Staying On A High
Lucidi Ready To Defend Women's Amateur Crown

By David Shefter, USGA

In winning last year's U.S. Women's Amateur, Becky Lucidi was solid with her short-iron game at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. (USGA Photo Archives)

Gladwyne, Pa. – If Becky Lucidi thought playing in the 36-hole final of the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur was pressure, imagine being surrounded by a huge gallery with two modern-day Hall of Famers in a threesome and a challenging par-3 hole starting your biggest event in women’s golf.

It’s no wonder why the recent University of Southern California graduate from Poway, Calif., felt a little queasy as she approached the 10th hole at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Witch Hollow Course in this year's Women's Open.

In winning last year's U.S. Women's Amateur, Becky Lucidi was solid with her short-iron game at Sleepy Hollow Country Club. (USGA Photo Archives)

In fact, Lucidi needed a moment with the porcelain god.

“I just lost it,” said Lucidi, adding that she had never been more nervous for a golf competition.

Not when defending U.S. Women’s Open champion and childhood idol Juli Inkster and reigning Women’s British Open champ and two-time Women’s Open winner Karrie Webb are about to play the next 36 holes with you. It’s no wonder why Lucidi couldn’t stop wavering her 4-iron.

Moments before the group began, Webb approached an obviously anxious Lucidi: “You know, Juli and I feel like puking." Those words eased the tension and the 22 year old followed with a perfect tee shot to within 6 feet of the flagstick and an ensuing birdie to open the competition.

Unfortunately for Lucidi, the low numbers would not continue. Rounds of 79 and 75 meant a quick exit from her first Women’s Open, but the experience in North Plains, Ore., was priceless. The opportunity to observe two of the game’s greats was invaluable.

Earlier in the year, Inkster, herself a three-time Women’s Amateur champion, had mailed Lucidi a photograph of her kissing the Women’s Open trophy after last year’s victory at Prairie Dunes. She inscribed the message: Becky, Way to go on the U.S. Am. Looking forward to playing with you. USC’s women’s golf coach, Andrea Gaston, had actually received the photo and had it framed and matted before presenting it to Lucidi at a team fund-raiser last winter in Palm Desert, Calif.

“I got a little teary-eyed,” said Lucidi, who will defend her Women’s Amateur title Aug. 4-10 at Philadelphia Country Club. “About 250 people were there and I broke down.”

Such are the perks for winning the national championship. After taking the trophy home and celebrating with her family she brought it to USC where it was prominently displayed in historic Heritage Hall, which houses five Heisman Trophies as well as other athletic memorabilia.

During halftime of USC’s homecoming game this past fall, Lucidi was introduced to the crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum and a brief highlight video was shown.

And, of course, the 3-and-2 victory over Brandi Jackson last August earned Lucidi an exemption into the 2003 Women’s Open, along with the feature pairing of the reigning Open and British Open champion.

“She’s a fierce competitor,” said Lucidi of Inkster. “I learned a lot. I spent most of time observing her while she was hitting and in between shots. It was a real treat.”

The Open appearance capped off a great year for Lucidi. Besides the Women’s Amateur title, she also captured the Mexican Amateur, a stroke-play competition held in Guanajuato – “I felt I validated myself there,” she said – and then in May she helped USC win the NCAA Division I Women’s team title. She also played on the USA’s Women’s World Amateur team last fall in Malaysia and competed with reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Kathy Hartwiger in the inaugural Copa de las Americas competition in Puerto Rico in June.

“I’ve got a diploma, a championship ring and I get to meet President Bush in the fall [all NCAA team winners get that honor],” said Lucidi. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

And following the Women’s Amateur, Lucidi will turn pro and attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour, a path every champion of this event has taken since 1974. The last Women’s Amateur champion not to turn pro was Carol Semple Thompson, who will be in the field at Philadelphia C.C. Last year, Thompson advanced to the third round at the age of 53.

This year’s field will included an eclectic mix of personalities from 13-year-old sensation Michelle Wie to the venerable veteran Thompson. In fact, 20 players who competed in this year’s Women’s Open are among the 156 participants, including 1998 Girls’ Junior champ Leigh Anne Hardin, who won her title at nearby Merion Country Club, and 1999 Girls’ Junior winner Aree Song, the youngest champion in USGA history (13 years, three months). Wie became the youngest winner of any adult USGA championship in June when she captured the Women’s Amateur Public Links at 13 years, eight months.

“I think it’s awesome to see all these young players,” said Lucidi, who lost to Wie in the quarterfinals at this year’s WAPL. “Golf is growing so much and they are starting at an earlier age and they are going to perform better at an earlier age.”

Lucidi didn’t begin playing until she was 14 but only because the junior program in San Diego offered a hot dog and a soft drink with the $5 fee. It wasn’t until her freshman year at the University of New Mexico – she transferred to USC after her sophomore season – that she began taking the game seriously.

“I thought, ‘This is fun. I could do this for a living. This could be my career,’ ” said Lucidi.

Prior to last year’s Women’s Amateur, the only event Lucidi had ever won was the San Diego City Women’s Amateur. She had made several appearances in USGA events, but had never advanced past the quarterfinals. So when she arrived at Sleepy Hollow C.C. in Scarborough, N.Y., last August, she was not considered one of the favorites. Even during the stroke-play qualifying, Lucidi wasn’t all that comfortable with her game.

Then she met up with longtime caddie Ed Conners and, along with a hot putter, the two began a blistering journey through the draw. Leading up to the final, Lucidi ousted two 2002 USA Curtis Cuppers (Emily Bastel and Laura Myerscough), one of the country’s premier juniors (Elizabeth Janangelo) and one of Australia’s best (Lindsey Wright). In her first five matches, Lucidi registered 26 birdies and two eagles. Against Wright in the semis, Lucidi was the equivalent of 7-under par over 17 holes, while Wright was 6 under.

“Everyone said that should have been the final,” said Lucidi of the 3-and-1 triumph that included an eagle at the par-5 17th to close it out. “That was the best match I’ve ever played.”

This year’s challenge at Philadelphia C.C. will be quite similar. The course, designed by William Flynn in 1927 (the club actually dates back to 1890) isn’t quite as hilly as Sleepy Hollow, but it features tight fairways and small greens, which means a premium on accuracy. It will play 6,368 yards (par 71) for the Women’s Amateur. And if the matches are tight, the final four holes should provide a stern test.

It begins with an uphill 184-yard par 3, followed by a severely sloped downhill par 4 measuring 391 yards with a small green. Seventeen is the longest par 4 on the course, an uphill dogleg-right with another tiny green. The finishing hole is another slightly uphill par 4 (379 yards).

“This type of course makes you focus a lot tighter,” said Lucidi. “So many courses you have the freedom to just let it fly off the tee and have the freedom to just hit the green. You don’t have that luxury here. You have to hit the fairways. I am looking forward to coming back. It’s going to be a great test of golf.”

David Shefter is a staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him at dshefter@usga.org with questions and comments.


 

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