Natchez, Beau Pré hosting women’s state amateur tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Sally Durkin needs a running start to clear the standard she has set for herself in the Mississippi Women’s State Amateur golf tournament.

Durkin, a two-time participant in the event previously, will have home-course advantage beginning with Monday’s qualifying round, with the tournament being held at Beau Pre Country Club for the second time in four years.

&uot;Beau Pre has a lot of intimidating features across the golf course,&uot; said Durkin, who competed in her first Amateur in 2000 when the tournament was also held at Beau Pre. &uot;Of course, anywhere you play you want to hit fairways and greens, but it’s key at Beau Pre.

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&uot;The fairways are narrow enough that you can get into trouble very quickly off the tee.&uot;

Durkin leads the list of five locals, who will attempt to go head-to-head with more than 70 of Mississippi’s best women amateurs.

Returning champ Amanda Mathis of Picayune, who Wednesday won the Mississippi Women Golf Association Girls’ State Junior Championship at Briarwood Country Club in Meridian, leads an accomplished field, half of which maintain a handicap less than 14.

Mathis, 18, who captured the Amateur last year in Biloxi, knows her way so well around a golf course that she’s earned a full scholarship to Mississippi State.

&uot;This is the strongest field for the Amateur I’ve seen in recent years,&uot; said MWGA president Jeanne Taylor. It’s going to really be interesting to see how the championship flight happens to come about.&uot;

Monday brings the only stroke-play scenario of the four days. Every entrant heads out to play a reduced 5,200-yard course in order to flight the competitors.

The top 16 scores will land in the championship flight, and subsequent scores fall into following flights.

Then, the tees are moved back to add 500 yards as match play begins Tuesday and concludes Thursday with a winner.

Despite the event being termed double-elimination the eventual victor can only come from the winner’s bracket. However, prizes will be awarded to other flight and consolation round winners.

&uot;When I got the list of everybody playing, and saw what the handicap index was I couldn’t believe it,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;I wish everyone can come out and watch because there are going to be some great golfers&uot; competing in Natchez.

Pat Dickens, Peggy McCall, Rhonda Kaiser and 18-year-old Betsy Powell, the daughter of Beau Pre pro Mark Powell, join Durkin as other Natchez natives vying for the title of Mississippi’s top woman amateur.

In her first Amateur several years ago in Natchez, Durkin pleased herself by finishing good enough to compete in the first flight.

Before she played the Amateur at the Jerry Pate-designed Canebrake Golf Course in Hattiesburg the following year, Durkin’s expectations morphed a tad to wanting to compete in the championship flight.

With a qualifying round of 75 she met that goal, won her first round match convincingly 6 and 5, and lost to then-defending champion Pam Posey 2 and 1 on the second day of match play.

&uot;It was exciting because the lady I beat in the first round was a veteran, who had been playing in the Amateur 12 years,&uot; Durkin said. &uot;And then to go 17 holes before being defeated by the defending champ was great.&uot;

Durkin did not play in last year due to a conflict. She’ll step onto the first tee on her own turf with guarded optimism.

With tight angles onto fairways, and iron shots into deviously inviting greens, Durkin is well aware that the golf gods can take just as quickly as they’ll give.

&uot;As tough of a course that Canebrake is, Beau Pre is more difficult,&uot; she said. Beau Pre &uot;plays much longer for women. I can hit the ball a long way. But a long way and the wrong way is a bad thing.&uot;