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Gracie McGovern and Samantha Olson Make Top-10 at Joanne Winter Arizona Silver Belle Championship

By January 5, 2023No Comments

Gracie McGovern & Samantha Olson

In its 52nd year, the Joanne Winter Arizona Silver Belle Championship teed off at Sun City’s Briarwood Country Club, December 28-30, with a 90-player field of amateur women competing in a 54-hole, stroke play tournament. Gracie McGovern and Samantha Olson topped the list of JGAA members on the leaderboard.

McGovern (73-71-66) ended up two strokes off the Overall Championship pace at -6, with a runner-up performance fueled by a final-round charge. She went 6-under par for five holes (Nos. 6-10), including eagle-3 at No. 8, to pull away from two players tied for third place at -2.

Olsen notched a T10 finish in the Overall Championship at 1-over par after steady rounds 73-73-71, with nearly symmetrical bell-curve-type stats: 11 birdies, 32 pars, 10 bogeys and one double. For nine holes, she posted 37 three times, 36 twice and finished up with a 2-under 34 in her final nine holes of the championship.

In addition to the Overall Championship, four age divisions were at the same time up for grabs. In the 17-18 Age Division McGovern’s -6 earned first place while Olsen’s +1 put her in third. Ashley Shaw earned third place in the 14 and Under Age Division, shooting 72-72-77 to finish at +5. Remarkably, the winner of this division, Alice (Ziyi) Zhao of Irvine, Calif., fired -8 to also win the Overall Championship.

Founded by Joanne Winter, LPGA, in 1971, the tournament was launched to encourage competition for amateur women under age 24.

“There was no Junior Golf Association of Arizona, no American Junior Golf Association, and no Title IX and usually the other major championships were either for junior girls under 18 or national amateur events which consisted mainly of college girls. The two did not cross paths,” said Silver Belle Chair Peggy Briggs.

Today, the Silver Belle is nationally recognized and included in amateur rankings conducted by World Amateur Golf, Golfweek, Golf Stat, Junior Golf Scoreboard and AJGA. In the early years the Silver Belle was played in summer months to take advantage of free or reduced green fees.

“The tournament grew into a large destination for high school, college, and even foreign players,” said former Silver Belle President Tina Huiskamp. “We moved the date to the winter holidays to accommodate these players with prep or NCAA restrictions. Families came, then stayed for holiday or football games. The Silver Belle has become a great tourney for young women… a win ─ even a good finish ─ is a high mark for any girl.”

In fact, college recruiters, who scout potential players while enjoying an Arizona holiday vacation, have become one of the largest groups of spectators at the tournament.