Three new champions earn top marks at The Ooltewah Club
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — The last week of September featured near-perfect weather at The Ooltewah Club and a trio of championships. Three new winners of the Tennessee Women’s Mid-Amateur, Senior and Super Senior Championships were crowned at the conclusion of the event.
The final round was full of drama, especially in the Senior field where a playoff was required to determine a winner. Following the first round, 2018 Tennessee Senior Women’s Amateur Champion Susan Miller held a two-stroke lead. In close pursuit was defending champion Rhonda Switzer-Nadasi of Nashville.
Through the majority of the final round, Miller looked like she would be claiming her second title. The Loudon resident held a five-shot lead with six holes left. Miller stumbled down the stretch, finishing the last three holes 7-over-par. Switzer-Nadasdi slid into the top spot after Miller’s finish and was gearing up for a playoff with Leslie Letner, who had the best final-round score.
But Letner had no idea what had transpired in the groups behind her. The Crossville resident had her clubs in the trunk of her car when she was told she was in a playoff for the title. Her par on 18 not long before had secured her spot in the playoff. After retrieving her clubs from her car, Letner went back to 18 with a chance to unseat the defending champion.
“My knees are shaking from nerves because it’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Letner told The Chattanoogan. “I’ve won some local events at home, but nothing like this. I don’t look at the leaderboard and didn’t know I was in the playoff until I was putting my clubs in the car and was told to get them back out.”
Both Letner and Switzer-Nadasdi put their drives in the middle of the fairway. Switzer-Nadasdi’s approach shot came up just a few yards short of the green while Letner gave herself a birdie chance. After just missing the birdie putt, Letner tapped in for par waiting to see if more playoff holes would be needed. Switzer-Nadasdi’s chip ran by the hole leaving about a five-footer to extend the playoff. The putt didn’t fall and Letner earned her first TGA victory.
The drama was not limited to the Senior field. In the Mid-Amateur, the story of the week surrounded Katie Woodruff and her hectic week leading up to her victory at the 7th Tennessee Women’s Mid-Amateur. Woodruff and her husband recently moved to the Chattanooga area from California after Blaine accepted the head coach role at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, but the two still have ties to the West Coast.
Because of those ties, Woodruff has been assisting the University of California-Berkely women’s golf team this season. The day before the first round of the Women’s Mid-Amateur, Woodruff helped guide the Golden Bears team to a record-breaking win, tying or besting three nationally-ranked programs. After the win, Woodruff boarded a red-eye flight back to Tennessee where she had to rush a little bit to make her first-round tee time.
Even with the jet lag, Woodruff was only two shots back of Clarksville native and 2022 Tennessee Women’s Player of the Year Caroline Caudill. Woodruff credits her husband for helping her battle through some of the toughest moments of the opening round.
“We made a strategy at the beginning of the day and stuck to it no matter the situation,” said Woodruff to The Chattanoogan. “Blaine did a good job of slowing me down and keeping me focused. I was battling nerves, anxiety and fatigue out there and I couldn’t have won without him. It’s a good day for us to spend five hours together on the golf course doing what we love.”
Woodruff and Caudill started on hole 15 for the final-round shotgun start along with Maddi Everts and Mattie Strozak.
After a birdie on 17, Woodruff was in a tie for first with Caudill. But the Clarksville native rattled off three birdies in a row to retake her lead by one headed to hole 4. That hole proved tricky for Caudill who ended with a double bogey as Woodruff took sole possession of the lead; one should we not relinquish the remainder of the round.
Nolensville’s Everts, however, didn’t let Woodruff get comfortable. Three birdies in the final 14 holes put her within two shots of Woodruff and gave her the only under-par round of the tournament.
In the Super Senior division, Franklin’s Gena Ridings came away with the win thanks to her steady play. A first-round 82 put her one shot back and was followed up by a final-round 83, ultimately earning the first TGA title of her career.
“I’ve never won before today, so this is special,” Ridings told The Chattanoogan. “I’ve never known how to finish until today, and I’m proud of finally getting it done.”
She had some tough competition from Chattanooga’s own Patty Donahoo, who was the first-round leader after firing a 9-over-par 81 to start the tournament, and Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Maggie Scott were in close pursuit. Ridings ended up besting Donahoo and Scott by two and three shots, respectively.
For full tournament results, click here.