Britni Gielow didn’t need to make her long birdie putt on No. 16. She only needed to putt it close.
But instead of laying up, the 18-year-old Gielow slammed the put into the cup, and in the process slammed the door on Joan Garety’s quest for a fifth Spring Lake Invitational Tournament championship.
Instead, it was Gielow, the recent Mona Shores High School graduate, who pulled away for a 4 and 2 win over Garety, a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
After trailing by two strokes early, Gielow took control by winning six of the last nine holes, including No. 16.
“My putts started to fall, and I was playing a little smarter,” Gielow said of her turnaround. “Then on the back nine, that’s the best I’ve played this week, so that was nice.”
The Grand Valley State University-bound Gielow showed off a well-rounded game on Thursday with beautiful tee shots, precision iron play and a putter that did just enough to keep her around early and to pull away late.
“Early on, I was hitting it OK, but not my best,” she said. “I just had to relax and tell myself I was going to be OK.”
Both Gielow and Garety putt their tee shots onto the green on the par 3 No. 16. Gielow was already leading by three holes, and only needed a par to halve the hole and wrap up the championship. But her putt had plenty of pace and may have gone well past the cup, had it not been dead on line.
“I just needed it to stop,” she said with a laugh. “It was going a little fast. I’m very glad it went in.”
Garety, a four-time winner of the Spring Lake Invitational Tournament, grabbed an early lead with a birdie on No. 1. She stretched that lead to 2-up when Gielow bogeyed No. 4.
Garety gave a stroke back when she 3-putted after a great tee shot on the par 3 seventh hole.
Then her typically-reliable driver began to waver, and she hooked her tee shot into the rough on No.’s 8, 9 and 10. She bogeyed No. 9, allowing Gielow to tie the match, then bogeyed No. 10 as Gielow went 1-up.
Garety eventually smoothed things out off the tee, but wasn’t able to get enough putts to drop down the stretch.
“I had putts that could have gone, that didn’t go,” Garety said after the match. “I really had 3-4 that were edges or they rimmed, they could have dropped and didn’t. If I’d had a little more good fortune on the greens, it might have been another story.
“But Britni played wonderfully. She played great.”
Gielow went 3-up when Garety couldn’t convert a par putt on No. 13, then took a 3-up lead with a par on 15.
On 16, both players were on the green, but Garety never got a chance to putt thanks to Gielow’s long putt to close out the match.
“It was a great week,” said SLCC head golf pro Josh Lathwell. “We had a great championship flight, with a couple youngsters and some veterans. The final match was good. They both played pretty well.”
Lathwell said this year’s Spring Lake Invitational Tournament — the 92nd — had a great mix of players.
“We had seven new players this year, and we have gals who have been coming for 30-40 years,” he said.
As one of those newcomers, Gielow fell in love with the friendly and the welcoming environment around the event.
“This tournament was great. I’m definitely coming back next year,” she said. “This was so much fun. Girls my age are usually very intense, but here, you talk to each other. It’s easier to relax and a bit more friendly.”
Several Spring Lake Country Club members enjoyed positive results on Thursday. Kathy Eisenga won the Championship Flight consolation bracket, while Michele Yasenak won the consolation bracket in the First Flight.
Emily Rosencrants also had a great showing at the event.