FINAL FOUR – Heather Fortushniak, Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, Elayna Bowser and Abbey Pierce Reach Semifinals at Michigan Women’s Amateur
SPRING LAKE – Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll found out her 96-year-old grandmother Rosemary Stepanek passed away at 3 a.m. Thursday and contemplated withdrawing from the 103rd Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland.
“Then I thought, she would want me to play,” said the 47-year-old Michigan State University women’s golf coach and Michigan Golf Hall of Famer who won two matches with dramatic shots and is among the final four golfers playing at Spring Lake Country Club.
“The first few holes were pretty tough. I was fighting back tears and I was exhausted because it’s been hard to sleep knowing for the last week this was going to happen and thinking about her. But then I realized it’s a beautiful day, it’s summer, I love golf, I love match play and Olivia (her 14-year-old daughter) is going to caddy for me and I want her to learn about competition.”
Olivia learned her mother is tough to beat. The winningest golfer in GAM history, including two Michigan Women’s Amateur titles, rolled in a key 35-foot putt to turn back Spring Lake member Kayla Krueger, a Valparaiso University golfer, in 20 holes in the morning round of 16, and then pushed to the final hole in the quarterfinals, chipped in from 20-feet and just off the back of the No. 18 green for birdie to cap a 1-up win over Alissa Fish of Clarklake, who is headed to Western Michigan University to play this fall.
Slobodnik-Stoll next takes on 18-year-old Heather Fortushniak of Brighton and Kansas State University in an 8 a.m. semifinal Friday. In the other semifinal, last year’s runner-up, Elayna Bowser of Dearborn, who plans to turn professional and go to LPGA Qualifying in a few weeks, squares off at 8:15 against Abbey Pierce of Bloomfield Hills and Grand Valley State University. The championship match will follow in the afternoon.
Slobodnik-Stoll has lost count of how many times she has played in the Amateur and doesn’t remember the last final four she made. She admitted a little surprise at surviving the two matches.
“I’m not playing that well and not making enough birdies,” she said. “I made a lot of pars. I did make a couple of big shots at the right time. It was certainly fun to play and win today. Part of the reason I play is to be a role model for all these young girls and let them know you can play competitive golf for a lot longer than high school or your college careers. If you make it a priority in life, even with a family and a job, you can do it and it can be fun.”
Fortushniak, who will be a sophomore at Kansas State in the fall, made the big news of the morning round of 16 in knocking off the qualifying medalist and No. 1 seed Anna Kramer, a University of Indianapolis golfer who is a Spring Lake member. It took her a marathon 24 holes to do it, too, finally winning with a par on the sixth extra hole.
She said she started out slow against Oakland University golfer Veronica Haque of Rochester Hills in the afternoon but rallied with four birdies on the back nine to win 2 and 1.
“I started putting my approach shots closer and giving myself better chances,” she said. “I’m confident with my putting. My pace has been spot-on the whole four days, and that’s what matters most for me.”
Fortushniak is in match play for just the second time in the Amateur, and said she learned a lot from the older players at Kansas State.
“They taught me a lot about the short game shots around the greens and strategy,” she said. “I’ve made huge changes since last summer. I’m more focused on what I’m doing. I’m not just out having fun. I still do it to have fun, but I do it with focus.”
Bowser, who graduated in the spring from Loyola University of Chicago and is 22, lost in 19 holes in the championship match to Kerri Parks of Flushing a year ago. She said that experience in match play is helping this week.
“I feel really good how I’m playing,” she said after topping Olivia Reed of Carleton and Western Kentucky University 2 and 1 in the morning and beating Danielle Staskowski of Clarkston 5 and 4 in the afternoon. Staskowski is headed to Central Michigan University for her freshman year and golf.
Bowser has her eye on winning the title this year.
“It would mean a lot to win, especially after coming so close last year,” she said. “My goal this year is to win it all, especially after last year and I think to cap off my amateur career winning the Michigan Amateur would be like the ultimate.”
Pierce, who is 20 and will be a junior at Grand Valley, didn’t realize she was 4-under for the 17 holes of her 3 and 1 afternoon quarterfinal win over Julia Stevenson of Highland and Eastern Michigan University.
“It’s kind of blur, but the putter is going, the putter is hot,” she said. “I want to keep it going.”
The former GAM 15-and-under champion beat Natalie Samdal of Caledonia and Davenport University 4 and 2 in the morning round of 16 and said having her family and Grand Valley teammates around for support through the day was great.
“It really is exciting because I never made it to match play before (in the Amateur),” she said. “It means a lot to do play well. We’ve had a lot of players (from Grand Valley) do well in this championship in the past. To keep that going with my teammates supporting me would be fun.”
RESULTS: The match play bracket can be found on the front page at gam.org.
via Greg Johnson