DELPHOS — With a slight bump in numbers, a small change in the format and ideal weather conditions the 76th edition of the Lima Women’s Area Match Play tournament teed off at Delphos Country Club on Thursday.
Thirty-two golfers hit the Delphos based links to start the four-day event. The number of golfers increased to about 10 and Asa Donaldson, who oversees the event, said he is encouraged by the bump in the participants.
“The last couple of years we have had 21 or 22 participants and this year we have 32,” Donaldson said. “We gained 8-10 players this year which is kind of a big thing for the tournament because it has been dwindling.”
Donaldson added that there are some first-time players and some new college players that grew up locally or attend UNOH.
“We are getting some new life in the tournament which is nice,” Donaldson said. “Then we have many that are the staples of the event. Those that have supported it for many, many years who want to see this continue and keep it going.”
Looking to be proactive and look for ideas on how to increase participation, Donaldson said the committee met earlier in the year to see what changes could be made to increase numbers and make it more fun for all the participants.
The format for this year’s event has changed from previous years. Two major changes were instituted and those were a two-day qualifier so players are seeded in a flight that fits their skill level and smaller flights which means that open flights will have no more than four players so matches are against similar skill levels.
“We went to a two-day qualifier instead of a one day that we normally would have had in an effort to get the ladies into a flight where their skill sets all match up,” Donaldson said. “We went to smaller flights as well. Typically we would have flights of eight. We would then go to a one-day qualifier and start match play the next day. We are going with two days of qualifier and two days of match play, and you are kind of in a group of ladies within the same skill set as you.”
Donaldson added in the past format a golfer might have played really well but was in a flight that didn’t suit her and then she would go out in match play and get beat right away. Now she may be in a flight where she can compete a little bit more.
“Hopefully this trend works,” Donaldson said. “Hopefully the way that the tournament is set up with flights of four or at least in the open flights – the championship numbers fluctuate – where a lady who plays can go back and tell her friends ‘hey I had a lot of fun playing in the tournament, and it was not as nerve wracking as they thought it would be’ or I played with a lady who was on the same level as me and will want to play in it.’”
A junior flight has been added but it has not taken off and Donaldson said it might have had something to do with scheduling. The high school teams could begin practice Aug. 1 and that is one factor for the lack of numbers at the junior level.
“It is something that hasn’t taken off like we thought we would,” said Donaldson but added that they will keep working to increase participants in the upcoming years.”
A total of four golfers are in the championship flight with some familiar faces. Past champion Carol Mitchell will battle against St. Marys and current University of Findlay product Jill Schmitmeyer and UNOH’s Caitriona Griffin, a transfer from the University of Toledo and the racers No. 1 golfer, and teammate Haleigh Gray out of Noblesville, Indiana.
“The quality of that flight is pretty strong and it is going to be interesting to see how those scores come in,” Donaldson said. “I’m sure those college golfers are used to playing courses that are much longer in their collegiate competition and now they are in a much shorter course. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see a lady who is under par.”
In the championship flight, Schmitmeyer shot the low score of 68. Grey followed with an 81 and Griffin finished with an 82. Mitchell came into the clubhouse with an 86.
Connie Shutt produced the low score in the open flight with an 87 and Brenda Schimoeller was second with an 89. Kasey Carrico and Shelly Diepenbrock each finished with a score of 90.
In senior flight action, Becky Komminsk came in with the low score of 81 followed by Carol Jackson with an 83. Tamara Pope was third with an 84 and Joan Whittaker carded an 86.
Play resumes Friday with the second qualifying round at Shawnee Country Club. Match play begins Saturday at Hidden Creek Golf Club and continues at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Shawnee Country Club.