No Bull: Arseneault Tames Power-Hitting Ciganda
By Ken Klavon, USGA
North Plains, Ore. - In 1926, Ernest Hemingway put Pamplona, Spain, on the map for his portrayal of the annual nine-day San Fermin festival that annually kicks off with the Running of the Bulls.
Sixteen-year-old Carlota Ciganda, a native of Pamplona, did her best Thursday to run with her instincts. Namely rely on her bread-and-butter driver that she can wallop a mile. It ultimately cost her as she lost her third-round match at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club to 18-year-old Jennie Arseneault, 2 up, in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur.
After USA Curtis Cupper Taylor Leon got trounced in the first round by Ciganda, she raved about how far Ciganda could poke the ball. Arseneault compared the booms to Michelle Wie, known for her proficient drives that top 300 yards. Even University of Virginia women’s golf coach, Jan Mann, on the premises to support Cavalier sophomore-to-be Arseneault, gushed over Ciganda’s length and mechanical perfections with each swing.
“I don’t swing very hard,” said Ciganda through a translator. “It just happens.”
It happened on the Witch Hollow Course's 17th hole with the match all square. Ciganda out-drove Arseneault by some 40 or so yards, which had been the case all match, but the ball dropped into a fairway bunker a whopping 323 yards from the tee. With only 96 yards to go, Ciganda used four more strokes to find the hole. Arseneault traveled the less circuitous and more boring route. All she did was find the fairway, chip on from 140 yards and two-putt from 30 feet for the par.
And gain the hole victory.
Even though she didn’t dabble with the driver until the fourth hole, the 17th turned out to be a microcosm of Ciganda’s round. She got more torque out of her body than a 1967 Mustang 351 V-8 engine, but her accuracy suffered.
“On 17, I hit a pretty bad shot,” said Ciganda. “It was not what I had planned.”
For Arseneault, it screamed opportunity but not before she could pick her jaw off the ground when she got mesmerized by Ciganda’s length in the early going. Arseneault, a three-time Iowa Women’s Amateur champion, had heard from some of the other players in the field that Ciganda was something of an anomaly. She tried to block it out prior to the match but, like a gawker surveying a car wreck, she had to watch. Her psyche almost got trampled like that of a rookie brave-heart at Pamplona.
Mann picked up on Arseneault’s unsteadiness the first two holes. When she trailed by one hole arriving at the 10th tee, she assured her guest that Arseneault would be fine.
“She’s put the other player’s length out of her mind now,” said Mann. “At first, it bothered her.”
After the match, Arseneault laughed when told that her response had virtually repeated Mann’s reply earlier.
“At the beginning I was amazed at how far she could hit the ball, and then she stopped hitting driver and that helped me a little bit,” said Arseneault, who needed 19 holes to win her first two matches over Laura Luethke and 2006 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion Tiffany Joh.
Mann was something of a foreshadower. Seconds after eschewing Arsenault’s penchant for going at nearly every flagstick, she stroked an iron into the fat part of the par-3 12th green, safely avoiding a hazard that the hole hid behind. Mann wasted no time in flashing her a thumbs up. Moments later, Arseneault squared the match when Ciganda couldn’t get up and down.
The tilt went back and forth with the two competitors trading the next two holes and halving the following two. That set the stage for No. 17 and Ciganda’s unrefined driver. It also helped Arseneault to fall back on the basics.
“I wasn’t up in the match so I went back to what works,” said Arseneault.
Which, of course, was finding the fairway first and then the green. At that point, Ciganda’s power became moot.
If you let it, sometimes the bull runs over you unless you decide to take a run at it yourself.
Fortunately for Arseneault, she pinned her ears back and didn't blink.
Ken Klavon is the USGA's Web Editor. E-mail him with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.