Claudia Pilot is having a great summer on the golf course.
The 64-year-old plays in Minnesota Golf Association Senior Amateur events and has two wins in 2021. It’s the first season she’s compiled two wins playing in MGA Amateur events since 2010.
“It was a great feeling to know that I can still compete,” Pilot said. “There’s a lot of really good senior women golfers in the state of Minnesota. This summer has definitely been off to a great start.”
Pilot has been a lakes area resident since 2013 and a member at Grand View Lodge where she and her husband David play often.
Pilot loves the variety the lakes area provides in golf opportunities.
“Between Cragun’s, Grand View and Deacon’s Lodge you have Whitefish where I play on Wednesday sometimes and each course has its own character,” Pilot said. “I just love that variety.”
Pilot’s first win of 2021 came in June in the MGA Women’s Senior Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Burl Oaks Golf Club in Minnetrista. A four-ball tournament format means each player plays their own ball with the lower score of the two being used as the team’s score.
Pilot plays with her longtime partner Brenda Williams whose home course is Windsong Farm in Maple Plain. The pair shot an even-par 72 in both rounds to come away with a one-shot victory in the Four-Ball Championship.
Pilot sank a 20-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to give Pilot and Williams the win. It was Pilot’s first win since 2016.
“It was a downhill sideways slider,” Pilot said of her putt. “I thought we were making that putt to get in a tie for the lead. When actually we ended up winning it with that putt there. So a very, very, very exciting finish and very fun.”
Pilot and Williams have partnered up in the past and have built a friendship through golf.
“We’ve just become the best of friends by competing against each other and with each other,” Pilot said. “That’s the glory of golf is that you meet these wonderful people not only in the state of Minnesota but all over the country. It’s just such a great way to get to know people because you spend a lot of time together when you play 18 holes together.”
When Pilot and Williams are playing together, Pilot said their No. 1 goal is to have fun.
“We do a lot of joking around and talk about funny things,” she said. “But then when it’s time to hit the shot, we are both encouraging each other to hit the best shot possible.”
Pilot lives in Arizona in the winter and said this last winter she really improved on her golf game.
“That helps when you can play golf year-round,” she said.
Pilot’s second win of 2021 came in late June when she won the MGA Women’s Senior Match Play at Monticello Country Club.
In the quarterfinals, Pilot defeated her four-ball partner Williams 1 up to advance to the semifinals.
“That’s probably the most difficult way to have to play your partner and best friend,” Pilot said. “One of you is going to win and one of you is going to lose.”
She followed that up with a 1-up victory in the semifinals over Barb Miller of Dellwood Country Club.
“I was down that entire match until the 17th hole,” Pilot said of the semifinal match. “I went 1 up at 17 and was able to close it out on the 18th hole and was really, really thrilled about that.”
In the finals, Pilot dispatched Christine Dean of Interlachen Country Club 3 and 2 to win the match play event.
“I had never won that championship before so it was great to get the title under my belt,” Pilot said. “Christine Dean is a young senior, she just turned 50, and is a very good player. I just tried to be consistent and kill her with pars.”
Pilot lost the first hole of finals, but ended up taking a 2-up advantage by the sixth hole. Pilot said her goal in match play was to get as many pars as possible.
“My play that week was very consistent,” she said. “My mindset was to make a bunch of pars and try to hit a bunch of fairways. Monticello Country Club was a very narrow golf course with a lot of tree-lined fairways and my goal was to try and put the ball in the fair and on the green.”
Pilot also competed in the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship with her husband David in the senior division. The couple finished tied for fourth with Pilot’s four-ball partner Williams and her partner Tom Ryan finishing first.
“That tournament is a little different animal,” Pilot said. “The first day you play best ball, which is where if I score four and he scores a five we take my four. The second day is a modified alternate shot which is where we each tee off and then he hits a second shot off my tee ball or I hit the second shot off his tee ball and then you alternate through the hole. A very difficult format.”
Most recently, Pilot played in a 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open Qualifying round where she finished tied for third with an 83 and became an alternate for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
The qualifier was played July 8 at TPC Twin Cities, which would host PGA Tour professionals for the 3M Open Championship two weeks after Pilot played.
“It was difficult,” Pilot said of playing TPC Twin Cities. “When I left that golf course that day I said, ‘that’s the best 83 I’ve ever shot in my life’ because it was played at professional yardages and our hole locations were extremely difficult. I mean everyone was talking about the hole locations when we got done with the round. There were a lot of par 4s that I could not even get to in two and then when you have a super difficult hole location you are playing away from the hole and trying to two-putt for bogey. That was a really stressful day on the golf course.”
Despite it being one of the hardest rounds Pilot ever played, she reveled in birdieing the par 5 18th hole — which was one of the hardest holes on the course when the PGA pros played it.
Pilot has an event coming up that she is really excited about. She gets to play in the Land O’Lakes Legends Classic Aug. 6-7 at The Meadows at Mystic Lake golf course in Prior Lake. The tournament is a part of the Legends Tour, which is the official senior tour of the LPGA. Pilot will play as one of five amateurs in the first ever Land O’Lakes Legends Classic.
“They are trying to showcase Minnesota amatuer golf while the pros who are going to be there,” Pilot said. “That will be really fun. I haven’t competed on that stage at all.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.