On a Roll

Leigha Devine wins her 4th CGA women’s major in just over 2 years as she captures her 2nd Stroke Play title; Marilyn Hardy, 61, claims victory vs. strong field in Mid-Am

By Gary Baines – 7/7/2023

Apparently, there’s not much that can stop Leigha Devine from winning state amateur golf championships.

Kelsey Webster of Boulder did it a year ago at the CGA Women’s Stroke Play, edging Devine by a shot. The other thing that can do it is when Devine doesn’t enter, as was the case with last month’s CGA Women’s Match Play when she elected to compete instead in the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open.

Other than that, the golfer from Ptarmigan Country Club has proven unbeatable in state ams over the last three years. On Friday, the 22-year-old Windsor resident won the CGA Women’s Stroke Play for the second time in three years, this time at Black Bear Golf Club in Parker.

And, by capturing CGA women’s major titles — either the Stroke Play or the Match Play — four times in the last three years, she accomplished what few other golfers in state history have done. The others who have managed the feat are Jennifer Kupcho (4 wins from 2015-17), Wendy Werley (four in 1988-89), Carol Flenniken (four from 1970-72 and seven in five years: 1968-72), Marcia Bailey (four from 1965-67), Joan Birkland (four from 1964-66) and Sally Hardwick (five from 1957-59).

That’s some pretty elite company considering four of the previous six — Flenniken, Bailey, Birkland and Hardwick — are in the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, and it’s likely only a matter of time for Kupcho to join them.

“It’s awesome,” Devine said when asked about the achievement. “It’s great to be in the likes of Jennifer Kupcho and Mary Weinstein (who swept the CGA women’s majors in 2019) and all those girls who are great at golf. It makes me feel excited for the future — for what I can do in golf.”

Devine fended off all challengers Friday at Black Bear Golf Club.

Devine, a Rutgers University golfer who is preparing for her final college season, captured the 76th edition of the Women’s Stroke Play by four strokes, closing with the lowest round of the championship, a 2-under-par 70, on Friday. After her lead shrunk to three strokes early on the back nine, Devine played the last seven holes in 2 under par to end up 1 under overall for the 54-hole championship. 

“It feels good to win this one for sure,” she said. “Especially (after) last year. That was a tough one-shot loss. So it feels good to win again.”

Indeed, in last year’s CGA Women’s Stroke Play, Devine was attempting to become the first player since 1988-89 to sweep the CGA women’s majors two consecutive years. But Webster, an Oregon State golfer who was peaking as a competitor at the time, finished a stroke better than Devine, who missed putts of 3 and 4 feet on the final two holes.

This time around, it was pretty much a two-player race coming down the stretch. Jiayi Wang, a golfer from China who will be a sophomore on the Northwestern golf team, finished runner-up, four back of Devine. Next best was University of Colorado golfer and two-time Colorado state junior champion Morgan Miller, who placed third at 8 over par, nine behind Devine.

Northwestern golfer Jiayi Wang sank a birdie putt on No. 12 that put some pressure on Devine.

Wang, competed in the event because it fit into her summer schedule, put a little pressure on Devine on the back nine. Wang picked up strokes on 11 (when Devine bogeyed after driving into a fairway bunker) and 12 (via an 8-foot birdie). And only a nasty lipout of a 12-foot birdie try on 13 kept her from picking up another stroke, which would have gotten her within two.

As it turned out, three was as close as Wang would get on the back nine on Friday.

“It was a bit tough at the beginning (of Friday’s round as Wang was 2 over par when making the turn), but on the back nine I had some better feel and I just tried to make as many birdies as I could,” she said. “I feel pretty good (overall with the showing). I enjoyed my time here.”

Devine, with dad Mark caddying for her as he had for her previous CGA victories, finished the final round with four birdies and two bogeys.

Asked how this victory differed from her previous CGA wins, Devine said, “It’s always the same when you get put in that final position in a tournament trying to win it. The nerves are never different. I knew I had a pretty sizable lead on 18, but I was still nervous over my tee shot so it was good. I like to put myself in that position to learn how to deal with it so later on I can capitalize even more.”

Indeed, after a college win last season along with a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten tournament, Devine will play one more season of college golf before in all likelihood turning pro after next summer. She continues to work on her game with Colorado Golf Hall of Fame instructor Ed Oldham — who also has long assisted Kupcho, who owns three LPGA Tour victories. 

“Every year I get a little bit better so it’s nice to see that progression in the stroke average,” said Devine, a two-time CGA Women’s Player of the Year. “Last year specifically I made some pretty major strides in my mental game. The college season was great, and it was a big growing season for sure.”

Marilyn Hardy captured her third CGA title on Friday.

Marilyn Hardy Notches Victory in Mid-Am: The CGA Women’s Stroke Play was held in conjunction with the fourth annual CGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Stroke Play. Though anyone 25 and older can compete in the event, a golfer age 61 came out on top.

That would be Marilyn Hardy of Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison, who has been coming up big in tournaments over the last year, having won three state titles — two in Colorado and one in Texas. A veteran of more than 40 USGA championships, she out-battled two other USGA vets — eight-time South Carolina state women’s amateur champion Dawn Woodard and 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Corey Weworski.

Hardy birdied the final hole from 4 feet — after Woodard drained a 20-foot birdie putt — to prevail by two shots over the South Carolinian and five over Weworski.

“They are really good players. I didn’t know what was going to happen today,” Hardy said.

Hardy hits a delicate flop shot on No. 16 Friday.

The victory comes after Hardy won the Texas state senior women’s amateur and the CGA Dunham Chapman Championship (with teammate Kris Franklin) late last season.

Hardy has captured a half-dozen state championships — in Colorado, Texas and Arizona — but this was her first in a mid-amateur.

“I’m getting better as I’m getting older, I guess,” she said. “I started playing so late (her first competitive golf was at about age 26).”

The Mid-Amateur marked Hardy’s third CGA championship — and her second in an individual event as she claimed the Women’s Senior Stroke Play in 2020. As is the norm, caddying for her this week was her husband, Jim Hardy, the 2007 PGA of America national Teacher of the Year. Not surprisingly, Jim has been Marilyn’s golf instructor since Day One.

“He’s very supportive,” Marilyn said of Jim. “It’s good for him because he gets so excited. He was about to cry right afterward (on Friday) because he works so hard with me — on my golf swing. He’s helped me so much. It’s fulfilling for him.”

Hardy and husband Jim confer on a putt during Friday’s round.

After a rough go (82) in touch conditions on Wednesday, Hardy posted the low rounds of the Mid-Amateur on both Thursday (73) and Friday (74). In fact, the next-best tally on Friday was a 77. Hardy finished at 13 over par for three days.

“Marilyn just played better than we did today,” Woodard said. “At the end of the day, that was really all there was. I never really got comfortable on the greens early today. They seemed damp and slower. 

“Some days you’re the bug and some day you’re the windshield, and today I felt very much like the bug. I just didn’t play well today and Marilyn played great.”

Hardy, who lives in the Gunnison area during the warm months and Magnolia, Texas (north of Houston) the rest of the year, is currently No. 31 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings for players 50 and older.

On Friday at the CGA Mid-Am, a pivotal moment came on the par-5 15th, where Hardy made birdie from 7 feet, while Woodard carded a bogey and Weworski a double bogey, giving Hardy some cushion on the leaderboard. From there, she went bogey-bogey-birdie and fended off her challengers.

“It’s always so exciting,” Hardy said. “Your adrenaline gets up. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you try your darnedest and see what comes out.”

In this case, it was a win.

Meanwhile, winning the flighted gross division on Friday was Laurie Steenrod of Saddle Rock Golf Course (86-86-84), while Heejeong Kim of the Kennedy/Fitz Women’s Golf Association (75-77-69) claimed the flighted net division.

For all the scores from Black Bear GC, CLICK HERE.

A deer took in the action on Friday.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates