High-level tournament golf is as much a test of players’ mental abilities as it is physical, as the one-two finishers at this week’s Sentry Wisconsin State Women’s Open Championship can attest.
In one corner stood 26-year-old Tess Hackworthy, who shot a disappointing round of 79 in the second round Tuesday. But Hackworthy went home and got her thoughts in order after shooting that score, and she came out firing Wednesday morning in round three, leading to a superb round of 68.
At day’s end, she stood next to the 18th green at Blackhawk CC in Madison holding the Wisconsin State Women’s Open trophy for a record fifth time.
“Yesterday, I just kind of lost it, so I tried really hard last night to prep mentally,” Hackworthy said Wednesday afternoon. “To come back from a round like that felt really good. I could have just thrown the towel in, but I fought back.”
In the other corner was Bobbi Stricker, 24, who had a chance to close the door on Hackworthy in regulation on Wednesday afternoon on the final hole.
Stricker had a par putt of about 5 feet on Blackhawk’s short but difficult par-3 18th hole to win the Women’s Open outright, but she missed the putt, and later admitted to having trouble getting that miss out of her head in the hole-by-hole playoff that ensued.
“I did a lot of really good things today,” said Stricker. “I putted well, I chipped in, I hit more fairways than I did the last two days, but I’m really bothered by the 18th hole in regulation. That bothered me the whole playoff, and it still bothers me.”
But it was Taitum Beck of Waterford who held the lead going into the final round at 2-over-par, one stroke ahead of Stricker. Hackworthy began the final round three strokes behind Beck at 5 over.
The final threesome of Beck, Stricker and Hackworthy, all of them young touring pros, continued to separate itself from the pack throughout the final round.
Stricker took the lead on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 15, but Hackworthy kept within striking distance with birdies of her own on no. 12 and 14. Stricker would hold a one-shot lead down the stretch until the tournament turned on the 18th. Stricker would make her second bogey of the day with that painful three-putt from above the hole.
Both players had their chances early on in the four-hole playoff, but it ended on Blackhawk’s par-5 13th hole, where both Hackworthy and Stricker hit the green with their third shots. They both faced downhill birdie putts measuring about 10 feet. Stricker went first and missed, burning the right edge.
Hackworthy then closed the deal, striking her putt with perfect speed and allowing the ball to trickle in on the high side.
“When you aim for the high side, it makes the hole a little bigger,” Hackworthy said with a grin. “But I was expecting Bobbi to make her putt.”
At the awards ceremony, Hackworthy made a point of talking about her deep friendship with Stricker, as Hackworthy said they practice together often. Both grew up in golfing families in Madison, both are former University of Wisconsin golfers and now they compete together on the Epson Tour, the developmental tour of the LPGA.
Not only that, but Dennis Tiziani, Stricker’s grandfather, is Hackworthy’s trusted coach.
And the similarities continued, as both Hackworthy and Stricker had their fathers on the bag in the final round.
David Hackworthy often caddies for daughter Tess. And while Bobbi Stricker’s dad Steve – one-time Ryder Cup captain and current top dog on the PGA Tour Champions – has caddied for her before, that wasn’t that plan going into the final round Wednesday.
Bobbi said she asked Steve to caddie on the third hole Wednesday “because I needed someone to talk to.”
Hackworthy enjoyed a little more icing on her cake at the awards ceremony, admitting that this was her first tournament win as a professional golfer. Her other four Sentry Wisconsin State Women’s Open titles came in a four-year period when she was still an amateur (2016-19).
Prior to this week, Hackworthy shared the record for most State Women’s Open titles with four-time winners Carolyn Barnett-Howe and Malinda Johnson.
For the week, Hackworthy shot 70-79-68–217 to finish at 1-over-par and tie Stricker over 54 holes (72-75-70). Beck shot 72-74-74–220 to finish alone in third place.
Ava Salay of River Falls earned low amateur honors, finishing fourth overall at 9-over-par 225 (74-77-74).
Last year’s champion, Emily Lauterbach of Hartland, who also won the 2020 State Women’s Open, did not defend her title.
A great deal of gratitude goes out to Sentry Insurance for their continued title sponsorship of the Wisconsin State Women’s Open. With their support along with supporting partners, The Suter Ward Group at Morgan Stanley and TaylorMade Golf, the Wisconsin PGA once again rolled out a terrific championship for all the players to enjoy.
The Wisconsin PGA would also like to express our appreciation to the staff and membership at Blackhawk CC. The layout was in great shape and provided a terrific test of golf throughout the three days.