Storming To A Title
Pressel Virtually Unstoppable In Memorable 2005 Women’s Amateur
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – Nothing, it seems, could stop Morgan Pressel.
Not the 155 other competitors in the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Not the Georgia heat and humidity that enveloped suburban Atlanta’s Settindown Creek Course of Ansley Golf Club over the seven days of the championship.
Not the rains nor brief thunderstorm that temporarily suspended play in Sunday’s 36-hole championship match.
Not the disappointment of a third-round loss at the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago when her opponent rallied from a 2-down deficit with two to go, chipping in for birdie at the 19th hole for the victory. Not the memory of Birdie Kim’s miraculous bunker shot at the 72nd hole of the U.S. Women’s Open to deny the 17-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., a shot to become the youngest major-championship winner in the history of golf.
Not a bunch of current and future Auburn University women’s golfers who painted their faces in orange and blue with mantras of “Go Rudy”, “Maru,” and “Julio” and yelled as if the Tigers were facing rival Alabama for the Southeastern Conference football title.
Not even the gritty and fiery Maru Martinez, the 5-foot-2 spitfire from Caracas, Venezuela, who played with the determination and guile of her anointed nickname (Rudy), which was given to her by Auburn coach Kim Evans, could slow down Tropical Storm Morgan.
She blazed a path of destruction this week that showed up on the radar screens as a blotch of red … as in red figures. How about 36-under-par golf – with the usual match-play concessions – over the nine competitive rounds (142 holes), including the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the event? That number included 47 birdies and one incredible eagle during the semifinals when she holed out a wedge from 93 yards out on the par-5 10th hole.
Her 9-and-8 victory in the 36-hole championship match punctuated a dynamic week for Pressel, who came here as one of the heavy favorites to walk off with the Robert F. Cox Cup.
And that’s exactly what Pressel did. Known as a fiery competitor herself with a deft putting stroke, Pressel displayed an all-around game, especially with her irons. In the championship match, 50 percent of her approach shots – tee shots on par-3s included – stopped 10 feet or less from the flagstick. It was the kind of golf people often see from world No. 1 female Annika Sorenstam, when the Swede is in complete control of her game.
“Just for duration, I would say this week,” said Pressel’s caddie Sam Hinshaw when asked if this was a better all-around performance than the one at Cherry Hills. “Cherry Hills was actually a tougher golf course because we didn’t have as much rain.”
Added Pressel: “I’m proud of myself for how I played and how I handled myself through the week. I mean, I could tell that I’ve been playing well and maybe just haven’t put it all together. But I’ve just kept waiting and it all came together this week.”
Pressel certainly was not handed any easy road to this championship. She defeated five strong junior-caliber players in Sooji Cho, Mina Harigae, Jane Rah, Jennie Lee and Angela Park to reach the final. Harigae matched her with a 67 in the second round, only to see Pressel gut out a 19-hole win in what was by far her toughest match of the championship and arguably one of the best early-round matches in recent Women’s Amateur memory.
In the final, she recorded 11 birdies – five of which were conceded – against only two bogeys and one double bogey, when she and Martinez halved the 10th hole in the morning 18 with 7s. Both found the water with their third shots.
The wet weather definitely gave the longer Pressel a slight advantage since she consistently out-drove Martinez by 20 to 30 yards. Pressel only hit a couple of 5-irons or 11-woods into greens during the match. She used one fairway wood on a par 4 and that was during a downpour in the second 18 at the sixth hole when stuck the shot to within 10 feet but missed the birdie putt.
“It’s just been a snowfall effect,” Pressel said of her 2005 season, which has included three victories in major American Junior Golf Association events (Thunderbird Invitational, Rolex Girls' Championship and Betsy Rawls) as well as the Harder Hall Invitational, a strong women’s amateur competition held each January in Florida. “I just keep playing better. It’s really great because I’ve worked really hard so it’s definitely great to see how my work is paying off.”
Then Pressel, who was the youngest to ever qualify for a Women’s Open when she did so at age 12 in 2001, went to the Open and started the event with five quick birdies to shoot to the top of the leaderboard. By the end of the championship, she was in great position to get the win, but Kim stole the show with the miraculous shot. But the confidence Pressel gained was insurmountable. She realized just how good her game stacked up to the world’s best players.
And she maintained that momentum into the Women’s Amateur. Now she’s off to defend her North and South Women’s Amateur title. Last year, she was the youngest winner of that prestigious championship and will enter match play as the No. 1 seed. She will play in two more LPGA events – the Wendy’s Championship and State Farm Classic – before the Junior Solheim Cup in Indiana in September. Then it is off to the first stage of LPGA Tour Qualifying School, where she is entered as an amateur but likely to get through.
So it doesn’t appear Pressel will be back next year when the Women’s Amateur moves to Pumpkin Ridge outside of Portland, Ore. Nor will she likely be an amateur to compete in the 2006 Curtis Cup Match at Bandon Dunes Resort in late July.
“I would love to do that,” said Pressel of the Curtis Cup, which will be captained by the venerable Carol Semple Thompson. “I just don’t know. If I don’t make it [through Q-School], then I would imagine I’d stay an amateur, but I don’t know.”
What is a fact is Pressel is the 2005 Women’s Amateur champion. Her name will be engraved on the trophy with so many of the game’s greats, including Glenna Collett Vare, Juli Simpson Inkster, Beth Daniel, JoAnne Gunderson Carner and Atlanta’s own Alexa Stirling, among others.
It’s a feat that won’t soon go unnoticed by Pressel. Although her trophy shelf is getting a little crowded with hardware and medals, this 109-year-old Cox Cup, the oldest among the USGA’s trophies, will have a special place back home.
“It’s my biggest win,” said Pressel. “It’s going either in my room or displayed somewhere proudly in our house. It’s in my house. I’m not letting it go.”
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com
U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship
TICKETS – Admission and parking for all seven days of the championship are free of charge.
WHO CAN PLAY? – The U.S. Women’s Amateur is open to female amateurs who have USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 5.4. Entries closed June 15.
DEFENDING CHAMPION – Jane Park, 18, or Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., will defend the title she won in 2004.
THE FIELD – The 2005 field will include seven Georgia players. They are Laura Coble of Augusta, Jackie Beers of Bonaire, Alina Lee of Evans, Kyu Ri Ban of Duluth, Dori Carter of Valdosta, Diana Ramage of Fayetteville and Margaret Shirley of Roswell.
TELEVISION COVERAGE – Match-play rounds will be telecast on The Golf Channel Aug. 3-7 from 4-6 p.m., EDT.
OTHER PROMINENT PAST CHAMPIONS – Patty Berg, 1938; Betty Jameson, 1939, 1940; Babe Didrickson Zaharias, 1946; Louise Suggs, 1947; Beth Daniel, 1975, 1977; Juli Simpson (Inkster), 1980, 1981, 1982; Pat Hurst, 1990; Kelli Kuehne, 1995, 1996; Grace Park, 1998; Dorothy Delasin, 1999.
CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE CONDITIONS – The following mowing heights will be used for the championship: fairways 1/2"; tees 7/16"; collars 1/4". Putting greens will be prepared so that they are firm and fast; to measure approximately 11 feet on the USGA Stimpmeter. Intermediate rough: 1", width approximately 72" along fairways, width approximately 30" wide around putting greens. Primary rough: 2 1/4".
FUTURE WOMEN’S AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP SITES – The 2006 U. S. Women’s Amateur will be conducted at Pumpkin Ridge G.C., North Plains, Ore., Aug. 7 – 13.
MEDIA CONTACT – The Media Center for the U.S. Women’s Amateur will be located in the main clubhouse at Ansley Golf Club. Rhonda Glenn and Beth Murrison will be the USGA staff members on site. The Media Center phone numbers are (678)639-7488 and (678)639-7494.