Kentucky's Marissa Wenzler runs bracket for Women's Western Amateur title
The groundwork for Marissa Wenzler's Women's Western Amateur run were laid during a COVID summer.
Marissa Wenzler wasn’t quite sure exactly what would happen when she arrived at her family reunion carting a giant Women’s Western Amateur trophy from a victory that was only a few hours old. After a final match against Oklahoma State’s Maddison Hinson-Tolchard that went two extra holes on Saturday at Park Ridge (Illinois) Country Club, that’s where the 20-year-old Kentucky sophomore was headed.
“I think everyone is going to be pretty excited,” she said. “I have a great support system, my family, friends, teammates, coaches, everyone.”
While the family gathering took off back home, Wenzler walked the fairways alone with her boyfriend Conor Stoly, a towering 6-foot-8-inch college basketball player (Stoly is transferring from Thomas Moore, a small school in Kentucky, to Ohio State, where he’ll play a year on the club team to transition). Stoly isn’t a golfer, but he showed a knack for reading greens at Park Ridge. That, and helping Wenzler deal with the nerves.
“He knows what it’s like to be in that competitive mode, that pressure situation,” Wenzler said. “I think that helped us to work together really well.”
Scores: Women’s Western Amateur
When Stoly agreed to accompany Wenzler to the tournament, she asked him to pick up the bag. That’s a job often reserved for Wenzler’s older brother Ryan, who has played on the Mackenzie and Latinoamerica tours. The siblings joked about what would happen if Wenzler were to win with Stoly on the bag. Despite the run at Park Ridge, big bro hasn’t lost his gig for later in the summer.
So much of what Wenzler learned at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur and Ladies National Golf Association Amateur – she finished runner-up at the latter to gain entry to the former – have paved the way for the success she’s experienced since, particularly this week.
“To play on a big stage like that has really helped me with having all these people watch today or dealing with the stress of situations,” she said, “but that (LNGA) event is definitely what helped me get to where I am.”
In this week’s Women’s Western, the tests kept coming. Wenzler opened with rounds of 67-69 to win stroke-play medalist honors. The No. 1 seed on the bracket comes with a pressure all its own.
“You could be the one seed, you could be the 32 seed, it doesn’t matter in a tournament like this because all these girls here are amazing.”
The road to the W.A. Alexander Cup for @MarissaWenzler.
1st in stroke play
def. Sarah Arnold 5&4
def. Mikayla Bardwell 3&2
def. Kan Bunabodee 1 up
def. Jennifer Cleary 2&1
def. Maddison Hinson-Tolchard 20 holes pic.twitter.com/v4BLN1KjJR
— Women's Western Golf Association (@WWGAGOLF) July 24, 2021
She cruised through four matches until drawing Hinson-Tolchard, who won the Women’s Southern Amateur in match play earlier this summer, in the final. Wenzler had Hinson-Tolchard 2 down through two holes, but she looked at Stoly and told him that meant nothing.
“We’re all square,” she said. “Pretend we’re all square.”
After an eagle at the par-5 15th, Wenzler was once again 2 up entering the last three holes and feeling good. But then she mis-hit a drive that got her in trouble. A 20-footer for birdie on No. 17 helped Hinson-Tolchard keep herself in the match and when both players parred 18, they went to extra holes. Wenzler won with a 4-foot putt for par on No. 2 when Hinson-Tolchard lipped out her par putt.
Wenzler will take a break next week rather than defend her LNGA title. She’ll return to the U.S. Women’s Am in two weeks. In addition to making big gains in her game through last year’s play, a COVID summer also taught her to approach the game differently.
“I played (golf) for the love of it and that was all of last summer,” she said. “Fortunately, it led me to the Am which was amazing to be able to play in. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Wenzler played her way into the Women’s Am through a one-day qualifier this time.
All week at the Western Am, Wenzler kept in touch with swing coach Kevin Jones – who also helps her keep her mental game in check. Jones’ cool, calm influence has been key in Wenzler’s success, but even Jones got keyed up the deeper Wenzler ventured into the Women’s Western bracket.
“The texts were like, ‘Awesome, good job, let’s get to work, let’s keep it going,’ and then today it was all like, ‘Let’s go!’”