SPRING LAKE – Spring Lake natives Anna Kramer and Kayla Krueger each found themselves in battles during Thursday’s round of 16 matchups at the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship. Kramer faced off against Heather Fortushniak from Brighton. Meanwhile, Krueger was tasked with taking on Haslett native Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who also happens to be the head women's golf coach at Michigan State University.
Kramer was in the driver's seat heading into the final two holes of her match, carrying with her a one-hole advantage. She hit herself into a tricky situation on 17, driving her ball into the shadow of the trees. Fortushniak was able to take advantage of Kramer’s misstep and took the hole, bringing the match to a tie heading into the final hole.
On 18, Kramer was just off of the backside of the green in two shots. Fortushniak made par, so it was up to Kramer to match that with a short and makeable putt. She drained the putt and sent the match to a playoff. In the playoff, the golfers started back at the first hole and continued to play the course until one of them won a hole.
Putting was a key factor in the playoff, and right away, both golfers narrowly missed putts that would have sent them to the clubhouse a quarterfinalist. This was the case for the second and third playoff holes as well. Both golfers took advantage of their short game to try to end the match and the other would follow up with a shot that would save them. This back and forth went on until the fourth playoff hole.
Kramer blasted a drive straight down the center of the fairway and sat within 120 yards of the flag. Fortushniak hit her drive right off of the tee and had to navigate a cluster of large trees in order to find the green. After a solid recovery, she managed to put herself just off of the back of the green. Kramer wasn’t so fortunate on her second shot, catching too much of the grass on her swing and left her ball short of the green. That opened the door for Fortushniak and both golfers would score a par on the hole, continuing their marathon match.
The fifth saw both players staring down 20-plus foot putts for birdie. Kramer's longer putt looked difficult, but the University of Indianapolis junior lined it up and sank a putt that looked tough to match. However, Fortushniak would not go down easily and managed to match Kramer’s birdie with an equally impressive putt. That putt would send them to what would turn out to be the final hole of the match.
The sixth happens to be the first par-5 on the course and after two shots it once again seemed as though Kramer was the one in the driver's seat. She sat in the middle of the fairway inside of 100 yards after her third shot, but a big problem stood ahead of her. No. 6 has a large tree that guards the green, so Kramer could not get the height on her shot that she would have liked to.
She played it safe and played a low shot closer to the green, but her follow-up chip would be the shot that ended her championship aspirations. Kramer attempted to chip the ball onto the green and instead caught too much grass sending the ball off to the right and short of the green. Fortushniak took advantage of that mistake and took the match after 24 contentious holes.
Despite the tough loss, Kramer was still able to take away some positives from the drawn-out battle.
“I think I proved to myself that I’m good enough to hang in there now. I won on 16 and kind of blew up on 17 and then made a really good par on 18 which got me going into the playoff.” Kramer said.
Krueger’s battle was not as long as Kramer’s had been, but she was in a tough back-and-forth with a great golfer. Slobodnik-Stoll is a Michigan Golf Hall of Famer. Krueger also had a lead heading into the 17th hole. Kruger described what happened from there.
“I lost 17 so we went to hole 18 even and we pushed that hole with bogeys, so not great. We both made pars on one and pushed that hole. On our twentieth hole, we both hit shots that were long and right of the green. She putted hers first and just made a great birdie. I had to chip mine so with the chip in it was kind of tough, and that was that.” Krueger said.
Playing in playoffs on back-to-back days can be stressful and being in such high-pressure situations can cause mistakes that wouldn’t generally happen with lower stakes. Krueger talked about how she dealt with the pressure of the playoffs.
“I just focus on my breathing and try to keep my heart rate down. Otherwise, I get too tense. I’ve found that if I’m too tense and my grip is too strong or my arms are too board like, then I try to force the ball to places. So, breathing and just trying to relax and trying to take it one shot at a time.” Krueger said.
Kramer used a different method to keep herself relaxed and focused during the long match.
“I just try to stay positive and I wrote little words of encouragement in my scorecard book. I looked at those on every hole and they helped me get through everything.” Kramer said.
The matchups for Friday’s semifinals are set. Bloomfield Hills native Abbey Pierce will take on Dearborn's Elayna Bowser and Fortushniak battles Slobodnik-Stoll. The winners of those matches will play in the final Friday afternoon.