Amateur field set: Chastain top qualifier; Gallagher sits second

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Through 17 and 3/4 holes Monday, Cissye Gallagher was pacing herself through a ho-hum qualifying round in the 70th annual Mississippi Women’s State Amateur at Beau Pr Monday.

That is until she snatched her sand wedge out of her bag, and readied herself for a third at the par-5, 459-yard, 18th.

Feet steadied, Gallagher, the wife of PGA Tour pro Jim Gallagher Jr., flopped a pitch and watched the ball take three bounces and disappear into the cup for an eagle.

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&uot;I haven’t played much golf of late, and that wasn’t necessarily a high percentage shot,&uot; said Gallagher of Greenwood. &uot;But I’ve played so much in my life that I must have had a flashback.&uot;

The 1-over round of 73 was good enough for the third seed in the championship flight of match play, which begins today.

Renee Chastain, of Brookwood Country Club south of Jackson, was the top medalist and the lone golfer to shoot under par with a 1-under 71.

&uot;I’m surprised as anybody. Coming from Brookwood, I’m used to small greens and not all the undulations,&uot; Chastain said. &uot;I’m very happy with the way I played.&uot;

She goes in to today’s 8:50 a.m. tee time against Samye Johnson of Elm Lake as the No. 2 seed since the defending Amateur champion earns the No. 1 seed automatically.

Amanda Mathis, 18 of Picayune looks to defend the 2002 championship she won in Biloxi when she tees off against Mary Hays of Diamondhead at 8:10 a.m. today.

The top 16 stroke-play scores from Monday make up the championship flight. Mathis is one of three juniors in the prominent group.

Alexis Rather, 18, of Tupelo equaled Gallagher’s 73, and Meridian native Leigh Phillips, 16, shot a 75 despite a triple bogey to figure into the championship.

&uot;I had that triple on (No.) 3, but other than that I played well,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;I hit it into the woods, and then had trouble getting out and missed a short putt.&uot;

Chastain’s roller-coaster round began on the back nine where she sandwiched two pars around four birdies and three bogies for a 1-under 35.

Things settled down for her on the front when she got back opening hole bogies at Nos. 1 and 2 with birdies on Nos. 4 and 9.

&uot;I felt like I lucked out a little bit with my yardage on the holes I birdied,&uot; Chastain said. &uot;I had some reasonably flat putts and not too many big breakers.&uot;

Betsy Powell’s 86 was the top local finish on Day 1, and it guaranteed her a date against Ellen Walker of Biloxi in the first flight at 9:39 a.m. today.

Sally Durkin is the No. 2 seed in the second flight, while Pat Dickens and Peggy McCall are set to compete in the fourth and sixth flights, respectively.

&uot;Beau Pre has so much trouble around here that you’ve got to be careful,&uot; said Gallagher, who was admittedly cautious on her round. &uot;I think I started pretty careful, and I seemed to always be on the wrong side of the hole.

&uot;I think once I got around that corner (holes 11-14) I got more aggressive. I didn’t do anything too crazy, though.&uot;

This is Gallagher’s 19th Amateur, having won the event nine times and finishing second another handful, including a runner-up finish to Pam Posey in 2000 &045; the only other time the Amateur was held at Beau Pr.

Not allowing a double bogey at No. 12 affect her round, Posey shot a 76 to earn the sixth seed in the championship flight.

&uot;I had some good chances at birdies out there, but I couldn’t get anything to drop,&uot; the Meridian native said. &uot;Today you just didn’t want to put yourself out of contention. It would’ve been nice to make some bogies, but the day was OK.&uot;

Rather rebounded from a front nine 40 to finish at 73 Monday.

She tapped in a birdie at the par-4 15th after sticking her second within inches. After that a good shot at another birdie fell by the wayside at No. 16 and closed with a three and a four on the par-4 17th and the par-5 closing hole, respectively.

&uot;I hated that it had to end. I was playing pretty good,&uot; Rather said.