Just minutes after she had gained revenge and edged out defending Spring Lake Invitational Tournament champion Collette Hansen in the semifinals of the championship flight, Ada's Joan Garety was on the putting green, practicing for one more match, one more competitor.
"You know, the hardest thing to do here is to keep being patient," said Garety, who lost to Hansen in last year’s SLIT final. "If you hit a bad shot, as best as you can, let it go, and then go find it and try to do what you can for the next one."
Having a short memory and making the most of your opportunities is sound advice from a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame who has won the Spring Lake Invitational Tournament four times and is in position to add a fifth title to her resume today.
It's fair to say that Garety has more appearances at the longstanding women's match play tournament in Spring Lake than the age of her competitor in today’s championship match — recent Mona Shores graduate Britni Gielow.
Despite her inexperience, Gielow displayed the resiliency needed in her semifinal match on Wednesday.
Tied after 18 holes with Fenton resident Donna Benford, Gielow's second shot on the first extra hole struck one of Spring Lake Country Club's notorious large oak trees and fell about 10 yards ahead into thick rough off the side of the fairway.
"My heart sank a little bit, just because it was a good shot. It was just a little too high," said Gielow, who will play college golf at Grand Valley State next year. "If that tree wasn't there, it would have been perfect.
"After that, I knew I had to just get to the green. I told myself that."
Gielow found second life after Benford lipped out a potential match-winning putt from 5 yards away, and Gielow calmly sank a short putt that halved the hole.
Benford then experienced a nightmare on No. 2, as her drive hooked left, her second shot found the bunker, and her shot out of the sand sailed over the green into thigh-high grass. Knowing that she couldn't match Gielow, Benford conceded the hole, giving Gielow the victory and a date in the finals.
Gielow stated on Monday after the qualifying round that it was her goal to be in the final pairing.
"I'm happy I did what I came here to do," she said.
Resiliency was key to Gielow's performance throughout Wednesday’s round, as neither she nor Benford held more than a 1-hole lead. Gielow was close to clinching the victory on 18, as she was 1-up, but Benford turned in a stellar second shot, setting her up with a 3-foot birdie putt that she easily drained.
Benford, who was named the Women's Senior Player of the Year in Michigan last year, said she couldn't complain about her round, but just failed to execute in the biggest moments.
"I know I didn't want to leave it short (out of the bunker)," she said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."
In the other semifinal, Garety had a tremendous start against Hansen, a recent graduate and member of the golf team at the University of Detroit-Mercy. Garety was 4-up through five holes, but Hansen, the former Grand Haven all-stater, caught fire, as she turned in two birdies and two pars on holes 6-9 to draw even at the break.
Hansen came back with a huge birdie putt on the par-3 No. 16 that closed her gap to two, but she came up short on a putt on 17 that could have extended the match. Instead, the players halved the hole, giving Garety the win, 2 and 1.
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