Solheim Cup hopeful Maja Stark showed her match-play mettle once again on Friday at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards, winning 3 and 2 over fellow European Jodi Ewart Shadoff to go undefeated in round-robin pool play and move on to the round of 16. The match started slow as the pair tied the first three holes, but Stark got the party started with a birdie on the par-5, 4th hole to go 1 up and it was then that the proverbial floodgates opened for the young Swede. After tying Ewart Shadoff with a par on hole 5 to remain 1 up, Stark won five consecutive holes from No. 6 to No. 10, taking a 6-up lead with eight holes to play. Ewart Shadoff did what she could to mount a late charge, winning holes 13, 14 and 15 to get back to 3 down with three to play, but the damage was done and Stark closed out the match on the par-5, 16th, tying Ewart Shadoff’s bogey to win 3 and 2.
“I think I just prioritized hitting greens and just making life simple for myself. I made a couple long putts so that helps too, obviously. I didn't really have many like hard pars,” Stark said. “I think I played really well until I got dormie after 12 holes. I didn't really feel that much pressure at any point. So today was just nice. Golf felt way more easy than it was the past few days.”
With 72 potential holes of golf left to play over the next two days, many players are taking their recovery very seriously, prioritizing rest and relaxation as a grueling weekend of golf looms large. But the 23-year-old is showing her youth and not feeling fatigued, crediting her experiences as a junior as the reason for endurance in these tough conditions.
“I think I'm pretty used to this coming from like European championships, Nationals, where you play several rounds of stroke play and then 36, 36, 36,” she said. “So, I think I'm pretty used to it. I think my adrenaline will probably keep me awake and focused for the next couple days, so I think it won't be too hard. I’ll just get rest next week I guess.”
However, even though her energy levels are up and she’s playing well at the challenging, tricky track that is Shadow Creek, Stark still doesn’t feel comfortable being in this scenario. It’s one she will have to get used to though, with the 2023 Solheim Cup just four months away.
“This is awful. Match play is so hard. I mean, I just play like I usually do but it's nerve-racking. I just happen to play well in those situations, but it's not fun. It's fun but losing is awful,” laughed Stark. “I've heard several stories about rookies throwing up on the first tee (at the Solheim Cup), and I think I could be one of those people. I don't know what I'll do. I mean, I've been in stressful situations before when you're playing with your team. I think that's even worse because you don't want to let them down.”
“Now it's for your continent and that's almost worse because there are so many more people watching. I bet there is going to be a lot of people out there this year. I'm already nervous for that.”