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Wellesley’s Pam Kuong and Newton’s Robyn St. Clair qualify for US Women’s Senior Amateur

Pam Kuong of Wellesley earned medalist honors at the local qualifier with a 3-over-par 75. Pam Kuong of Wellesley earned medalist honors at the local qualifier with a 3-over-par 75. (Michael Casey)
By Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / August 26, 2012
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Kuong, St. Clair heading to national women’s tourney

After sinking a birdie putt on the par-5 final hole at rain-soaked Wellesley Country Club, Newton’s Robyn St. Clair waited an hour before learning that she had qualified for the US Women’s Senior Amateur tournament.

There was no such suspense for two-time Massachusetts Amateur champion Pam Kuong , the women’s club champion at Charles River Country Club in Newton. The Wellesley resident was the medalist at the Aug. 15 qualifier with a 3-over-par 75, earning a spot in the Women’s Senior Amateur for the second consecutive year.

“If I had done nothing else this year,’’ said Kuong, “qualifying for the national amateur would have made it a success, because last year I missed making match play by a stroke and that was my goal, to have another chance.’’ 

St. Clair, who plays out of Woodland Golf Club in Newton, shot a 79 and was tied with six others for the final five qualifying spots, necessitating a five-hole playoff. After two holes, she and Mary Gale were vying for one spot. On the fifth hole, St. Clair dropped a wedge shot to within 8 inches of the pin for a tap-in par 4 to settle the issue.

Now she’s preparing for the Women’s Senior Amateur, her first USGA event, which opens Sept. 8  at Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania.

“I had no expectations other than to focus on each shot, so coming through in the clutch was exhilarating,’’ said the 56-year-old St. Clair, whose last previous appearance at a US Women’s Amateur qualifier was at the Hyannisport Club in 2006. She lost in a playoff for an alternate position.

Kuong, 51, who has qualified for eight USGA tournaments, said she’s looking forward to mentoring St. Clair, who appreciates the gesture.

“A lot of people have helped me along the way, including the membership at Charles River,’’ she said, “and so I hope I can give a few tips to Robyn about playing in a national event. I saw her chip shot in the playoff and it was superb. I’m happy for her.’’

Both women have come a long way on the links.

“I played my first round at Woodland in 1995 with a client,’’ recalled Kuong, a senior vice president in Bank of America’s commercial lending division, “and shot 103. I never envisioned then what it would lead to.’’

Kuong, a multisport captain at Wellesley High and Ohio Wesleyan University, has finished no worse than third at Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts tournaments this year. She captured the New England Senior Amateur and the Edith Noblit Baker Trophy, the latter in a playoff.

Her game has been fine-tuned for the past seven years by Skip Guss at GolfRite Performance Center in Southborough. She also received assistance from Peter McCarthy, a business colleague who serves as her tournament caddy.

“My ball striking has never been better this year, I have last year’s experience at the US Senior to build on, and my goal is to get into match play and go as far as I can,’’ she said.

St. Clair recalled her first attempt at match play in a lower flight championship at Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, where she was a longtime member.

“I was 25 years old, I lost every hole and my opponent had to tell me the match was over,’’ said St. Clair, chief financial officer at the Paul K. O’Rourke Co. in Wellesley. “But I kept at it.’’

A New Jersey native and University of New Hampshire grad, St. Clair first learned the finer points of the game at Brae Burn from her former husband, Scott St. Clair.  

“He was a great teacher,” said St. Clair, who has won numerous state mother-son titles with her three boys, DavidBrett, and Jack, and has been women’s club champion at Woodland, Brae Burn, and Eastward Ho! in Chatham.

“I’ve also had great instruction from teaching pros Hugh Vaughn at Bonita Bay in Florida and from Tom Doherty at Woodland. And my husband, John Bonistalli, plans to caddy for me in Pennsylvania. He’s a 7-handicapper at Woodland.’’

St. Clair, an accomplished artist who has painted and drawn her favorite golf holes, said some of her most treasured moments have been with her sons by her side as caddies.

“Even when I’m not with them,’’ she said, “I still hear them in my mind before an important shot.’’

Bemis to be inducted into Sailing Hall of Fame

Former Brookline and Concord resident F. Gregg Bemis (inset), who died in 1995 at age 94, will be inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame during ceremonies on Oct. 14 at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans.

A member of the class of 1922 at Harvard University, Bemis raced competitively into his 80s out of Cohasset Yacht Club, where he served as commodore.

He was national 210 class champion in 1954, 1956, and 1957.

Bemis was instrumental in drafting uniform international yacht-racing rules, and was a judge at the Olympic Games and America’s Cup competitions.

“He was a person we all looked up to when it came to the rules of sailing, and he was a cerebral, gentle man, always patient and approachable,’’ said Dave Perry , US Sailing appeals committee chairman. “He had a remarkable mind.’’                 

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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