As a nine-time State Amateur champion, Ann Swanson recognizes talent when she sees it, and she envisions great things from the youngest player in the Championship Flight of this year’s Washington State Women’s Amateur.
“She is going to be good,” Swanson said of 18-year-old Cassie McKinley. “She just needs more experience. She’s long for her size, but probably needs to sharpen up her short game, something I think she knows. I expect her to do well in this tournament.”
After the first two days, it’s full-speed ahead for the former Shorewood High School star playing in her first State Amateur. She shared the low-round (77) during Monday qualifying, and won her first match, 6 & 5 over Robin Cole, on Tuesday at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle.
“I didn’t start off quite as well (Tuesday) as I did on Monday,” said McKinley, citing match-play nerves that caused her to be a bit timid early in the round. “But I won the first and third holes, which helped my confidence, and by the sixth or seventh hole, I was pretty relaxed and able to play my game.”
McKinley’s game has been coming on strong. She reached the semi-finals of the Seattle Women’s Golf Association City Championships earlier this summer – the second match-play tournament she’s ever played – losing to a four-time champion.
The State Amateur is her third and final event before enrolling at the University of Idaho this fall.
How she wound up being a Vandal is a story in itself.
Although McKinley started playing golf when she was eight or nine years old, she never really liked the sport until her freshman year of high school. A special bond was built, but she rarely played in summer junior tournaments, and never outside of Washington.
But following her junior year at Shorewood High, Cassie entered a match-play tournament south of Portland. She lost in the first round, but met a person who suggested that she make a video of her game and send it, along with a bio, that would be posted on a website college coaches use for recruiting purposes.
It is especially beneficial for late bloomers like Cassie, who had not been recruited much at all through her junior year.
“If coaches heard of me,” she said, “they didn’t contact me. It was kind of a bummer.”
Armed with a video camera, Cassie’s dad, Buz, put together a 7 ½ minute film-clip — attached at the bottom of this story.
The video and bio were delivered and posted on the Internet soon after McKinley’s senior year started. Waiting for a response was agonizing.
“I was checking my email every day hoping I would get one,” she said. “When I got my first one, I was so excited. It was from a Division II school in Georgia.”
Other emails arrived, but they also were from smaller colleges.
“It was nice to hear from schools,” Cassie said, “but I always wanted to go to a D-I school. So I kept my options open.”
Finally, a Division I school called.
“I was in class when I got a call,” she recalled. “I looked and the phone saw the weirdest area code. I had no idea where it was from.”
She was excused from class to take the call. At the other end was the women’s coach at Dartmouth.
“That was really cool, but she thought I was a junior and was recruiting me for the following year.”
A few days later, the coach at Idaho called and Cassie ended up accepting a scholarship at the Division I university.
“That video for us parents was really good because Cassie sort of blossomed late, whereas a lot of these girls had been playing competitively since she they were 10 years old,” Cassie’s mom, Jill, said. “She sort of was peaking a year too late.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Cassie, who is hoping to make her presence felt in Moscow right away. The top two players on the Vandal women’s golf team last year graduated, opening up a couple of spots. “I am hoping.”
Right now she is hoping the State Amateur serves as a huge stepping stone to her collegiate career and don’t count her out.
Can she win in a field that includes three former state champions, including four-time champ Leslie Folsom, who needed 20 holes to defeat 13th seeded Sue Ursino.
“To be honest, I think so,” Cassie said after Tuesday’s triumph. “The key is my head. If I believe I can do it, why not? Yesterday (Monday) I played great but also could have been better. To think I was tied for low, and knowing I could do better, that keeps me thinking that I have a chance to win this.
“But I have to kick it in, especially my short game. Some days, like (Monday), it was really good. I made some good chips and was putting well. Today (Tuesday), I missed a few putts. I three-putted (three holes) and am not happy about that.”
Next up is Sharon Drummey, who defeated Nancy Eglin on the 21st hole on Tuesday. Their second-round match begins at 9:15 a.m.
McKinley has played six rounds at Sand Point CC and “I really like this course. It’s just fun. It’s not too long, but it’s challenging. I have grown up in Seattle and this reminds me of Seattle Golf and Country Club (her home course). It’s not really long, but it’s tricky.”
The highest seeds in the first round in the Championship Flight advanced to Wednesday’s second round. Denise Kieffer beat Linda Spear 2 & 1; Jane Harris beat Katie Kintner 4 & 3; Dona Dunovant beat Jenny Park 3 & 2; Gretchen Kleinbeat Denise Jeffries 4 & 3; and Flora Weeks beat Cathy Uptain 4 & 2.
Mimi Racicot beat Eileen Marshall 6 & 5; Sammie Pless beat Carrie Simchuk 6 & 5; Linda Selegue beat Kathy Provazek 19th hole; Frankie Stephens beat Susan McCoy 2 up; Ann Johnson beat Sharon Falkner 2 & 1; Sue Chestnut beat Yuki Chikamura 4 & 3; Patty Knight beat Betty Gilmore 1 up; Joan Schille beat Sue Rockwell (2 & 1.
Mary O’Donnell beat Derval Langan 8 & 7; Sharon Johnston beat MaryJo Dedomenico 6 & 4; Barbara Tracy beat Jan Harvey 19th hole; Sarah Michelson beat Roxanne Bevins 1 up; Stephanie Drake beat Linda Tungsvik 19th hole; Emiko Ishizaki beat Ann Schofield 1 up; Dee Hanich beat Beth Chew 3 & 1; Anne Quigg beat Cindi Stewart 5 & 4.
Debbie Slatt beat Rene Knudson 2 & 1; Judy Weigand beat Carlotta Jarratt 7 & 6; Tracy Quigley beat Judy Thompson 1 up; Karen Hansen beat Kim Cutsforth 2 up; Doris Rogers beat Cathy Bachmann 4 & 3; Kristi Helmersen beat Julie Turner 6 & 4; Laura Clough beat Pam Baughn 5 & 4; Maurya Radvilas beat Mary Ann Diridon 3 & 1.
Eleanor Devlin beat Sally Irvine 4 & 3; Melissa Keeter beat Mandi Counter 1 up; Patricia Bendock beat Lea Carlson 21st hole; Joan Yankis beat Jewella Cree 4 & 3; Porsche Everson beat Peggy Stahl 4 & 3; Ginny Hossman beat Linda Abbott 6 & 5;Kate Westbrook beat Susan Goddard 4 & 3;and JoAnn Osborn beat Sandra Watkins 2 & 1.
* Jill McKinley is caddying for her daughter this week. “She’s good and it’s helpful that she’s a good putter,” Cassie said. “She mostly confirms what I see.”
* Jane Harris, who won her first match 4-and-3 over Katie Kintner on Tuesday, was 15 years old when she played in her first State Amateur. She lost her first match, but won the Seattle Women’s Golf Association Championship the following year – becoming the second-youngest champion in event history. When she turned 17, in 1980, the WSWGA enacted an 18-and-over rule, known as the “Harris Rule”. Players must be at least 18 to play.
* Pat Harbottle, the youngest SWGA champion at 14 years of age, was the guest speaker at Monday night’s dinner.
* Cassie McKinley is one of two teenagers in the State Amateur. Sammie Pless, a ninth-seed in the Second Flight, also is 18 years old. She also advanced to the second round.