Jane Fitzgerald joined some exclusive company yesterday when she won her fourth Maryland State Women's Amateur title, beating two-time titlist Jane Mason, 5 and 4, at the Suburban Club.
This was the 74th annual tournament, dating back to 1921, and in that stretch, only Evelyn Glick (11), Mrs. E. Boyd Morrow (seven), Mary Ann Downey Cooke (5) and Joan Winchester (four) have won as many championships.
The victory came easier than might have been expected for Fitzgerald, 33, who has crammed her four wins into the past seven years (she did not enter the tournament the other three).
The outcome was all but sealed when the Kensington resident won the first four holes, capping the streak with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 361-yard fourth, rated the course's No. 1 handicap hole for women.
At the 455-yard, par-5 ninth, Fitzgerald, who plays out of Norbeck CC, knocked a 4-iron second shot to 35 feet and two-putted for the win, a 1-under-par side of 35 and a 5-up cushion.
Mason stayed alive with a winning par at the 12th, and was in great position to win the 13th, but missed a five-foot birdie putt. The 12th turned out to be Fitzgerald's only deviation from par over the necessary five holes on the back nine.
A more relaxed attitude, along with a superb swing and excellent course management, are keys to Fitzgerald's success.
"I have a different approach now than I used to when I practiced all the time," she said.
"I worked on my swing for so long, and now I know I can play. I get out when I can [she's the mother of two small children], but I don't worry about my game. That way, it's easier to accept what happens."
Mason's presence in the final surprised her, and after a physically and mentally draining 3-and-1 semifinal decision over defending champion Andrea Kraus Thursday afternoon (their second match of the day), the Salisbury resident and Nassawango CC member had little left.
Still, by reaching the final, Mason, 56, set a benchmark. Not only did she become the oldest finalist in tournament history, but her six final-round appearances span 36 years, another record.
As Jane Schiller, she lost finals to Glick (1960) and Mary Alice Sawyer (1962); since her marriage, she's defeated Glick (1965) and Rebecca Doman (1974), and lost to Fitzgerald (3 and 2 in 1989).
Championship: Jane Fitzgerald, Norbeck, d. Jane Mason, Nassawango, 5 and 4. First flight: Pam Soliman, Eagle's Nest, d. Jennifer Lewis, Woodmont, 7 and 6. Second flight: Kristin Dollenberg, Baltimore, d. Sally Casey, Baltimore, 5 and 4. Third flight: Joan Lins, Cattail Creek, d. Melinda Morgan, Prospect Bay, 3 and 2. Fourth flight: Cheri Cooper, Hobbit's Glen, d. Carleen Jones, Pine Ridge, 2 and 1.