Valley resident Blount stands tall as TSWGA champion

Stephanie Blount of Cimarron Country Club won the TSWGA championship in May. 

MISSION — In some ways, qualifying for the 2018 Texas Senior Women’s Golf Association Open is a win all on its own.

There was a good chance Stephanie Blount would not be one of the lucky ones. Stephanie and her husband, Bob, sold their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and moved to the Valley full time back in January. A few weeks after completing the move, the Blounts joined Cimarron Country Club in Mission.

“Once I joined, some of the ladies said, ‘Now that you’re here, you need to try to get into this tournament,’” Stephanie Blount said. “Eventually, I got all the info and submitted my entry form, knowing that I’d probably be on the standby list. It’s a seniority-based tournament, and it fills up pretty quickly.”

Each year, approximately 450 golfers from across Texas send in entry forms. From the pool of 450, 144 are chosen to compete in nine 16-player flights for the right to hoist the championship trophy.

The Open took place between April 30 and May 4 at the Corpus Christi Country Club. The tournament’s Coastal Bend location meant some invitees would be unable to participate because of impractical travel across the country-sized state of Texas. Blount’s name remained on the standby list.

“The (Open’s) practice round began Sunday (April 29), and that Saturday before, we were set to go fishing,” Blount said. “I had a tackle box over my shoulder. Bob had the rods. We had finally got our boat running, and we were set to go fishing in Port Isabel. And that’s when I got the call at 2 o’clock. ‘Oh, apparently, I’m in.’”

Joined by six other participants from Cimarron, Blount was the final name in the 144-piece puzzle.

“It was easy, because we already had folks from the club playing,” Blount said. “There was space for me to stay in for the week, and a practice round was set up for Sunday. Once everything was ironed out, Bob and I went fishing.”

Blount, 56, is no stranger to competition. While an Albuquerque resident, Blount made a name for herself on the amateur circuit. She won seven of eight Women’s Club championships between 2009 and 2017 at Albuquerque’s Santa Ana Golf Club in addition to capturing last year’s Albuquerque City Championship. During last year’s tournament, Blount competed on the same course as Emma Mesta, a UTRGV golfer who recently wrapped up her junior year in Edinburg.

But Blount was not as prepared as she usually was going into the TSWGA Open. She will typically have three weeks of intense practice before a tournament. Add in the newness of the Corpus Christi Country Club golf course with maximum wind gusts touching 30 miles per hour, and the deck appeared to be stacked against Blount.

“I was spending a lot of my focus (during the practice round) of what kind of clubs I need to use and mapping out where the good and bad places on the course were,” Blount said.

The goal of the 144 players was to qualify for the 16-player championship flight, which Blount did along with fellow Cimarron representatives Fredricka Borland and Dianna Williams. Blount was the No. 3 seed in the match play championship flight. She defeated Williams as well as former TSWGA Open champion Diane Henry to reach the title match against Marlene Summers, the flight’s No. 1 seed, on the morning of May 4.

“It was much more about playing survival golf in the elements than worrying about what your opponent is scoring,” Blount said.

Blount and Summers went tit-for-tat throughout their match play championship round. Both players clawed to a tie score going into the final hole.

“I could have had a one-up lead, but I three-putted 17,” Blount said. “I got upset with myself, so when I got to 18, I pounded a three wood as hard as I could hit it, right down the middle. The ball landed about four feet from the hole, and I made the putt to win it.

“It’s one of those things where I try, and don’t always succeed, to channel my anger into focus. In that particular case, that’s how it worked out. I was struggling with my swing, and I figured I was going to hit the ball hard, and wherever it landed is wherever it landed.”

Power wasn’t the only part of Blount’s game on her side in Corpus Christi.

“What did come through was the putter,” Blount said. “I had 11 one-putts out of 18 holes. The putter kept me in the match.”

“Hitting that final putt was great. That’s what the pros do. That’s what the amateurs do. They make those kinds of swings under pressure and make them. That’s why you play in those tournaments. To do it on 18, when it had to be done, felt pretty good.”