classic final with both players on form, although they each showed the occasional fault as they faced off, enough to bring another layer of interest in the match.
That started with Pimm who gave up two holes early in the match, setting up a deficit she could never overcome. By the turn she found herself three holes down to Hayward whose length off the tee and impeccable short game were on point all day.
Short Game Saves
The eventual champion, showing some weariness from the multiple rounds in short time, did push both her approaches to the right on the opening holes of the second nine, but she mitigated any damage with sparkling recoveries. That included a winning long par putt on the 10th hole, and a spot-on sand shot to set up a half on #11.
“The bunker on 11 was huge; that’s not an easy bunker shot,” shared Hayward after the match.
At that time Hayward was four up but she was not taking that lead for granted. That is because she is very familiar with her opponent, a talented player who counts the 2015 Ontario Senior Women’s Amateur on her resume, as well as the Ontario Senior Champion of Champions she won earlier this Spring.
“I know Gail, she’s a consistent player and when she gets the putter going she can throw up some birds.”
Hayward said her plan was to just make as many pars as she could, not make many mistakes, and force Pimm to make birdies to beat her. Even after she gave back a hole on the 13th, she knew she had a good lead and had to stick with her plan. She responded to the error with a well-played 14th hole and then laced a tee shot on the difficult par 3, 15th hole, right at the flag. “That was the only time I hit it (the 15th green) all week; that was a really good shot,” she said proudly.
Good might have been modest. The approach landed and stopped about 12 feet from the hole. One may count among the more difficult three-shotters in the country. After Pimm rolled her second shot close to the hole, Hayward calmly rolled in the birdie to close out the title. A brilliant two and a fitting way to conclude another chapter in her historic Eastern Provinces story.
Obviously, taking second was not the desired outcome for Pimm. “A little disappointing for sure. I didn’t play well on the front nine but I started to play better later. You just like to play your best, regardless if you win and when you don’t play your best, it’s just disappointing,” Pimm explained. “She played well and made some birdies, and I just didn’t.”
Building Up Her Game
While pleased at the accomplishment, a victory was somewhat unexpected for her opponent, who was using this tournament to help build towards another.
“You know, it’s always nice to win but I was really using this as prep for the (U.S.) Senior Women’ Open Qualifier next week,” revealed Hayward. “This golf course will tell you where you need to work on your game and I got the answer at what I need to work on this week. I like where my game is at and it (the win) certainly builds confidence for Columbus next week.”
Hayward will attempt to qualify for the new U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Scioto Country Club in Ohio on June 18.
“It’s been on my radar to qualify since last Fall so it’s my #1 goal really for this year. I’ve been really working hard on my game in the off-season, trying to catch up to Judith,” she said with a laugh. Judith being Judith Kyrinis of Thornhill Golf Club, her good friend and the 2017 United States Senior Women’s Amateur Champion who is among the players already qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open which will be played in the Chicago area on July 12-15.
“It’s the first one ever so it would be fantastic to be there.”