Eagle Lands At Right Moment For Pressel
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – If anyone knows what it is like to watch an opponent hole an improbable shot it’s Morgan Pressel. She was standing in the middle of the 18th fairway at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver the last Sunday in June when Birdie Kim holed a miraculous bunker shot to win the U.S. Women’s Open by two strokes over Pressel and fellow amateur Brittany Lang.
A few weeks later, Pressel was at the 19th hole of a third-round match at the U.S. Girls’ Junior at BanBury Golf Club in Eagle, Idaho, when Juliana Murcia Ortiz of Colombia sank a chip shot from behind the green to eliminate the Floridian. The loss was devastating because Pressel had a 2-up lead with two holes to play.
On Saturday, Pressel faced a 93-yard approach shot to the 10th hole of Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course. Her U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinal opponent, Angela Park of Torrance, Calif., had already stuffed her approach to 3 feet for a likely birdie. With the match all square and Pressel fighting off four painful lip-outs, three of which came inside of 6 feet, the pressure was on to make a good swing.
Her caddie, Sam Hinshaw, told Pressel the shot needed to go 85 to 87 yards.
Seconds after her club collided with the ball, a fan behind Pressel yelled “Oh, go in! Go in!”
“It was just taking off,” said the 17-year-old Pressel, recalling the shot. “I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?”
The ball took dead-aim for the flagstick, bouncing once before disappearing for an eagle-3.
Pressel was 1 up and she never looked back, winning 3 and 1 to earn a berth to her first final of a USGA championship.
After the two heartbreak 2005 USGA defeats, Pressel finally saw a bounce go her way, albeit in the middle of a match rather than the end. The exuberance felt quite the same as Pressel raised both hands in exultation when the ball disappeared.
“It was exciting,” said Pressel. “I just wanted to put [my ball] inside of her and just halve the hole with birdie, but I got a little lucky.”
That’s golf. It sometimes takes a few breaks as well as skill to pull out six consecutive match-play victories. But Pressel has been quite impressive in her first five match-ups, playing the equivalent of 27 under par with the usual match-play concessions.
Pressel, of Boca Raton, Fla., goes for No. 6 on Sunday when she meets Maru Martinez, 21, of Caracas, Venezuela in the 36-hole final. Martinez, a senior-to-be at Auburn University, where she earned second-team All-America honors in 2004-05, eliminated Alison Whitaker of Australia, 4 and 3.
Considering her résumé and 2005 summer, Pressel will enter as the favorite. But the fiery Martinez has certainly picked up her share of fans this week, especially among the Spanish-speaking Settindown Creek grounds crew. Pressel, however, has drawn the biggest galleries, being not only one of the top U.S. female amateurs, but a young player with enormous potential to compete at the next level of the game. She already is planning on going to LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall.
Her shot-making and putting have dazzled those who have watched her perform, and she hasn’t disappointed the fans.
“Yeah, I like [the crowds],” said Pressel, who had some 300 people following her match with Park. “It was a great crowd out there and a lot of support.”
Early on both competitors found their putters to be a bit icy, despite the warm Georgia summer temperature. Park pulled a 5-foot birdie putt at the second and Pressel returned the favor at three by lipping out a 4-footer for birdie. Park holed a 30-footer for eagle at No. 4 after Pressel’s second shot was pulled-hooked into the water hazard.
Pressel momentarily heated up with a 9-foot birdie at five and a 15-footer at six to gain a 1-up advantage. With a chance to go 2 up at the par-3 seventh, Pressel watched her 5-footer do a complete 360-degree turn around the hole. At eight, she three-putted from 25 feet, lipping out a 3-foot par putt, as the match returned to all square. Another long birdie putt hit the right edge of the hole at nine.
“I think her tempo got a little quick in her stroke," said Pressel's caddie Sam Hinshaw. "Those are things she has been working on. She said coming into this week she hasn't putted well since the U.S. [Women's] Open.”
“It happens and you move on,” added Pressel of the lip-outs.
That’s when she delivered the shot of the day, one that Park won’t soon forget.
“When that went in, I knew I was going to have to work really hard on this nine,” said Park, who lost to Pressel, 1 up, at the 2004 Canon Cup, a Ryder Cup-style junior event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association. “That is match play and you have to go on.”
Park definitely had her opportunities over the closing holes, but the putter never thawed out. She missed from 9 feet at 11 but made a crucial 10-foot par putt at 14 to halve the hole and remain, 1 down.
At the par-5 16th, both players knocked their approach shot to within 5 feet. Pressel made her birdie putt, but Park, after re-marking her ball and taking a little more time than normal over the putt, pushed her 3-footer to the right.
“I miss those quite often, so it is not unusual,” said Park. “My putts were dropping [this week], but not today.”
Pressel finished off the match in grand style, drilling her tee shot at the par-3 17th to 12 feet and rolling in the birdie.
For the match, Pressel hit eight of 13 greens, 15 of 17 greens and had 25 putts. Park also had 25 putts, hit 11 of 13 fairways and 12 of 17 greens. So the difference was the hole-out at 10 and a couple of putts late.
Pressel also made two great recoveries at 12 and 14. She got up and down from a buried lie to the left of 12, making a clutch 4½-footer to halve the hole with par. At 14, she drilled an 8-iron approach from the right rough to 20 feet for another two-putt par.
Known for being a ferocious putter and a tough competitor, Pressel has shown a complete repertoire of skills this week.
“I think she got really accurate with her irons,” said Park. “She’ll go for every pin. She has no fear whatsoever.”
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.