Friday Notebook: McCurdy Can Taste Fruits Of Women's Amateur Success

By David Shefter, USGA

 

Erie, Pa. – The perks of amateur success haven't gone unnoticed for Amanda McCurdy this week at the 104th U.S. Women's Amateur. At the players' dinner last Sunday, she saw the USA Curtis Cup members donned in their red blazers. On Friday, she saw remaining Curtis Cup players wearing their USA raingear.

 

And she desperately wants a taste of it.

 

Amanda McCurdy of El Dorado, Ark., is the least heralded of the four semifinalists at the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur, but she is relishing the underdog role. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)

A couple of more victories and McCurdy could see some of the spoils, especially since the winner of the championship is virtually assured a spot on the 2004 USA Women's World Amateur Team that will compete in Puerto Rico in late October. It could also go a long way in earning an invite to the 2006 Curtis Cup Match at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon.

 

“That's eventually where I want to be before I go pro,” said McCurdy, who will be a junior this fall at the University of Arkansas. “And that's my goal to make it to that team. I'm pretty patriotic too, so that kind of makes me want to be in their shoes one day.

 

“That's why I'm here. This is what's going to help me. You've got to make a name for yourself sometime and this is a pretty good stage to do it at.”

 

Indeed, the U.S. Women's Amateur is considered the premier worldwide event in amateur golf for females. It draws an international field and the best from the American ranks. And a victory often is a life-changing experience for that individual.

 

Coming from the rural town of El Dorado, Ark., it would be the ultimate prize for someone who was off the radar screen in terms of notoriety seven days ago.

 

But after beating Sun-Young Yoo of Korea in the quarterfinals on Friday, McCurdy is two victories shy of the championship. Her next foe is 2004 USA Curtis Cupper Paula Creamer and should she win, McCurdy would face either Jane Park or Sarah Huarte, also Curtis Cup participants this past June.

 

“Nobody expects me to win so there's really not much pressure except what I put on myself,” said McCurdy, who was six under par through 10 holes against Yoo before settling for a 3-and-2 victory (four over for 16 holes). “I think that's a pretty darn good position to be in. I'm the sleeper. I'm the underdog. I love it because it's been that way all my life.”

 

McCurdy grew up at the El Dorado Lions Golf Course, a public facility in her hometown, which is at the very bottom of the state some 10 minutes from the Louisiana border. The town has 23,000 residents and more than one traffic light.

 

“We have three movie theatres and a Super Wal-Mart,” explained McCurdy. “But other than that, it's pretty small. I like small things.”

 

She began playing competitive tournaments at age 13 and by the time she reached high school, she had stopped playing tennis and turned her focus totally to hitting the small, white, dimpled ball. McCurdy wasn't known nationally because she only competed in two American Junior Golf Association events. She chose to play competitions within her own state.

 

But she drew the attention of several regional universities, notably Louisiana State, Tulsa and Arkansas. She originally committed to LSU, but after attending a Arkansas-Auburn football game, decided to change her mind.

 

“I was sick about that decision for days,” she said. “But I'm a huge Hog (Arkansas) fan. I'm an Arkansas girl through and through.”

 

This week, McCurday and her father, David, made the 1,000-plus-mile trip in their car to Erie. Amanda drove 14 of the 16 hours and it took a day and a half to get here. They stayed overnight in Columbus, Ohio, and arrived mid-day on Saturday, the first day of official practice rounds.

 

“I think that's why I've lasted so long,” said McCurdy, “because I hated that drive.”

 

Should she win two more matches, it might not be so bad. Especially with that big trophy in the back seat.

 

Food For Thought

 

These days, Americans have gone crazy with the various low-carb diets. Whether it's Atkins or the South Beach diet, people are staying away from sugars that add weight to their frames.

 

Not so for 17-year-old semifinalist and 2003 Women's Amateur runner-up Jane Park.

 

“I just eat anything,” said Park, who does avoid soda and candy. “I just try to eat a lot of carbs … especially this week. I never really pound on the carbs like outside of tournaments, but this week I have to eat a lot of carbs. [Thursday night] I had like three plates full of macaroni. And two pizzas. And some steak.”

 

Her favorite spot has been Golden Corral, a buffet-style restaurant where Park can feast to her heart's desire. She's been there five or six times.

 

“That place is awesome,” said the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident. “The [only] bad thing about that place is the guy at the steak line, you ask him for a medium and he gives you like rare and well done. He doesn't know how to cook a steak. I could cook it better myself.”

 

Red, White And Blue

 

For the first time since 1994, all four semifinalist in the Women's Amateur are Americans. International players have dominated USGA events this year, winning four of the seven competitions, with just Ryan Moore taking an amateur event (U.S. Amateur Public Links).

Last year, Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand walked away with the title. In 2002, Maru Martinez of Venezuela advanced to the semifinals and in 2001 Nicole Perrot of Chile reached the final. International players have dominated the Girls' Junior of late, winning the last four championships.

 

Three of the four semifinalists also played on the USA Curtis Cup team (Paula Creamer, Sarah Huarte and Jane Park).

 

“It really says something about our team,” said Park, who helped the USA win the Cup for a fourth consecutive Match against Great Britain and Ireland this past June at Formby Golf Club in Merseyside, England. “And how strong we were.”

 

Said Huarte: “It was a great team and I think everyone who was on it deserved to be on it. And I'm so glad to see both Paula and Jane in the semis. I hopefully will get to play both.”

 

Seven Curtis Cuppers competed this week, with Brittany Lang and Annie Thurman, who went 3-1 in the Match, both failing to make the match-play cut. Elizabeth Janangelo and Michelle Wie lost in the second round. The eighth player, Erica Blasberg, turned pro after the U.S. Women's Open.

 

 

More Than Bag Toters

 

A good caddie can often be the difference in advancing to the next round or going home. Competitors at USGA competitions take a multitude of approaches when it comes to using a caddie.

Some like Charlotte Mayorkas of Murrieta, Calif., a UCLA senior-to-be, chose to carry her own clubs like she did at last year's Women's Amateur. Others use a parent. Nicole Hage had her mom, Sybelis, carrying the clubs, while quarterfinalist Amanda McCurdy is using her father, David, as is Beth Al len (James).

 

Diana Ramage has friend and former Auburn school mate Mike Brice on the bag this week. Brice graduated in 2000 and is now the assistant golf coach at the University of North Florida.

Paula Creamer is using boyfriend and fellow amateur golfer Tarik Can, who will be attending the University of Texas this fall.

 

“I get along great with my caddie,” said Creamer, a 2004 USA Curtis Cupper and a semifinalist in her last four USGA amateur competitions, including this week. “It's all about keeping calm on the golf course.”

 

Michelle Wie hired Greg Johnston, who is the regular caddie for two-time U.S. Women's Open champion and LPGA Tour star Juli Inkster. Johnston and Wie hooked up last year at the LPGA Tour stop in Portland. He will again caddie for Wie at the Wendy's Championship in Dublin, Ohio next week while Inkster takes a break from the circuit.

 

The Wies had reportedly hoped to hire Johnston for the season, but he is loyal to Inkster, for whom he has worked for the past 10 years.

 

Korean 17-year-old Sun-Young Yoo hooked up with Kahkwa Club caddie Tyler Burniston. Yoo has given Burniston a lot of the credit for her putting prowess this week on the tricky Donald Ross greens. Burniston told the Erie Times-News that Yoo was “the best putter I've seen. Her pace, her reads, her unbelievably smooth stroke … it's just incredible.”

 

Burniston said the Kahkwa caddies have had advantage over those who had never seen the course before this week.

 

“Our knowledge of the course is just so much better,” Burniston told the Times-News, “and it has helped all the girls who have hired us.”

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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