last summer’s Women’s Stroke Play Championship at Crown Colony Country Club in
East Texas, SMU sophomore Serena Shah had zero expectations in terms of how
well she would play or where she’d finish on the leaderboard. Played in late
July 2020, the women’s major championship was one of the first events conducted
after the TGA suspended activities in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were just
getting back into competitive golf during COVID,” Shah said. “I had no
expectations. I was just happy to be there, happy to be playing golf.”
Shah was even
happier when the 54-hole stroke play championship ended with her holding the
trophy. The Carrollton native scored a one-shot victory over Zoe Paige
Slaughter of Houston to win her first major amateur tournament since high
school. Shah finished 8-over-par 224 and shot the low score of the tournament
in the second round with a 1-under 71.
Women’s Stroke Play is set for June 25-27 at The Club at Comanche Trace in
Kerrville. Registration opens on April 26, and the field is limited to the 84 players with lowest World Handicap System (WHS) Indexes as of June 9.
Set amid the scenic
Hill Country, Comanche Trace boasts a classic layout with Live Oak-lined
fairways, natural water features, spectacular bunkering and challenging bentgrass
greens. Renowned for its superior playing conditions, Comanche Trace is one of
the state’s premier tournament venues and will provide a stern test for the
best women amateurs in Texas.
For the Women’s
Stroke Play, Comanche Trace will play approximately 6,000-6,200 yards.
As for the
defending champion, Shah plans to channel last year’s low-key style and enter
the event with a free mind and a stay-in-the-moment attitude.
“I want to do
the same thing – no expectations,” she said. “I just want to come in and play
good golf. I don’t want to worry about what I did last year or think about
anything that might happen in the future. I’ll try to stay in the present and
simplify things as much as possible.”
It’s that mentality
that led her to victory last time around, and it’s the way Shah tries to
approach every golf tournament. At Crown Colony last summer, Shah’s mom was
with her that week. That gave her some extra comfort and, in her words, gave
her “really good vibes for the week.”
“I came into
that championship without putting any pressure on myself,” she said. “I just
let each day happen, and that put me at ease.”
After a first
round 77 that included two birdies at Crown Colony, one of the historically
great courses in Texas that is known for its demanding sightlines off the tee,
Shah found her stride in Round 2. She went out with a bogey-free 35 and birdied
the uphill, par-4 sixth hole. She added two more birdies on the back nine and
finished at 1-under 71. The next best score that week was Slaughter’s 73 in the
“That day I just felt like
everything came together: ball-striking, putting, short game,” she said. “I was
making up-and-downs as if it was second nature. Everything was flowing really
fluidly. That course is tight, especially off the tee. I put myself in good
position off the tee, and that really helped me score well.”
SMU Women’s Golf Coach Jeanne
Sutherland was not the least bit surprised when Shah captured the Women’s
Stroke Play last summer.
is small in stature, but still has a powerful game,” Sutherland said. “She has
all the skills needed to be competitive at the highest level. She is a
competitor, and she doesn't take herself too seriously, which helps her mindset
as she plays the game. She believes in herself. She doesn't question her
abilities or her skills; she just plays.”
If Shah sticks to her plan and stays present at Comanche
Trace, she has a chance to become the first back-to-back winner of the Women’s
Stroke Play Championship.