WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The third time in a Connecticut Women’s Golf Championship final proved quite the charm for Mim Schreck.
In 2014, Schreck lost in the Founders Cup final to Hannah Steel. A year ago, Scheck lost in the championship flight final to Autumn Serruta.
It appeared Schreck would make it an unwanted trifecta Friday at Hartford Golf Club, but two-time champion Lynda Foster missed a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have given her a third 1-up victory for the week.
Foster pulled the potential winning putt left, and Schreck ended years of frustration when she made a routine par on the first playoff hole, the par-4 first, to beat her longtime friend.
As Schreck walked off the final green, she had a wide smile and emphatically proclaimed, “This is exhausting. I’ve never played this much golf in such a short time in my life.”
Schreck, 69, from Oronoque Village Country Club in Stratford, alluded to playing in a special event in Farmington on Monday and then qualifying for the CWGA Championship on Tuesday. After two matches on Wednesday, she and Foster were part of the state team that competed in the Connecticut-Rhode Island matches at Wannamoisett CC in Rumford, R.I., on Thursday before returning for the semifinals and final on Friday at Hartford GC, which is more than an hour from her home in Stratford.
And neither Schreck nor Foster led by more than 2-up, and that was only after Foster won the second and third holes when Schreck three-putted the first two holes on the way to a double bogey-bogey-double bogey start. Schreck won Nos. 4 and 5 with bogeys, and neither finalist had more than a 1-up lead through the playoff hole.
“I can’t even believe I won,” Schreck said, shaking her head. “I’m thrilled beyond belief because I beat some really good players. It’s truly amazing, but it was a grind. I thought I was extremely strong this morning (in shooting 4-over for 16 holes in beating Mercedes Large), and I was just good enough in the afternoon.
“Lynda and I weren’t always at our best, but we both came up big when we had to, which is why the match went to the 19th hole. I’m over the moon thrilled.”
Schreck, seeded No. 11, reached the final with a 3-and-1 victory over Large (Wampanoag CC-West Hartford), who for the second consecutive year rode in a cart and served as her caddie in the final. Schreck, a part-owner in “a shoe and other things” store in Ocean City, N.J., gave Large credit for being a major help on the playoff hole.
“She said, ‘Do you remember I had this same (30-foot) putt on the first hole in the morning, and it isn’t as fast as you’d think,’ ” Schreck said.
Schreck did remember, and she left the lengthy putt 2 feet from the cup. But she never had to putt again, as Foster three-putted for a double-bogey 6.
But it was what transpired one hole earlier that stuck in Foster’s craw.
Foster took a 1-up lead on the 15th hole with a deft chip from the rough behind the green that stopped 5 feet from the cup. After Schreck three-putted from 60 feet, missing an 8-foot comebacker, Foster made her putt for a winning bogey.
Foster narrowly missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that would have won the match and then hit her drive into a divot at No. 18. But she struck a brilliant 5-wood shot that found the right side of the green 60 feet from the cup. The long-hitting Schreck overdrove Foster by 30 yards and put her approach 30 feet from the hole. After rolling her first putt through a valley to within 3 feet, Foster had another shot at victory but never touched the hole with her second stroke.
“You think I’m going to think about that putt for a while?” Foster said rhetorically. “I gave away the (CWGA’s) 100th anniversary championship. And I knew her length gave her an advantage on the first (playoff) hole. … I wish I had been a little more steady. I hit a lot of good shots, but I hit a lot of bad shots, too. It’s just disappointing because I had it and missed that tiny putt.”
But it was a minor miracle that Foster was even in the tournament much less advancing to the final with a 4-and-3 victory over Liz Distenfano of Ellington Ridge CC in the semifinals. On Oct. 9, Foster had a two-level spine decompract and fusion on her back that sidelined her for months. Then she shot a 20-over 91 in qualifying and barely reached match play as the 16th and final seed before rallying from 2-down with three holes to play to beat medalist Jill Tryon 1-up in the first round and then defeated former champion Donna Harris on the 20th hole in the second round.
Those wins were largely due to a tip from her husband, Craig, a retired orthopedic surgeon, on the practice range on Wednesday morning. Suddenly, Foster knew she might have a shot at a third CWGA title to go with six that she won at Plainfield (N.J.) CC where she learned to play the game, six at Silver Spring CC in Ridgefield and 16 at her current course, Madison CC, where she and Craig live next to the 13th green.
“I took two swings, and Craig noticed I wasn’t extending enough,” said Foster, 66, who has competed in four U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championships. “When I started extending, everything changed.”
But it wasn’t quite enough for Foster to garner another memorable CWGA crown. When she won her first title in 2005, she didn’t realize she had cancer and had surgery three months later on Sept. 25. She notched her second victory in 2010 and was runner-up to Madison clubmate MacKenzie Hawkes in 2015.
“Losing is disappointing, but I’m delighted to get to the final after I played so poorly in qualifying,” Foster said.
Diane Rothwell (Ellington Ridge CC) won the Founders Cup title after nearly not playing at all. She was talked into competing by CWGA majors tournament chairman Lynn Lefler a week before the tournament.
“Lynn called and asked if I wanted to play since they were a player short and would have to give someone a first-round bye if I didn’t play,” Rothwell said.
Rothwell parlayed the special invite into a 20th tournament start and rolled to 8-and-6, 6-and-5 and 5-and-3 victories, the latter over Beth Grieco of the host club in the final. In the semifinals, Rothwell beat Anita Schultz (Shuttle Meadow CC-Kensington), and Grieco beat Amie Mitchell (Ellington Ridge CC), 5 and 4.
“I’m really happy,” Rothwell said with a smile. “I’d never made a final because I usually got knocked out in the early rounds.”
The CWGA will have a special 100th Year Anniversary Celebration Tournament at New Haven on June 25.