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WOMEN'S AM: G-Wiz – Games, Gumm hope to hoist title for locals (06/26)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

 

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By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN After winning the championship flight consolation bracket in 2006 and advancing to the final four in 2005 at the Women’s Kentucky State Amateur Championship, Beverly Games didn’t play in the 81st annual event last year at Miller Memorial Golf Club in Murray. Games, a 34-year-old from Elizabethtown, had a good reason: She had just gone back to work after her first daughter, Madalyn, was born three months earlier. While Games sat out, another mother, Jessica Grace of Henderson, returned to the course after her second son, Keegan, was born five months before. “When Jessica won it last year, her child hadn’t been born too much before mine. It was impressive,” Games said Wednesday at Elizabethtown Country Club after rolling to her second win in as many days. At 8:28 this morning, the two mothers will face off in the first of four quarterfinals in the championship flight. In the second quarterfinal, slated to tee off just seven minutes later, Lydia Gumm of Vine Grove, the youngest of the eight hopeful champions remaining, takes on five-time champion Joan Rizer of Bardstown, the eldest of the remaining players and the only one with multiple titles. “I love Joan. She’s awesome. She’s a good player and she’s going to be tough,” said Gumm, who advanced to the quarters with a 3 and 2 victory Wednesday against 13th-seeded Krissy Martin. Like Games and Grace, Gumm and Rizer also have a connection: Both players have won ECC’s annual Lady Bug ladies’ invitational. Dennis Daniels, ECC’s course professional and general manager, called Games “one of the best golf moms you’ll ever meet.” Games had played less than six full rounds heading into Monday’s 18-hole qualifier, but that didn’t keep her from shooting a 75 on Monday and rolling by former Central Hardin standout Tonya Puckett in her round of 32 match Tuesday, 6 and 4. On Wednesday, eighth-seeded Games continued her torrid play with a 6 and 5 win over 24th-seeded Lyndsey Bevill. “She’s so consistent,” said Games’ 32-year-old caddie husband Andy, who starred at Elizabethtown High School and Eastern Kentucky University. “I wish I could be half as consistent off the tee as she is.” Grace has been just that, consistent, in her title defense. She opened with a convincing 7 and 6 victory over 32nd-seeded April Butler. On Wednesday, Grace knocked off 16th-seeded Jessica Smith – the only player in the 96-competitor field with a handicap better than par – for her seventh consecutive State Am win dating back to last year. “I think it’s going to be a good match,” said Games, who has two children like Grace does. “She hits a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. She makes you have to play well to beat her.” As a mother, Grace admitted it would have been near impossible to play well, or at all, last year had the tournament not been held on her home course. When the tournament was at Murray, she was able to go home to her sons. This year, Games has that advantage. “It worked out perfectly for me last year. … Had it not been at Murray and had we not had the accommodations we had (by staying at her husband, Nathan, parents’ house), I don’t see how it would have worked,” Grace said. “Staying in a hotel with them would have been hard this year. They’re not old enough yet to understand that they can’t talk to mommy all the time on the course all the time. I can hear Keegan now screaming down the fairway for mommy to pay attention to him. “It’s nice to have a little break, Grace added. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” While Grace’s husband is keeping the kiddoes, her father is following in Nathan’s footsteps as her caddie. “I’d say Nathan has the tougher job this week taking care of the kids. Not that they aren’t fun to be around, but I’m having fun on the golf course,” she said. “And I’m spending time with my dad, which is very rare that I get time like that. I owe everything I’ve accomplished in golf to him.” Rizer, the golf coach at nearby St. Catharine College and a former professional tour player, has been impressed with what Gumm has been able to accomplish entering her eighth-grade year at James T. Alton Middle School. “She’s been playing at a very young age. She’s played not just locally, but statewide. She wants to play the game well,” Rizer said. Gumm knows she’s going to have to play the game well if she’s going to knock off Rizer, who beat State Am veteran Marsha Bordas on Tuesday in 19 holes before rolling by Murray State junior Megan McKinney on Wednesday, 6 and 5. “Even though I’m playing someone like her, I have to play my best,” Gumm said. “And I still want to win, but I have to play my best in order to do that.” The winners of the two matches will meet in the 1:20 p.m. semifinal today. But in order to get there, Grace must get past arguably the tournament’s hottest golfer right now in Games, who other than Kentucky freshman Ashlee Rose, is the only quarterfinalist not to have either match last more than 14 holes. “I remember when I was a freshman and she was senior at Eastern and she was winning everything. It was kind of intimidating at the time for me,” Grace said. “We both had good college careers and now were both moms and we’re still competing and doing well.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758