October 1, 2020 - Alicia Kapheim’s masterful putting led to three straight birdies on the back nine, propelling her to the 51st NJSGA Women’s Senior Amateur Championship by three strokes on Thursday at the par-72, 5,341-yard Copper Hill Country Club in Ringoes.
First-time champion Kapheim and Fran Gacos of Copper Hill, a five-time champion, were paired in the same group and waged a back-and-fourth battle on the back nine before Kapheim surged to victory with a four-over-par 76, three shots better than Gacos’ 79.
Gacos, 65, who won in 2014, 2013, 2007, 2006 and 2005, garnered Super-Senior honors over Kathy McGrorry of Jumping Brook, who shot 94.
In the net division, Anna Turner of the Women’s Golf Association of New Jersey was first with a net 71, followed by Kathy Bartsche of Westlake with a net 73, and Miya Bodycomb of Colts Neck with a net 74.
“I didn’t pay attention to the score, so I had no idea I was in front after the first nine holes,” said Kaphein, who shot one-over-par 37 on the front compared to Gacos’ 40. “After doing so well, I got to thinking about it and got a little tight. I had to turn it around and stick to the process,” said Kapheim, who has appeared in 20 USGA events, including 12 U.S. Mid-Amateurs.
Kapheim, 58, opened her back nine with three consecutive bogeys and a double bogey on the par-5, 13th hole, when she chunked an approach shot. That put her at six-over-par 58, while Gacos, who played even par on those four holes, stood at 56. But Kapheim birdied the par-3, 14th hole, sticking her tee shot to five feet to draw within a shot of Gacos, who parred.
At the par-5, 15th hole, Kapheim added a second straight birdie, sinking a 12-foot putt. Gacos parred the hole, as the two now stood even at four-over-par 64. The championship swung in Kapheim’s direction when she drained a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4, 16th hole against a bogey for Gacos. Kapheim added another stroke to her lead when she saved par on the par-4, 17th hole with an 18-foot putt against a bogey for Gacos.
“My putting was huge and it helped me a lot,” said Kapheim, a native of Waukegen, Ill., who has lived in New Jersey since 1986. “I have been putting well for the past two weeks. I was studying the lines from three angles, and hoping I was reading them right, and today, they dropped into the hole.”
“She was making putts from everywhere,” said Gacos, who was only played for the fourth time this summer as she has battled a torn meniscus in her right knee. “I was happy I played pretty well. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to break 80 and felt I played better on the back nine.”
Kapheim was runner-up in the Women’s Senior Amateur to Maura Ballard of Raritan Valley in 2015. She has twice reached the semifinals of the NJSGA Amateur Championship.
“I’ve been playing golf since high school and never really won a championship,” said Kapheim, who was a walk-on for the University of Illinois women’s team. “Playing in the USGA events is special, but I’ve always wanted to have my name on a state championship trophy. It feels pretty good.”