The score was bleak, but Kimberly Dinh did not panic. The 31-year-old from Midland, Mich., was thrilled to be in the championship match of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Stonewall in Elverson, Pa., but this was not what she had in mind.
Kelsey Chugg, the 2017 champion of this event, was 3 up after seven holes and remained that way through 11 holes, seemingly in cruise control on her way to a second victory in the prestigious championship. Sure, Dinh had handed a few holes to Chugg and found herself in a quick deficit, but she knew she needed to find a way to produce better golf.
With some help from Chugg and some better play of her own, Dinh won six of the last seven holes to turn the 3-down deficit into a 2-up victory. The win gives Dinh exemptions into the next 10 Women’s Mid-Amateurs, exemptions into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateurs and an exemption into the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club.
“To lose a couple holes pretty quickly was a little bit frustrating, but I just kind of dug deep and never really panicked,” said Dinh, a University of Wisconsin grad. “Kelsey was playing great golf, but both of us were going to make mistakes at some point, so I just kind of had to weather that and keep playing. I said to myself, ‘I’ll keep putting one good swing on the ball after another and see where it takes me.’”
For Chugg, a 32-year-old from Salt Lake City, it was a missed six-footer for birdie that ultimately was the turning point on the 12th hole which would’ve pushed the lead to 4 up. Then over the next two holes Chugg, playing in her third championship match, missed shortish putts twice that handed her opponent both holes. Dinh then made a 15-footer for birdie on the 14th hole and suddenly the match was tied.
Chugg won the 15th hole go move back 1 up, but Dinh won the last three holes to capture the title.
“In college, I never really played in any USGA events, mostly because by the time the summer came around, I was burned out and I didn’t want to travel,” Dinh said. “So having an opportunity to compete in a USGA championship after grad school, after college, has been awesome, and to win it, just incredible.”
Said Chugg: “I’m disappointed. It was a good battle. I think I lost it—like the ball striking just left me the last two matches, so I didn’t have my best stuff. Yesterday I got it in the hole a little bit better than I did the back nine today, but I’m proud of myself for making it this far.”
As the runner-up, Chugg received an exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and the next three Women’s Mid-Amateurs.
Dinh now adds the most prestigious mid-amateur title in the world to a resume that already included a win at the Michigan Women’s Amateur and two victories at the Michigan Women’s Mid-Amateur. Earlier this year she competed, and made the cut, in the LPGA’s Dow Great Lakes Invitational, sponsored by Dow, where she works as a senior research specialist.
Speaking of work. Up next for Dinh?
“I have a presentation I have to give tomorrow so I have to at least dial in for that,” she said, “and then we’ll figure out what the rest of the day looks like.”