Tuesday Notebook: Putting Adjustment Has ’04 Runner-Up McCurdy In Title Chase
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – Amanda McCurdy exited the 18th green Tuesday at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Course with an affirmative high-five to her caddie and then a hug from two University of Arkansas teammates – Sarah Trew and Lindsey Hinshaw – in her gallery.
The diminutive 21-year-old from El Dorado, Ark., who isn’t afraid to hide her emotions while she’s playing, had just put the finishing touches on a brilliant 3-under-par round of 69 in the second round of stroke-play qualifying at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur, a round that was seven strokes better than Monday’s performance. Her 36-hole total of 1-over 145 would easily fit under the match-play cut.
But seven holes into McCurdy’s round on Monday, the 2004 Women’s Amateur runner-up and the Cinderella story from that championship at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa., looked like she might make a premature exit from this suburban Atlanta venue. McCurdy stood at four over par and something was clearly wrong with her putting. She hit seven of nine greens on her opening nine, but posted a 40.
Last year, McCurdy might not have adjusted to such adversity. The Women’s Amateur was her second USGA experience – she played in the 2003 Women’s Amateur Public Links, winning one match – and despite coming to that event with few expectations, she might have lost the patience required to recover from such an early hole.
Not this year. Not after her remarkable ’04 Women’s Amateur run and her solid performance at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills Country Club, where she made the cut with rounds of 75-75-71-78 to tie for 38th.
McCurdy discovered the problem at the 18th hole on Monday, her ninth of the day, and played even-par golf over the last nine holes. She played her last 29 holes in three under.
“I was set up left and I was missing everything left,” said McCurdy. “I decided to choke down just a little bit and fix my alignment. I still need to work on it because that’s what I did a little bit wrong today.
“But it’s the same thing as last year; hit fairways, hit greens and hopefully make a few putts and you are good.”
A year ago, McCurdy could have played as Jane Doe and nobody would have noticed. She still remains a bit under the radar behind teenage phenoms such as Morgan Pressel and reigning champion Jane Park, but McCurdy didn’t exactly need an I.D. around USGA officials.
“More people point out who I am and all the USGA officials know who I am,” said McCurdy, who beat current LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer in the semifinals last year before falling to Park, 2 up, in the 36-hole final. “They come up to you and say, ‘Hey Amanda!’ I definitely didn’t have that last year.”
Armed with a bevy of confidence, McCurdy arrived at the championship with a slightly different mindset than she had in 2004. Stepping onto the first tee, she didn’t feel awed by the whole atmosphere.
“I said, ‘You know what, this is where I belong,’ ” said McCurdy, a senior-to-be at Arkansas. “It’s good to be back here after the rough [junior] year I had.”
McCurdy fought some physical ailments this past season, including a kidney stone, but she also watched teammate Stacy Lewis steal some of her thunder. Lewis won three times, including the Southeastern Conference title, while McCurdy closed the SEC Championship with a non-scoring 79. It was the first time in McCurdy’s career that her score didn’t count in the five-count-four team format of collegiate golf. But at the NCAA Division I Championship a few weeks later in Sunriver, Ore., she led the Lady Razorbacks with a 72-hole total of 298, one better than Lewis, as the squad placed 12th.
Her performance at the Women’s Open followed, but she went out in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in Kansas City, Mo.
She’s hoping for a little redemption, and maybe some 2004 mojo, once match play begins on Wednesday.
“I left a ton out there,” said McCurdy of stroke play. “It’s hopefully encouraging going into match play. I’m still in a pretty good position this year again.”
With one last 2-footer for bogey, Carol Semple Thompson quietly made an exit from her 100th USGA championship. The 56-year-old from Sewickley, Pa., a seven-time USGA champion, including the 1973 Women’s Amateur, posted an 8-over-par 80 for a 36-hole total of 162, well off the number to qualify for match play.
Although she advanced to the third round of the 2002 Women’s Amateur at the age of 53, Thompson realized that making match play this time around was long shot.
On Saturday night, the USGA arranged a special presentation for Thompson at the contestants’ dinner, replete with a video and a framed scroll listing all 100 of her championship appearances. In true Thompson fashion, the humble Pennsylvanian was a bit overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance. After all, she came here to compete, not take a nostalgic stroll around the course and wave to well-wishers.
“I don’t feel like I have been playing well for a year or two, so I don’t feel like I can be too upset,” said Thompson. “I just have to pull myself together for the Senior [Women’s] Amateur.”
As for the milestone appearance, Thompson shrugged off the sentimental value of such an achievement.
“I tried not to let it be a big deal,” she said. “I’m much more interested in winning the championship. I like to be competitive and if I am going to continue to play [in the Women’s Amateur] I need to become more competitive.”
As a competitor who has transcended several decades of competition, Thompson has also seen the dynamics of this event change over the years. In the 1960s, sectional qualifying wasn’t needed and many of the competitors were college players or career amateurs. Few teenagers participated outside of the occasional Hollis Stacy or Laura Baugh. Today, the event is filled with youngsters and very few mid-amateurs.
“It’s just hard to qualify,” said Thompson. “There’s just so much competition.”
Back in the 1960s, who would have thought that Thompson would someday tee it up with a 17-year-old from Korea and a 20-year-old from Russia. The past two days, she played with reigning Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Eun Jung Lee and Anastasia Kostina, a Washington State University senior-to-be from the Moscow suburb of Nakhabino.
“I love meeting the kids,” said Thompson. “No, I never thought I would play with a girl from Russia. It’s wonderful.”
Women’s Amateur Champion Reunion
The field this week includes two former U.S. Women’s Amateur champions in Jane Park and Carol Semple Thompson. But three more will be part of The Golf Channel’s television coverage of the championship, beginning Wednesday. Among the announcing team are two-time winners Kay Cockerill (1986 and ’87) and Vicki Goetze-Ackerman (1989 and ’92), along with 1993 titlist Jill McGill (she also won the 1994 WAPL). Goetze-Ackerman can relate with all the teenagers in the field as she won her first title as a 16-year-old, beating fellow teen Brandie Burton at Pinehurst No. 2 a week after Burton won the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Three years later as a 19-year-old, she outlasted current LPGA world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago. Goetze-Ackerman also reached the WAPL final as a 13-year-old in 1986.
Also part of TGC’s coverage are Atlanta resident and LPGA Tour player Rosie Jones and 1986 USA Curtis Cupper Dottie Pepper.
Coverage runs from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday and continues the rest of the week through the 36-hole final on Sunday.
Nara Shin of Chula Vista, Calif., withdrew following Monday’s round after posting a 93. Tina Miller of Miami, Fla., a 2005 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier who wrote on her media bio sheet that she only carries seven golf balls in her bag due to a superstition, ran out of balls during her second round and withdrew. Tessa Teachman , 15, of Webster, N.Y., who Monday-qualified for the Wegmans LPGA Rochester Classic earlier this summer, injured her back and withdrew after 12 holes. She had shot a 75 on Monday.
Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif., was disqualified after shooting an opening-round 77 for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Odds And Ends
Among the notable players to fail to qualify for match play were 2004 USA Curtis Cupper Elizabeth Janangelo, reigning NCAA Division I women’s champion Anna Grzebien, local favorite Margaret Shirley of Roswell and Auburn University standout Nicole Hage of Coral Gables, Fla. … It was a good-news, bad-news day for the Schepperle sisters of Birmingham, Ala. Abigaile, 19, shot a 1-over 73 for a 149 total to qualify for match play, but 17-year-old Candace bogeyed her final hole and came in with an 81 to miss match play by a single stroke. The cut came at 10-over 154 … It was easy to tell which country Alison Whitaker hailed from. She had stickers of the Australian flag on one arm and one leg. She’ll get another day to display them proudly as the 19-year-old advanced to match play with a qualifying score of 151.
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.