By Frank Rizzo
CALLICOON July 24, 2001 Jill Kleiner could accept not defending the trophy she and partner Judie DuPlessis had won last year in the inaugural Lady Democrat Golf Tournament.
Why? Because they avoided a form of humiliation.
At least we crossed the road [before losing,] Kleiner laughed, referring to the Villa Roma Road at the Villa Roma Country Club. The road splits the 11th through 14th holes from the rest of the course.
Kleiner and DuPlessis made it to the 15th hole before Kristen Stoddard and Cynthia Johnston dethroned the defending champs, 4 and 3, in the second annual tourney for Sullivan County amateur women golfers.
The championship flight finalists were even at the turn, with Stoddard/Johnston twice going up by one and the defending champs coming back to knot the match on Kleiners par putt on the par-5 eighth.
Things began unraveling for Kleiner/DuPlessis on the par-5 11th.
Everybody reached the green in two shots. Stoddards birdie putt, from about 35 feet away, went about 10 feet beyond the pin. DuPlessis then rolled her birdie attempt to within 21&Mac218;2 feet of the pin.
Then, in the first of three clutch putts which clinched the win, Stoddard drained the 10-footer for par. DuPlessis missed by inches, putting Stoddard/Johnston up by one.
It wasnt a putt Judie would normally miss, but I think Kristens putt put the pressure on, Kleiner said.
I dont know what happened, DuPlessis said. I didnt feel the pressure. I thought it was going to be easy to knock it in. I have no excuses.
After tying the 12th hole, Johnston put her team up by two by making par on the par-3 13th.
Cynthia bailed me out on 13th, said Stoddard, who launched her tee shot into the bunker and wound up taking a bogey. That was her hole this tournament. We named it Cynthias Hole.
On the par-4 14th, Stoddards second shot landed 25 feet from the uphill pin. She then proceeded to sink the birdie putt.
That was painful, said an admiring DuPlessis, who then told her partner, Did you hear that door slam a little hard, Jill?
The foursome crossed the road to the 15th hole, a tricky par-5. Stoddards second shot landed several feet from the fringe skirting the green proper, and she squirted the next one to within 12 feet of the pin.
Everybody else bogeyed, and then Stoddard drained the birdie putt to deliver the final rites to Kleiner/DuPlessis chance at repeating.
If youre going to lose, its not so terrible to lose to putting like that, DuPlessis reflected.
The day before, in the semifinal against sisters Margaret and Libby Norden, Stoddard sank a 30-35-foot downhill birdie putt on 17 to clinch a spot in the final.
Stoddard, 17, of Liberty and Vero Beach, Fla., is familiar with local links, having played in the Catskill Junior Tour almost since its inception.
In the inaugural Lady Democrat, played in bitter cold last October, she was teamed up with Debbie Briggs while Johnston was partnered with Kristens mother, Kathy Stoddard of Liberty.
This year, neither Briggs nor Kathy Stoddard could make it, so Kristen wound up with Johnston, who is Briggs sister.
Despite her oft-stellar putting, Stoddard found the greens at the Villa difficult over the three days.
Not just putting on them, but also hitting onto them, with where the pins were placed, she said.
I liked how the pin placements differed every day, she added. It was like playing three different courses.