Wednesday Notebook: Aussie Whitaker Wins Down-Under Battle With Kiwi Dury
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – When Australians and New Zealanders get together for a sporting match, it usually takes place on a large, rectangular pitch with a football-shaped object being tossed back and forth.
Matches between the Wallabies and All Blacks are legendary Down Under and generally consume fans of both countries like a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees showdown in October.
But on Wednesday at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Course these two countries did battle in an entirely different arena. The only similarity was the grass was green.
“I had a bit of laugh,” said 19-year-old Aussie Alison Whitaker when she saw who her first-round match-play opponent would be.
Whitaker faced Claire Dury, a recent graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and a native of New Zealand.
Okay, so it wasn’t Michael Campbell versus Greg Norman, but the patriotism of such a match-up could be felt as the two toured the 6,413-yard, par-72 layout. Whitaker eventually prevailed in a tight contest, 1 up, as Dury lipped out a 30-foot birdie putt on 18 to extend the match.
Whitaker’s roommate, compatriot and fellow Women’s Amateur competitor Kristie Newton, a 26-year-old from Hawthorn in the Aussie state of Victoria, wrapped an Australian flag around her shorts and applied temporary tattoos of the Australian flag on her legs, face and arms to support Whitaker. Whitaker applied those tattoos as well, but they will come off when she heads home after this championship.
“My mom would kill me [if they were permanent],” said Whitaker, laughing. “It’s just a bit of fun. Kristie and I are actually staying together so we are organizing outfits and were color coordinating this morning.”
Whitaker and Newton, who failed to qualify for match play, are teammates on the Victorian State Team. Whitaker also is a part of the prestigious Victorian Institute of Sport, which helps elite athletes get proper training and coaching. PGA Tour stars Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Aaron Baddeley are products of the golf program. Whitaker also is studying applied science at Deakin University as a fallback in case a future in golf doesn’t happen.
She came to the States this summer for eight weeks of competition, playing in the Women’s Western in Indiana and two events in Colorado as well as the Women’s Amateur qualifier in Chicago. Whitaker hopes to garner enough good results to make the Australian National Team for the 2006 Women’s World Amateur Team Championships in South Africa next October. Australia won the 2002 title in Malaysia behind current LPGA Tour pros Lindsey Wright and Katherine Hull.
“That’s one of my goals,” said Whitaker. “I have to see how far I go the rest of the year and hopefully I will have some good results.”
Dury plans to enter LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall after a strong 3½-year college career. She was an honorable-mention All-America this past season for the Lady Golden Bears.
Outside of Campbell and Bob Charles, her country has produced few golfers of international recognition. Lynette Brooky currently plays on the Ladies European Tour.
“We only have a population of four million people,” said Dury. “There are some good juniors, but there haven’t been a lot of good professional players. I don’t know why.”
As for LPGA Q-School, Dury said her experience this week helped in her preparations.
“I am looking forward to that,” she said. “I can take a lot of good things out of this week and a lot of things to practice.”
Eye For Talent
Now that Carol Semple Thompson’s playing is finished at the Women’s Amateur, the 56-year-old, seven-time USGA champion morphed into her 2006 USA Curtis Cup captain mode on Wednesday. Thompson was trying her best to familiarize herself with the crop of potential talent that will comprise the eight-woman squad that will take on Great Britain and Ireland next July at Bandon Dunes Resort in Bandon, Ore.
“I know some of the players, but I just don’t know their faces,” said Thompson, standing by the first tee with a bracket in hand.
Don’t think the players didn’t notice her on the fairways. Paige Mackenzie caught a glimpse behind the 10th green during her rally from 6 down against Amber Prange.
All the eligible competitors will be doing their best to impress over the next 11 months. A good performance here this week could go a long way toward getting one of those coveted berths.
Odds And Ends
University of Georgia senior-to-be Jackie Beers of Bonaire, Ga., was eliminated by Jenny Suh of Fairfax, Va., 2 and 1, but Beers’ assistant coach at Georgia, Laura Matthews of Canada, did advance with a 4-and-3 victory over Auburn University sophomore-to-be Abigaile Schepperle of Hoover, Ala.
Matthews is one of two mid-amateurs (players 25 and older) to reach the second round. Virginia Derby Grimes of Montgomery, Ala., the 1998 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, defeated Renee Skidmore of Everett, Wash., 3 and 2.
But the news wasn’t so good for 53-year-old reigning USGA Senior Women’s Amateur titlist Carolyn Creekmore of Dallas, Texas, who saw her championship ended by Nannette Hill of Pelham Manor, N.Y., 8 and 6.
One of the better matches of the day saw Korean-born In-Bee Park of Las Vegas, Nev., edge Eileen Vargas of Colombia, 1 up. Vargas was an All-American this past season at Pepperdine, while the 17-year-old Park won the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior and was the runner-up in that event in 2003 and ’05. Vargas had a chance to extend the match at 18, but missed a 3½-foot birdie putt.
Park now faces Jane Rah of Torrance, Calif., one of two 14-year-olds still remaining. The other is Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights, Calif. Lua was the second-youngest competitor in the field this week. She meets Lorraine Ballerano of Myrtle Beach, S.C. in round two.
The second-round also will feature a match-up of Lees: Jennie Lee of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Eun Jung Lee of Korea who won the Women’s Amateur Public Links title earlier this year.
Another good match-up is 2002 WAPL champion and ’04 USA Curtis Cupper Annie Thurman-Young of Highland, Utah, meeting Maru Martinez of Venezuela, a semifinalist in 2002. She also ousted phenom Michelle Wie in the first round of the ’03 Women’s Amateur.
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.