First Coast Women’s Amateur crowns champions

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One of the largest women’s golf events in the area is the First Coast Women’s Amateur Championship, the latest of which was held at King & Bear golf course at World Golf Village in St. Augustine June 22 and 23.

The two-day event featured female golfers across a wide range of ages and crowned champions in three divisions.

The overall winner and amateur division champion was Elizabeth Kondal, who shot the lowest round both days with a 70 and 69 for a 139 total. Her second day score was the only round in the 60s posted during the tournament.

Tama Caldabaugh won the senior division for the fourth time thanks to rounds of 74 and 70 for a three-shot victory, while Mary Helen McElreath enjoyed a six-shot win in the super senior class.

“I love golf and competing, but I especially love supporting women’s golf,” Caldabaugh said. “I was on the committee that revived the tournament several years ago, so I’m going to continue to support it.”

The relationships that Caldabaugh has developed over the years through the game of golf is what she cherishes the most, and the difference she has seen the championship make in helping grow the game locally among the next generation of girls.

“I don’t think I ever hit it as long as they do now, but it’s just great to see so many more of them (younger girls) playing, because where I grew up in South Carolina, I was probably the only one in my town,” Caldabaugh said.  

Kondal is an example of that growth, as a St. Johns County native who attended Bartram Trail High School and currently plays on the women’s golf team at Rollins College.

She had played in the championship the past couple of years, and she believes that, as well as being familiar with the course helped a lot.

“My game has grown so much,” Kondal said. “Before, I hadn’t even thought about winning it, but I thought I could definitely do it this year. The way this course sets up is just perfect for me. I love the way it looks and the way it plays.”

The thing about Kondal’s game is that there is not just one area where she has seen improvement, but rather across the board.

“My game has just gotten so much tighter, with more distance and I’m hitting it closer now and making more putts,” Kondal said.

Players battled the summer heat, which on the tournament’s second day had a predicted high of 103 degrees.

“It gets exhausting, and I think the one important part about the heat is staying mentally stable and being very focused,” Kondal said.

That was coupled with greens that just about everyone was saying were playing fast but fair.

“It’s really cool to see the different age levels and who is playing in the event,” Kondal said. “The vibe of this tournament is more so to have fun, and I feel that I play better when I’m just trying to enjoy myself on the golf course instead of trying to force something.”

Kondal grew up playing sports and she picked up the game of golf when she was about 11 years old, following her father who began really getting into the game around that time as well.

“There are so many parts to the game that go into it,” Kondal said. “Its all about finding something that’s unique to yourself and then making it work to capitalize on what your strengths are.”

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