Youth will be served: Marquette native Kendra (Palmer) Anderson joins teen, pair of 20-somethings in Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association championship tournament semifinals
“It was very intimidating when I started — I was playing with women I had heard about and I knew were the best in the U.P.” — Paxton Johnson, Escanaba High School junior-to-be, UPLGA championship semifinalist
MARQUETTE — Each of the two days of match play has had a theme in championship flight of the 91st edition of the Upper Peninsula Ladies Golf Association championship tournament.
On Monday, the cream rose to the top as all eight of the top seeds advanced against lower seeds. Then on Tuesday at the Marquette Golf Club’s Heritage course, youth prevailed.
Hot, steamy weather may or may not have had something to do with this, but regardless, a current college player, a recent college player and a high school player will join a relatively old — but old only in comparison to her competition — Marquette-area native in today’s semifinals.
That “old” lady is Kendra Anderson, the former Kendra Palmer, who really is only 36 years old. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and has been a member at both the Marquette Golf Club and Wawonowin Country Club in Champion before a move to the Green Bay, Wisconsin, area.
Anderson could also be referred to as defending champion at Marquette, having won the UPLGA tourney the last time its championship tourney was played there in 2003.
That’s the same year she completed her collegiate career at Loyola University of Chicago, when she was named Horizon League Player of the Year.
In this morning’s semifinals, Anderson will face the next oldest golfer left, Zoe Woodworth, 23, of Calumet and the Portage Lake Golf Course in Houghton. She finished her golf career at Colorado Mesa University a year ago.
Both had relatively quick days Tuesday, a bonus with the heat and humidity. Nevertheless, Anderson nearly passed out on the course but got some extra fluids to help her recover.
Anderson scored a 6 and 5 victory over Becky Cecconi of Iron Mountain and Pine Grove Golf Course, while Woodworth won 8 and 7 over Anna Mendelin of the Marquette Golf Club.
“Playing in college has helped my physical game but also the mental game, too,” Woodworth said. “I’m super happy with how I hit the ball (Tuesday). I wasn’t playing very well at all on Sunday (in qualifying), then something just clicked (Monday).
“I feel like if I just focus on my game and not worry about what anybody else is doing, I can play really, really well.”
The other semifinal may draw the most interest of spectators. Defending champion Abby Dufrane of Marinette, Wisconsin, takes on Escanaba High School junior-to-be Paxton Johnson.
Dufrane, 21, plays collegiately at the University of South Dakota, while Johnson, 16, is coming off both individual and team championships at the MHSAA Upper Peninsula Division 1 Finals held at the Northern Michigan University Golf Course in the spring.
“I had only ever played two rounds here before this tournament,” Johnson said after defeating Karen Plaisier of Ishpeming 6 and 5 in her Tuesday quarterfinal.
Plaisier, a former Negaunee High School golf coach, won this tourney in 2015.
“It was very intimidating when I started — I was playing with women I had heard about and I knew were the best in the U.P.,” Johnson said.
Plaisier, though, had nothing but praise for Johnson.
“I think she played the round of her life,” Plaisier said. “I put together a whole bunch of pars, but that wasn’t good enough today.”
Plaisier was particularly impressed with Johnson’s putting, saying she found out that in three rounds, Johnson has three-putted just once.
“I just kept drinking water and tried to stay cool. I had to find shade where I could,” Johnson said. “And Karen, she outdrove me most of the time, and then there was a 50-foot putt she sank. Pretty impressive.”
Dufrane had the match of the day Tuesday, needing all 18 holes before she won 1 up, the only time she was ahead all match against JoAnn Poncino of Pine Grove.
“I played really well, in fact, this was the best I’ve played in I don’t know how many years,” Poncino said. “But Abby never gave up.”
Dufrane said her college experience helps.
“I’ve been in this kind of position before, and you just can’t let negative thoughts get into your head,” Dufrane said. “On No. 10, my ball got stuck in a tree, you could see it in there. But I wasn’t going to get it out, so I just said, ‘Take your loss and go on to the next hole.'”
Dufrane got several good breaks on the decisive 18th. Thinking she hit her tee shot out of bounds, she hit a provisional shot.
“I just hit a 3-wood to make sure I kept it in play,” Dufrane said of the backup tee shot. “Then I saw (the original tee shot) was just inside the marker.”
She hit a second shot to the middle of the fairway, knocking her third shot in the vicinity of the hole.
Poncino, meanwhile, suffered a tough break when she caught a greenside bunker.
“I crushed that drive, but it’s like the bunker just grabbed it,” Poncino said.
It took her two shots to get out, leaving her with a putt about twice as long as Dufrane’s. Missing her long putt and Dufrane lagging close ended the match with a hug between the players.
“I’d never played here before, so I came out here with my dad about three weeks ago,” Dufrane said, adding that she thought her superior length is a bit muted on what she referred to the Heritage as more of a shotmaker’s course.
“I’m hoping I can get an advantage on the par-5s,” she said.
The 18-hole semifinals were set for this morning, with another 18-hole finals match tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. depending on how long the semis last.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.