U.S. Women's Amateur Blog
Monday, August 13, 2007
This is the final entry for the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur blog. I'd to thank everyone who took the time to read the blog. We hope you enjoyed it. The 2007 Women's Amateur provided a lot of great moments and stories. This was my fifth Women's Amateur since joining the USGA staff in 1999 and I'll tell you what, the quality of play just continues to get better. It's also getting younger and younger as more juniors are qualifying.
The championship match was exactly what you want from a final. Great shot-making. Very few mistakes and plenty of drama right down to Maria Uribe's winning 5-foot putt for the title at the 36th hole.
Here's what also I'll remember from the 2007 championship:
Two 12-year-olds making it to the second round of match play and one advancing to the quarterfinals. That's remarkable. Keep an eye on Alexis Thompson and Pearl Jin over the next few years.
Kimberly Kim's remarkable mettle. The defending champion won not one, but two extra-hole matches against extremely talented 17-year-olds: Rikako Morita of Japan and Jennifer Song of Korea. Song has verbally committed to attend Southern California in the fall of 2008, so we should see a lot of this talent in the years to come.
Amanda Blumenherst's grace. There's winning with dignity and losing with dignity and Blumenherst showed both this week. Other players should take notice of how this 20-year-old handles herself on and off the golf course. Blumenherst certainly had plenty of support from the "Bus full of Blumenhersts" who came down from Ft. Wayne and other locales to cheer on their girl. They supplied plenty of noise out there all week.
Maria Uribe's fiery emotion. Some people might not like fist-pumping and outward emotion, but that's Uribe's personality. What a delight to watch. UCLA is getting one heckuva talent. She says she's not all that talented and has to work very hard, but there's God-given talent. You just have to watch her swing a club to see that. The people in Colombia should be awful proud to have a USGA champion. It was also neat to see the Crooked Stick staff, especially those of Hispanic descent cheering her on. They serenaded her with chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole" after she won on Sunday.
Well that's all from Crooked Stick. See you all next year at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club for the 2008 Women's Amateur.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
A video should have been made of the post-match performance of Amanda Blumenherst. If you ever want to see how someone should act after losing a 1-up decision in a Women's Amateur final, you should have paid attention to Blumenherst. Sure, she shed a few tears when hugging her mom and college golf coach. But she came into the media room and talked like she had won the title, not lost a very close match. Wow! That's all I can say. I've been around USGA championships for the last eight years and Blumenherst handled herself like a champion.
You have to remember that it's just a game. It's not life or death. Was she disappointed? Certainly. But there will be many more golf competitions in this girl's future, and she is going to win a lot of times.
And it's refreshing to hear that she wants to get a degree before turning professional, which is far from the norm in today's instant gratification world. She has the game right now to compete on the LPGA Tour. She's long and she's strong. But she also loves college and loves being around her teammates. You can see the maturity level as well. Even though she's only been in school two years, she just knows the highs and lows that golf can bring. She's been through tough situations on and off the course.
"The more experience you have in a tournament situation the better you're going to become handling the pressure and being able to play well," said Blumenherst. "Especially national championships, hitting a drive, knowing that your team is counting on you. It definitely prepares you to have confidence and also know what's at stake."
After a couple of mistake-filled holes at one and two -- Uribe found a greenside bunker at one and made a bogey and Blumenherst hit her approach over the green at two underneath a pine tree -- the two finalists settled down and played some marvelous golf. Uribe eagled the 11th with a 25-footer, but eagles could also have been made by Blumenherst at five, nine and 15. Uribe halved nine with a gorgeous wedge approach to 8 feet. Blumenherst lipped out her eagle putt at nine.
At 16, Blumenherst rolled in a long birdie putt to take a 1-up lead before Uribe answered at 18 with a 15-footer that caught the edge of the hole and went in.
You can certainly tell who is rooting for Blumenherst. Family members are all dressed in green shirts to matching Amanda's top, while wearing black skirts or shorts. Amanda has a white skirt on. Apparently Amanda's father, Dave, didn't get the green memo. He's got a white Duke University shirt on, with black shorts.
Like they have all week, the Blumenherst rooting section is making plenty of noise. When Amanda holed a 2-foot par putt at 13, a shill went up. One spectator walked by and deadpanned: "You're lucky that was only a 2-footer." But it's all in good spirit. The Blumenherst clan also have green ribbons with the words B-L-U-M-E-N-H-E-R-S-T written in black ink.
Uribe also has her cheering section from the grounds crew, who are dressed in orange tops again today. They even were carrying around small Colombian flags. One guy made a Colombian flag out of a piece of cardboard.
There's a nice crowd of people of all ages out there watching. You can bet the crowd will swell this afternoon as that's generally the case in 36-hole finals.
The Players 'At Lunch'
Sometimes you’ll read accounts of the Women’s Amateur final which say that, “The players were all square at lunch.” “Lunch” is the halfway point of the 36-hole final match.
It’s one of those nice traditions that make this championship stand out. This year, a table in the dining room has a sign on it, “Reserved for
.” Two tables away is another table with “Reserved for
” on it. The players are seated with whomever they want to sit with them; family, friends, or all alone. They’re served quickly and allowed to eat undisturbed.
This year, Uribe and Blumenherst have only 45 minutes for lunch. They teed off at
and they completed 18 holes at 12:45 p.m. The pace seems a bit slow for a two-ball match. Sometimes the pressure of the final is enough to prompt them to slow down, although most actually play better when they play with speed rather than deliberation.
When the first Women’s Amateur was played in 1895 at the Meadow Brook Club, the contestants played nine holes and were then served an elaborate lunch before completing the final nine of the championship.
in the 1954 final and Romack remembers that there were no special reserved tables for players. “
and I just went in the clubhouse and plopped at a couple of tables with some of our friends,” Romack said.
And so, apparently, the seating at reserved tables started sometime after. But the match is all square, with both players the equivalent of five under par (with concessions), although the par Blumenherst was given at No. 2 is a little misleading. She hit her second shot under a pine tree and failed to get out before conceding Uribe's birdie putt.
So the decisive action of the final will take place this afternoon. After lunch.
Peyton Manning's Locker
One of the many nice things that host clubs do for players, committee members and USGA staffers is to provide locker space in the clubhouse. Members are asked to clean them out before the championship begins and the lockers are then assigned to the visitors.
I seldom use mine. Today I checked it because the local committee said my locker held a very nice gift, given to Women's Committee members at the Women's Amateur. I also wanted to see
is a Crooked Stick member and has a handicap of between 4 and 5, I’m told. He’s such a great quarterback, of course, and as a sports fan I wanted to just stand in front of his locker for a quick look. I wouldn’t have opened it -- lockers are private. I figured that his hadn’t been assigned to a visitor for no reason other than that Manning is a very big deal.
His locker, I was told, is No. 18, his jersey number. I walked to it and there was a temporary nameplate, which read, “
, Manager of USGA Communications.”
I had to smile. Perhaps no one would have appreciated having locker No. 18 as much as I did. I wrote Manning a short note, thanking him for the use of his locker and extending my best wishes for another great season. I also left a 3-pack of golf balls for him. Of course,
surely doesn’t need golf balls, but it was a way to say thank you. And what was in
’s locker? Almost nothing. He had cleaned it out and it was as clean as a whistle. Just five lonely coat hangers, one of wood, the other your standard sort of beat-up wire hangers that we all get from the dry cleaners and can never seem to get rid of. But thanks for your hospitality,
. It’s right in line with the great warmth and spirit of all of the other Crooked Stick members I’ve met this year.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
The gallery for Sunday’s final likely will be rooting for
. She has
roots and is American.
and doesn’t have her family here this week. It’s just she and her coach/caddie,
But the Hispanic grounds crew has definitely adopted Uribe as one of their own. And she’s been a big hit with other Crooked Stick club employees. Earlier in the week, she signed photos for the staff.
And don’t be surprised to see a few Colombian flags on Sunday.
, the wife of Crooked Stick member
, planned to hit a store Saturday night to purchase some Colombian flags for the grounds crew to waive for Sunday’s 36-hole final.
has never had a USGA champion, although
have been runner-ups; Villegas at the 1999
Junior Amateur and Baena at the 1996 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Uribe also could be the second South American to win a USGA title this year, following Argentiina’s
at the U.S. Open. Three years ago, Julieta Granada of
won the U.S. Girls’ Junior and
took the 2001 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
has certainly been a dominant international force in the game, especially women’s golf,
is producing large numbers of quality players.
Even if Uribe loses in the final, it’s likely we will hear a lot from this talented 17-year-old over the next few years. She will be a freshman at UCLA next month, bolstering what will be a very talented Bruins team with the likes of 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur match-play qualifiers Sydnee Michaels and Tiffany Joh, along with Ryann O’Toole, who reached the quarterfinals at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
Having all your friends and relatives around can be a blessing and a distraction at the same time.
is very close with her family and every summer they get together in
to have the Blumie Open. That event will take place on Monday, a day after the U.S. Women’s Amateur final at Crooked Stick. This week, many family members are crammed into
’s grandparents’ house in
“I get my own room, which is great,” she said. “But we have people all over the couches. I’m trying to eat breakfast and someone is on the floor next to me. And I think there’s one bathroom.”
Dinners have also been large gatherings. One night there were at least 16 people eating at one large table.
“You definitely have to plan for a two-hour dinner or a [90-minute] dinner,” said Blumenherst. “Everyone says, ‘Okay, do you want to go watch a movie?’ I said, ‘Well, I kind of want to practice a little.’ So it is everything that comes with being in a big group. Last night, I think we had a table for I think it was 16.”
If you see a convoy of vehicles on the road headed south from
Sunday morning you can bet where they are headed: to watch
in the final of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Blumenherst spent part of her youth in
and still has a lot of relatives in and around
“I think a few elementary school teachers are thinking about coming,” she said after Saturday’s semifinal win over
. “It will be great. I think,
, my little sister, and my cousin are going to make shirts. I think they want to be on TV, but it’s to support me, too.”
Everyone expected the Amanda Blumenherst/Kimberly Kim match to be the closer of the two semifinals, but it looks like the Maria Jose Uribe/Ha Na Jang will be much more competitive. Blumenherst owns a 4-up lead through nine holes, while the Uribe/Jang match was all square through nine. Uribe holed a nice 10-foot birdie at No. 10 to take a 1-up lead. Jang also made an all-world par at the eighth after finding the water off the tee. She hit her third shot on the green and then made a 27-foot putt for par, while Uribe missed a 9-footer for par to lose the hole.
Interesting that all four matches on Friday ended at the par-4 14th hole. Three finished in regulation and then Kimberly Kim beat Jennifer Song there in their extra-hole match. Because of television, the extra-hole matches started on No. 12 instead of going to the first tee like they did the first two days of match play. Kim birdied the hole both times on Friday, once in regulation to square the match and again later to win it.
The Golf Channel mentioned how poised 12-year-old Alexis Thompson has been all week. Indeed, she played like a veteran and is learning to deal with all the outside distractions of TV cameras, media and fan curiosity very well. I also remember an 11-year-old Michelle Wie beating Curtis Cupper Hilary Homeyere (now Lunke) in the second round of the 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, 1 up, at Kemper Lakes.
I also remember 14-year-old Aree Song Wongluekiet advancing to the semifinals of the 2000 U.S. Women's Amateur at Waverly C.C. in Portland, Ore., where she gave eventuall winner Marcy Newton (now Hart) quite a tussle before losing, 1 up. Song remains the youngest player to ever reach the semifinals in the Women's Amateur.
Golf Channel Kay Cockerill made a great observation Friday when she said that when she was winning her two Women's Amateur titles, she never had to play teenagers. Her matches usually came against college juniors and seniors. That was the norm back in the 1980s. Ditto for Kellie Kuehne, who is the last player to successfully defend at thsi championship (1995-96). Kuehne was 19 when she won her second straight title. Now Kimberly Kim is on the verge of accomplishing the feat at 15. It's simply remarkable.
U.S. Women's Amateur