Junior McCurdy Surprise Underdog Finalist After Upsetting Creamer
loves an underdog.
the 104th U.S. Women's Amateur has an under-Hog.
|Amanda McCurdy was pumped after upsetting
2004 Curtis Cupper Paula Creamer in Saturday's semifinals at
the Women's Amateur. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)
McCurdy, the pride of the University of Arkansas (nicknamed the
Razorbacks or Hogs depending on who you talk to) and a 5-foot-1
dynamo of a golfer, has become the true Cinderella story at Kahkwa
Club this week. Had Danny Sheridan put odds on her reaching Sunday's
36-hole final, they might have been longer than the Washington Generals
beating the Harlem Globetrotters.
many gave the El Dorado,
resident much of a chance to beat 18-year-old Paula
in Saturday's semifinals.
Creamer's credentials read like a Who's Who of accomplishments:
American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year; low amateur
at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open, 2004 USA Curtis Cup member; semifinalist
at the 2003 Women's Amateur; second place at the LPGA Tour's ShopRite
Classic in June and so on.
claim to fame: 2004 Arkansas Women's Amateur champion and winner
of one college tournament (Landfall Tradition last fall in Wilmington,
N.C.). She did lose a playoff to Nicole Melton of Texas A&M
at Arkansas' own tournament, shooting 3 over par over 54 holes.
kept getting asked yesterday, ‘Do you realize who you are playing
and are you nervous?’ ” said McCurdy, who is entering her
junior year at Arkansas.
“I'm like no, because none of you expect me to win so really why
am I nervous? What do I have to be nervous about? I came into this
tournament as a no-namer … and everybody knew the marquee names,
so I have nothing to lose.”
fact, it was Creamer who looked nervous. Playing in her fourth consecutive
USGA amateur semifinal, she was hoping to avoid the final-four jinx
that somehow has plagued this talented teen from Pleasonton,
played consistent, steady golf, making two birdies (one conceded)
and one bogey over 14 holes in a shocking 6-and-4 victory over Creamer.
Creamer hit 11 of 12 fairways, but just five of 14 greens and had
24 putts. McCurdy hit nine of 12 fairways, 10 of 14 greens and had
victory puts her into Sunday's 36-hole final against 17-year-old
Jane Park of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., the 2003 Women's Amateur
runner-up and another Curtis
|Paula Creamer, left, is consoled by her
caddie/boyfriend Tarik Can following her loss to Amanda McCurdy.
played good golf and that's all I can say,” said a disappointed
Creamer, who will play in her sixth women's professional event of
2004 next week in Dublin,
“I gave it to her. She didn't have to do anything. There was no
pressure on her whatsoever and when you are in that situation, you
are benefiting that person. You are pumping them up.
was just not my day. I was like in five divots today. When that's
the case, it is kind of a sign.”
disappointment showed immediately following the match when Creamer
hugged Christi Dickinson
of the USGA Women's Committee
for almost a minute. But a few minutes later, she was signing autographs
for several fans.
if she feels cursed about getting so close to all these finals without
playing in one, Creamer added: “Kind of. Something new has to happen
please. … This was the one tournament I really wanted to win. I
worked hard for this.”
hard to figure what cloud McCurdy is riding on at this point. When
told that reaching the championship match earned her exemption into
the 2005 U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills Country Club, her father
and caddie, David,
could barely hold back the excitement. McCurdy spent several minutes
making cellphone calls to well-wishers and family members back in
Friday night after the quarterfinal victory over Sun-Young Yoo,
McCurdy had 24 voice mails, including one from 2004 Women's Amateur
participant and 2003 Women's Mid-Amateur runner-up Shannon
hearing the news that McCurdy had advanced to the semis, Arkansas
golf coach Kelley
jumped in her car and made
airline reservations as she drove toward the airport in Fayetteville.
Connecting in Memphis
and eventually landing in Cleveland,
Hester made the two-hour drive to Erie
and arrived by midnight.
wouldn't have missed this for the world,” said Hester prior to the
fact, McCurdy ran into her coach at the hotel late Friday evening,
perhaps a little too late for Hester's liking.
was on the phone when she got off the elevator,” McCurdy said. “I
made the mistake of pointing out the fact that I was still up and
on the phone. She told me to get off it and so I talked to her for
a few minutes and then went to bed.
as far as people go, she is my idol. If you take away golfers, I
look up to her more than anything. It's awesome for her to be here
right now. She's the reason why I am here, other than my instructor
years ago McCurdy and Creamer actually crossed paths for the first
and only time in their careers – until Saturday. They were both
entered in an American Junior Golf Association event in Mobile,
one of two McCurdy competed in as a youth. Creamer was only 14 at
the time and McCurdy 17, but McCurdy saw the talent then. Nicole
also a competitor at the Women's Amateur this week, wound up winning,
but McCurdy had a strong showing as well.
then, she has competed in relative obscurity compared to many of
the other headliners here this week. Sometimes that can work in
a player's benefit and McCurdy used that as her modus operandi
though she's got tons more experience,” said McCurdy, “she's human
like every other player and I knew that if I went out there and
got on my game plan, and got up on her early that that would be
good. That's what I did.”
armor showed a crack at the third hole when she three-putted from
40 feet. Then at No. 5, Creamer's drive hit a tree in the left rough
and all she could was punch the ball up the fairway. Her third shot
came up 45 feet short and a two-putt bogey gave McCurdy a 2-up lead.
the turning point came at No. 7 after McCurdy's drive landed above
a bunker on the upslope. All
she could do was punch an 8-iron to 150 yards short of the flag
where she proceeded to hit a 5-iron thin that bounced off the false
front and stopped eight feet from the hole. She converted the par
putt while Creamer missed a 4-footer for par.
could see her reaction in the fairway,” said Creamer. “It was bad.
She hit it thin and if you hit it thin into that green it doesn't
roll down the hill. She made a great save and I think that was the
was never up in the match and I never really felt comfortable out
a birdie at No. 8, which was the only hole Creamer won, didn't do
the trick. McCurdy birdied nine with a 5-iron approach to four feet
– “That club is sweet,” said David
at the ninth green – and Creamer
three-putted at 10, missing a 3-footer for par with a very tentative
stroke. From there, McCurdy was on cruise control and she didn't
let up like she did in the quarterfinals when she had a 6-up lead
on Sun-Young Yoo and saw it trimmed to 3 up before winning 3 and
could see the frustration in her,” said Amanda
“because I know she wasn't playing her best golf. I could see the
frustration in her putting for sure.”
McCurdy didn't take the lead for granted. It wasn't until the 14th
tee that she felt totally convinced the match was hers.
they said I was dormie,” said McCurdy. “I thought I'm good. I can
tie her on one hole. So we're good to go.”
actually topped her second shot from the fairway and failed to reach
the par-5 green in regulation before conceding McCurdy's 8-footer
that certainly eased the tension for David
The win meant one more day in Erie,
thus avoiding that 16-hour drive home for at least another 24 hours.
been an expensive week,” said David
of the financial cost of spending
seven-plus nights in a hotel. “But that's OK.”
course, if Amanda wins she has promised to do the Souey Call from
Arkansas for ESPN and The Golf Channel.
didn't know you all said on camera,” said McCurdy. “I wasn't excited
about that, but I will probably be so elated if I win that I will
do whatever. You might want to catch me right after it though because
I'll probably be pretty emotional.”
could say McCurdy will be in Hog Heaven.
is a USGA staff writer.
E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.