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Stackhouse falls behind and out of U.S. Women’s Open qualifier

Mariah Stackhouse (right) and her father, Ken, assess her approach shot on the 14th hole during her second round. Starting on the back nine for her second round, Stackhouse improved drastically.

Mariah Stackhouse (right) and her father, Ken, assess her approach shot on the 14th hole during her second round. Starting on the back nine for her second round, Stackhouse improved drastically.

ATLANTA — Things have been going well for Mariah Stackhouse. She had a big graduation party Saturday. She’s graduating from North Clayton High today. She’s got a wide-open summer schedule, and then she’s got freshman orientation at Stanford University.

Things did not go so well Monday for Stackhouse. She tried to make the U.S. Women’s Open in a qualifying event at Dunwoody Country Club. She couldn’t control her irons. She missed opportunities for birdies. She was out of contention by the end of her first of two rounds with a 6-over 78 and still had 18 more holes to play.

But, Stackhouse wasn’t deterred. While sitting outside the clubhouse between rounds, eating a sandwich and watching several players withdraw after disappointing performances, she joked to herself about withdrawing, finished eating and played a stress-free, even-par 72 to finish the day on a good note.

No, a two-round score of 150 felt nowhere near Stackhouse’s 145 a year ago that qualified her for the Open and made her the only African American in the field.

But lately, the good has far outweighed the bad for Stackhouse, and Monday wasn’t going to change that.

“These last couple of weeks have been good,” she said, “so my spirits are up.” 

Stackhouse struggled from the start. Two three-putts on her first nine holes put Stackhouse at 2-over going into the back nine. But things only got worse.

On her approach shot from the 15th fairway, Stackhouse hit an iron into the pond to the right and in front of the green. She had to take a drop and a penalty stroke and still needed two putts to make double bogey. 

One last three-putt on 18 sealed her fate.

 Stackhouse knew she needed to stay around even par for the event to stand a chance. After her first round, she knew that chance was gone.

 “This tournament, you have lots of girls trying to qualify. It’s a tough one,” Stackhouse said. “You have to get at it early. 

“That course is a really long yardage. Combined with the fact that it’s so hilly, it makes it play like 7,000 yards. It’s an endurance test. I knew this course was going to wear some people out. It’s draining.” 

Stackhouse started to resemble the player who won three high school state championships and has been featured in several national publications — from Golf Digest to The New York Times — in her second round.

She started her round on the back nine and fired off five straight pars without issue. When she returned to the par-4 15th, she opted to stay away from the pond and it paid off — Stackhouse stuck an iron in the middle of the green and made a long putt for birdie.

“I couldn’t believe I made the putt,” she said. “It was such a stiff break.”

 Three pars later, Stackhouse was 1-under through nine holes and having fun again.

 “I hadn’t made a birdie in a really long time,” she said. “It was nice. It just kind of leveled me out.”