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November 16, 2017

Kelsey Chugg

Houston, Texas

THE MODERATOR: Kelsey Chugg, you're the 31st U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion. How does it feel?

KELSEY CHUGG: Incredible. It's just been a crazy week, and just really model fun to be out here at the Champions Golf Club. I can't believe I pulled it off.

THE MODERATOR: Now you're going to the U.S. Women's Open, as well as being the champion. What's that mean to you?

KELSEY CHUGG: That's so cool. It's almost as cool as winning. I've been trying to qualify for the Open for a few years now and been within a few shots a couple times.

But to just be exempt into the championship is so cool for me. I'm really looking forward to that.

THE MODERATOR: You also have a ten-year exemption shin into this championship. You won't have to qualify for this championship anymore. You'll be able to spend more time on your job with the Utah Golf Association.

KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah, you know, that was -- a big goal of mine was to get to the quarterfinals so at least I was exempt to next year and not have to go -- our closest qualifying sites are Colorado or Arizona for this.

So, making it to the quarterfinals was cool, and now I don't have to worry about it for a while. It's a big deal for me.

THE MODERATOR: Before we talk about this match, let's talk about the start of the whole championship. You shot an 85 in the first round. What happened that day, and what happened to get it to where you got to match play and shot a 72 the next day?

KELSEY CHUGG: The first day I started off rough. I think I made a couple doubles early in the game. I just kind of got in my own head and couldn't quite pull through in the final stretch of that round.

I think I finished with like five or six bogeys in a row. I remember going to the car and I was -- I actually cried a little bit in the car. I was pretty upset. I was playing pretty good coming into this and I was mad at myself.

I called my coach and she said, Just go practice. Get your head back in the game. Go practice and get your tempo good.

So I did. I went to the range. I was hitting balls and met Gaiotti, and her husband Don came up to me and Don was like, I'll take your bag tomorrow.

He ended up caddying for me, and that really helped me the second day to just have somebody with me and talk to me and calm me down and not have to worry about, you know, just getting in my own head. So that was great.

Then he was also on the bag the first round of match play. So just having somebody there to keep me calm was really helpful.

THE MODERATOR: How do you know Annette Gaiotti?

KELSEY CHUGG: She's a Salt Late resident also. We played a lot together. She's a good friend. It just so happened that Don had flown out to watch her play. He was bored, so he wanted caddie.

THE MODERATOR: Along with the caddying theme, how then did you meet Chris, and did you know much about him before you met him?

KELSEY CHUGG: I didn't know much about him. I met him the first day when I went to go get my pushcart.

He said, Salt Lake City, huh? I lived in Utah for a while. I said, Oh, really? We struck up a conversation, and then like every day was just real friendly with me.

When Don was leaving, he told me his friend Chad could caddie for me. He ended up calling me at like 9:30 that night to say, Hey, Chad can't make it tomorrow, but I can do it. Would you be all right with that?

I was like, Sure. Anything helps. I knew he had some experience caddying just from some of the conversations we'd had. He was really great out there. He learned my game quickly and just kept me watered and helped me pick clubs and read some putts.

THE MODERATOR: So again you felt calm as you did that second day of stroke play again?

KELSEY CHUGG: Yep. Yep. My goal, you know, I was just going out to play golf and hit fairways and greens, and Chris and I just kind of just kind of stuck with that game plan.

Yeah, that's kind of the way to play match play. You hit your fairways and greens and pars can win holes.

THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about this final today. Going in, how much did you know about Mary Jane Hiestand? Obviously she has a reputation for being a scrambling type player. Did you know much about her?

KELSEY CHUGG: No, I didn't know anything about her other than she had been in like 40-something USGA Championships, was a seasoned player, and I heard she was a really good putter.

I so knew she was scrappy and had been coming back in some matches. I knew it was going to be a tough match and I would have to get a good lead to make sure that I finished the job if I could.

But, yeah, she was. She lived up to her name. That 1st hole she drained -- I don't even know how long that putt was, but it was for par, and it got to me. I was so nervous this morning. That was huge for her to do that and get that going for herself.

THE MODERATOR: Then you come back. She won the 1st hole and you came back and won the next two holes with pars. You made an incredible 38-footer on the third hole. Tell us about that putt.

KELSEY CHUGG: Oh, that putt. I hit a really poor chip from behind the green and had that 38-footer. She had a similar line. She was maybe a little bit farther away so she went first. I saw her ball kind of go down.

I was like, I think I can make this. Just kind of looked good and saw it, and Chris and I agreed on the line. I just said, Keep your head down and hit the putt, and it went right in the center.

I think that was a good momentum builder for me to make that putt and keep myself alive at that point.

THE MODERATOR: Then you got to the 5th hole, the par-5, and you made another tough six-footer to win that hole.

KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah, I had a tough -- that hole location was really tough down there in the swell down on the right-hand side of the green.

She blew hers by, missed hers, and I saw how mine broke as it rolled by the hole. Had a six-footer coming back up, and I just told myself to keep my head down again and was fortunate enough to roll it in.

Q. She also had a couple chances on 7, 8, and 9 to perhaps cut into your 2-up lead. As good a player as she was, she felt like she was a little bit off today. She had chances but just didn't convert them. You were able to keep the lead. That must have been a little boost to your hopes. Maybe a little more relaxed perhaps?
KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah, I didn't hit it as well as I had been the last two days. A lot of that was just nerves.

You know, fortunately I was able to make the up and down on 7 out of the bunker. That was huge. That puts pressure back on her.

Then on 8, you know, I lagged it up there and she ended up -- hers missed the hole just on the right-hand side, and then 9 she had another good look at it and missed.

I think her putter got her today. Just worked for me, I guess.

Q. We all know you can play, but according to the chart this is an uphill climb.
KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah, it was. I knew I was going to have tough matches the entire time. I really just wanted to stick to my game plan, fairways and greens and two-putt, and hopefully roll in a birdie or two.

So I didn't let it get to me. You know, I knew -- Greenlief I knew was going to be a really tough match. I think I put pressure on her and she got nervous and was pressing too hard coming down the stretch, or that could have been a much closer match.

Same thing in a couple of others. Just stuck to my game plan with that.

Q. Going to see a book from you about match play?
KELSEY CHUGG: Maybe. I love match play. It's so fun. Just everything is right in front of you. All that matters is the shot you're hitting.

Q. Let's go back to the championship match. You're on the back nine now. You hit that 6-iron into 10 to set up a winning par. Tell us about that.
KELSEY CHUGG: After I made the putt on 9 I was feeling pretty good.

I went to 10 and hit a really good drive there. I saw her hit her shot and like it landed short of the green and started to run up on the green. I was like, Oh, jeez. Let's just hit a good shot.

I had like 152 to the hole, and I was like, There is a little room behind it. Just make a good swing and let's hit something close. I hit that 6-iron up there, and I think that put some pressure on her because she was so far away from the hole. That's probably why she ran it by so far.

Q. Then you got to 13, and, again, you made one of those ticklish putts about five and a half feet to win that hole. Today was a little different than yesterday where you made a lot of birdies. Today was all about pars.
KELSEY CHUGG: Pars, yep. Yeah, the hole locations were really difficult today. All of them were tucked; a lot behind bunkers one or two paces. It was harder to get the ball closer to the hole.

Plus I was a little nervous so I was a lot of times just shooting for the center of the green, especially if I saw she was in any trouble.

Yeah, 13, I think I rolled my first one by the hole a bit, so it was one of those ones where I saw it roll by and had an idea how was it going to break coming back up the hill.

Q. You're 4-up and there are just a few holes left. Is your mind drifting at all or are you staying focused?
KELSEY CHUGG: I think I was really focused on 14 tee. Just hit a really good drive, get out in the fairway, get it on the green, and make a par or birdie.

I had like 125 yards in. I was like, I'll hit 9-iron. Should have been perfect. I just think I lost focus for a second and made the swing, and it barely cleared the hazard and the ball was -- I don't know if it was plugged or sitting down so low in the bermuda greens.

So I was like, Oh, jeez. All right.

So I'm like, I'll just hit a 56 and try and like get it to run out on the green. I barely made contact with the ball the first chip. You know, so got a little anxious there. Tried rolling in the putt, and then tried to calm myself back down on 15 tee and say like, Hey, you're still in this. It's just one hole.

Q. Then on 15 you came back and seemed to calm yourself down because the birdie putt was well short, and then you calmly sink that six-footer and it seemed like everything was all right again.
KELSEY CHUGG: Yes. I thought that putt was going to be a lot faster, the first one. I'm like, Oh, jeez. I knew which way it was breaking. Just told myself, You have to make this putt. This is huge. You have to make this putt.

I picked my lines, kept my head down, and was lucky to roll that one in. It was moving, yeah.

Q. Then you get to 17 and it's finally over. You're the champion. What's that first thought that crosses your mind?
KELSEY CHUGG: Just happy I don't have to play another hole. (Laughter.) I was leaking oil a little bit. You know, after couple minutes I was, This is incredible. Still hasn't hit my completely. Kind of been a rush since we finished.

But it is incredible. I can't believe that it's happening.

Q. Let's talk about the Utah Golf Association. Their annual meeting happened to be this week and you weren't there, even though you're the membership director. I think you were a little busy.

Q. But you heard from a lot of people there this week. Tell us about some of the things that happened this week and some of the people you heard from.
KELSEY CHUGG: I had a ton of support from my coworkers, friends, family. Just like everybody is like, Come on; you got it; just keep going; just keep going. Just constant support.

It was fun to hear like Bill Walker, our executive director was in the meeting, and he was like, We were just sitting here on our phones and tablets watching the match status all day. They were so excited.

He would call me every night after and wish me good luck. You know, lots of social media activity. I can't even keep up. It's incredible. People are just like, Bring it home for Utah. Paul would know more who -- I think Von Elm and...

Q. It's George Von Elm, Clay Ogden, Hale, and there was one other I'm blanking on right now. Most recently Clay Ogden in 2005. He won the Pub Links and he had to go through Michelle Wie to get it. That was kind of the story to get it.
Now it's you.

KELSEY CHUGG: Wasn't there a girl who won the Pub Links as well? Thurman, Annie Thurman.

Q. Of course. That's who I was blanking on. Now coaching at Colorado State. She won the Pub Links as well.
KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah. So, yeah, this is really exciting for me to be able to bring this home for Utah and the golf community there.

Q. First day didn't end well, but during the match play there is often a point where there is a shot or a turning point in the match that gets you to the final. Was there any one point in the early matches where you really did something or something happened that kind of got you through to the next round?
KELSEY CHUGG: It's hard to think of -- I know playing Marissa yesterday was a really tough match. She got hot coming down the stretch so I had to make some birdies.

I knew I was hitting it really good, and I rolled in one on 15 and she rolled hers in. I think making that putt made me feel really good. Like I didn't -- I could have caved there and missed that. She rolls hers in and then I'm only 2-up or whatever I was at that point.

That was kind of the point where I was like, I can do this.

Q. When I talked to you yesterday you said this is the greatest thing that's ever happened to you, not just in your golf career, but in life.

Q. Now that you've won, where does this rank?
KELSEY CHUGG: It's incredible. This is a dream. I don't even know how to explain it. It's so cool. I am so pumped to go to the U.S. Open. That's been a lifelong goal. I'm just looking at the trophy over there. Like that's so cool.

Yeah. Exciting.

Q. Who is your coach?
KELSEY CHUGG: Lynsey Myers.

Q. Do you have a role model in women's golf or someone you look up to?
KELSEY CHUGG: You know, there are a lot of tour players I really like to watch. Stacy Lewis has always been one of my favorites; Yani Tseng. You know, they're really steady. It's fun to watch the tour players. They make all putts and everything.

Q. What if I said to you, Tomorrow a practice round at the Women's Open and you're going to tee it up with Stacy Lewis; what would you say?
KELSEY CHUGG: That would be crazy. I wouldn't believe you.

Q. Would you hug her? Say hello?
KELSEY CHUGG: Shake her hand. I mean, I don't even know if I could talk. That would be so cool.

Q. I know a lot of the women out here, you don't know that much about them. Do you think some of your opponents this week maybe underestimated you?
KELSEY CHUGG: Yeah, I think that did help me a little bit. It's funny. Julia Potter's fiancee, I had won my morning match and I was going into the quarters against Greenlief. I don't know what round it was. He was like, That's going to be a tough match, but she doesn't know who she's up against.

I had played a lot with Julia in state teams in the last a few years and had a few good rounds. That gave me some confidence, him telling me that. It was kind of good for me to step back and say, Hey, I can just play my game and maybe she won't know what's coming.

THE MODERATOR: Well, you're the champion of the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur. We thank you very much, Kelly Chugg.

KELSEY CHUGG: Thank you. Thank you guys.

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