HYDE - In the days leading up to the UPLGA Championship, Marquette's Avery Rochester - the two time defending champion - was the overwhelming favorite to win, again.
All tournament long, she lived up to the expectations and proved why she was the one to beat. The top-seeded golfer in the tournament claimed her third straight UPLGA title, defeating the No. 2 seed, Calumet's Zoe Woodworth, 3-and-2 in the championship match play final, at the Highland Golf Club.
"It feels great to have a three-peat, but this was probably one of the hardest matches I played," Rochester said. "Zoe's a great golfer, but because we're good friends, it's always hard to play a competitive match against one of your good friends. It's hard to keep your tournament mindset and focus, while you also want to be friendly to them. That was hard for me."
Calumet's Zoe Woodworth watches her tee shot on the par-4 first hole Tuesday during the championship match of the UPLGA Championship at the Highland Golf Club. Woodworth made double bogey and lost the hole, before losing the match to Marquette's Avery Rochester, 3-and-2.
In the beginning, it didn't look too hard on Rochester.
With Woodworth struggling out of the gates, Rochester won the first two holes to go up two early on. Both golfers struggled on the par-4 first, as Rochester settled for bogey, and Woodworth's bogey putt lipped out, giving her a double bogey to open the round.
On the par-4 second, Rochester sent her second shot onto the green, 10 feet from the hole. She two-putted for par to win the hole, with Woodworth already laying four at that point.
"I started off rough, so I was already down and it's already tough to come back against her," Woodworth said. "I kind of gave her a couple holes where I was on the green and I three-putted, or I dubbed a chip. I gave her a couple holes that were kind of thrown away."
Once she settled down from a shaky start, Woodworth started to match Rochester shot-for-shot. Woodworth went on and won the par-3 fourth, where she would make a par, while Rochester settled for bogey, cutting Rochester's lead to one.
"After the first two holes, I was playing better, but it's hard to gain two holes back when you're playing a really good golfer," Woodworth said.
Rochester pushed her lead back to three after she birdied the par-5 ninth. Still, Woodworth was able to put pressure on the reigning champ.
On the par-4 11th, Rochester's drive went left into the line of trees. Not being able to get a clear look at the green, she sent her second shot into the trees along the right side of the green, forcing her to try to chip it low beneath the leaves and branches. It didn't work. She overshot the green and her ball landed on the other side.
While Rochester was struggling, Woodworth took advantage. After her drive landed in the fairway, giving her 140 yards from the green, she stuck it 12 feet from the hole. She went on and two-putted to win the hole.
"I had a few errant tee shots and those are the holes that Zoe of course capitalized on," Rochester said. "She saw that I made a mistake and put the ball where she needed to go. She won those holes, but then I made a few birdies and that's where I won most of my holes."
Following her mess on 11, Rochester rebounded quickly and sent her drive straight down the fairway on the par-4 12th. With 75 yards separating her from the hole, she stuck her second shot eight feet above the hole. Rochester went on to convert the birdie putt and push her lead back up to three.
"I knew that she just came back and won the previous hole and I knew I had to step it up and kick it into gear. That really helped with my confidence and with playing better," Rochester said.
On the par-3 14th and the par-4 15th, it was the same story. Rochester's tee shot on 14 found the sand along the left side of the green, and she eventually made bogey. Meanwhile, Woodworth went on and made par.
But just as Rochester gave a hole away, she took it right back, again. Both golfers reached the 15th green in two, but it was Rochester who made birdie, as she converted a 15-foot putt.
With Rochester only needing a tie on the par-3 16th to win, she and Woodworth both parred the hole, giving Rochester the 3-and-2 victory.
The two friends embraced afterwards, each sharing a hug and smiling, with Tuesday adding another story to their friendship.
Despite going away to compete at the collegiate level in different states - Rochester at Columbia College in Missouri, Woodworth at Colorado Mesa University - both have remained friends through their golf endeavors.
"We've known each other for awhile and we're pretty good friends," Rochester said. We've played together through high school and she stayed at my house at, last year, when this tournament was at Wawonowin. We've played in a three-women scramble together and we played in the Michigan Junior Am, together.
"It's always hard to play a competitive match like this against a friend like that."
Earlier in the day, during the semifinals match, it was Rochester and Woodworth both winning 3 and 2. Rochester defeated No. 5 seed, Gladstone's Lori Shea, and Woodworth topped Pine Grove's JoAnn Poncino, the No. 3 seed.
"I feel so good," Poncino said after her round. "Lori and I for the old geezers, held our own. I'm so proud of both of us."
Shea, who was tied with Rochester after nine holes, felt no remorse after losing, and was pleased with her semifinal finish.
"I think I played a real good game today," Shea said. " Both 10 and 11 got me two holes down. At the turn I was even with her, so I was proud with that.
"Avery's a great young player. She has a lot of years ahead of her. I thought it was awesome."
Lower flight winners are below:
President's - Nancy Osier (Gogebic)?d. Lisa LaCasse (Gladstone)
First - Cathy Shamion (Ontonagon)?d. Karen McCorkle (Gladstone)
Second -?Jean Constantini (Pine Grove) d. Heidi Olsen (Oak Crest)
Third - Linda Richard (The Crossings) d. Jamie Schaut (Oak Crest)
Fourth -?Peggy Koski (Wawonowin) d. Patricia Roberts (Wawonowin)
Fifth -?Hilary Melin (Highland) d. Miriam Dannenmuller (The Crossings)
Sixth - Lisa Leskanic (Marquette)?d. Diane Woodworth (Calumet)