Women's Am Field Headlined By Marquee Players

 

By David Shefter, USGA

 

It has been five years since a teenager captured the U.S. Women's Amateur title, that being 18-year-old Dorothy Delasin who turned professional not long after garnering the championship at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C.

 

Paula Creamer is looking for that elusive first USGA championship. (USGA photo archives)

The drought is even longer for a mid-amateur (age 25 and over) golfers; the last champion being 28-year-old Canadian Cathy Sherk in 1978 when she defeated Judy Oliver, 4 and 3, at Sunnybrook Country Club in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

 

The last junior to take the title was Vicki Goetze in 1989 when the 16-year-old defeated fellow junior Brandie Burton at Pinehurst (N.C.) Country Club and Resort's No. 2 course a week after Burton had won the U.S. Girls' Junior. Goetze is one of four 16-year-olds to win the U.S. Women's Amateur. Nobody younger has achieved the feat, but 14-year-old Michelle Wie will try to do it this week.

 

And one has to go back to 1996 to find the last player to successfully defend her Women's Amateur title (Kelli Kuehne).

 

When 156 of the best female amateurs congregate at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., Aug. 9-15, another chapter in this storied championship will be written.

 

But will the winner come from the latest dynamic crop of young guns that includes 37 players under the age of 18? Or will the trend of collegiate standouts walking away with the Robert F. Cox trophy continue? Or might we see one of the 20 mid-amateur players steal the thunder from this generation of hotshots?

 

One thing is for sure, the 2004 Women's Amateur won't be short of headliners. Even though defending champion Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand has graduated from Duke University and turned professionals, the three semifinalists from a year ago are back, all of whom are under the age of 19.

 

That list includes two 2004 USA Curtis Cup participants in Jane Park, last year's runner-up, and Paula Creamer. Creamer has enjoyed quite a summer, but has yet to join the winner's circle. The Pleasanton, Calif., 18-year-old nearly became the first amateur since JoAnne Carner in 1969 to win a LPGA tournament when she finished tied for second at the ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, N.J., in mid-June.

 

A couple of weeks earlier, she helped the USA team defeat Great Britain & Ireland at Formby in Merseyside, England in the biennial Curtis Cup.

 

Creamer also has reached the semifinals in her last three USGA amateur competitions and shared low-amateur honors with fellow Curtis Cupper Wie at the U.S. Women's Open at The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., in early July.

 

Still, Creamer is seeking that elusive USGA title. At last year's Women's Amateur, Park beat her, 2 and 1, while she lost a 1-up decision to eventual champion Julieta Granada at the recently completed Girls' Junior in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Jane Park, 17, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., has also suffered two tough championship-match defeats, the first to Nirapathpongporn, 2 and 1, in last year's Women's Amateur final, and the second to Granada in 20 holes at the Girls' Junior.

 

The other returning semifinalist is 16-year-old Korean-born In-Bee Park of Henderson, Nev. Since winning the 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior at the age of 14 (second-youngest champion), Park has come very close to capturing a second USGA title, losing in the 2003 Girls' Junior final (Sukjin-Lee Wuesthoff) and the semifinals of the 2003 Women's Amateur (Nirapathpongporn) and 2004 Women's Amateur Public Links (Ya-Ni Tseng). Park also had a top-10 finish at the LPGA event in Las Vegas earlier this year.

 

Of course, many eyes will be on Wie, who will be competing in just her second individual amateur competition of the season (she was on the Curtis Cup team). Wie's bid to defend her WAPL title ended with a championship-match loss to Tseng, 1 up. But the Honolulu, Hawaii, resident posted a top-five finish at the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship this past spring and shared low-amateur honors with Creamer at the Women's Open. Wie lost in the first round of the Women's Amateur last year to 2002 Women's Amateur semifinalist Maru Martinez, 1 up.

 

The youngest competitor in the field is a player with a familiar last name. Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.), one of five daughters of former tennis star Ivan Lendl, actually qualified as a 12-year-old but turned 13 July 29. She is one of two 13-year-olds in the field, joining Kristina Wong of Vestal, N.Y.

 

All but four competitors in this year's field weren't alive when Marlene Streit won the Women's Amateur in 1956. (USGA photo archives)

The oldest player in the field is reigning USGA Senior Women's Amateur champion Marlene Streit of Canada, who became, at 69, the oldest champion in USGA history. Now 70, Streit will compete in an event that she won 48 years ago. She also will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this November. Only four players in this year's field were alive when Streit won the 1956 Women's Amateur.

 

One of them is Carol Semple Thompson. She won the Women's Amateur in 1973 and is the only other past champion in the field. The 55-year-old from Sewickley, Pa., will be competing in her 39th Women's Amateur and 97th USGA championship overall.

 

Five U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champions are entered, including reigning champion Amber Marsh Elliott. The others in the field are Thompson, Ellen Port, Virginia Grimes and Kathy Hartwiger.

 

College stars are also well represented, including 2004 USA Curtis Cuppers Sarah Huarte, Elizabeth Janangelo, Brittany Lang and Annie Thurman. Huarte captured the individual NCAA Division I women's title this past May in her swan song for the University of California-Berkeley. Thurman, who will be a senior at Oklahoma State, won the 2001 Women's Amateur Public Links title. Janangelo was honored by the National Golf Coaches Association as its player of the year. Lang was a first-team NGCA Al l-American this past season with Janangelo at Duke.

 

Other NGCA Division I All-Americans in the field are Charlotte Mayorkas (first team), Irene Cho (second team), Nicole Hage (second team), Leigh Anne Hardin (second team), Carolina Llano (second team), Kristen White (second team), Beth Allen (honorable mention), Kailin Downs (H.M.), Ashley Gomes (H.M.), Jessica Shepley (H.M.), Sophia Sheridan (H.M.) and Jenny Suh (H.M.). Mayorkas helped UCLA to the team title.

 

And 14 competitors participated in this year's Women's Open, including Wie, In-Bee Park, Jane Park, Creamer, Jennie Lee, Taylor Leon, Brittany Lincicome, Megan Grehan, Amie Cochran, Kim Shin, Jennifer Ackerson, Niloufar Aazam-Zanganeh, Tina Miller and Briana Vega.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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