Notebook: Bluegrass Battle Goes To Turner
By David Shefter, USGA
Carmel, Ind. – Formal introductions weren’t really necessary on the first tee of Thursday’s second round match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur between Marci Turner and Mallory Blackwelder.
The two Kentucky natives had known and competed against each other since the seventh grade. They competed against each other in high school and do now in the Southeastern Conference. Turner will be a senior the University of Tennessee and the 20-year-old Blackwelder is transferring from Florida to Kentucky, where her mother, Myra, just became the school’s women’s golf coach.
“I wouldn’t say it was awkward,” said Blackwelder of the traditional pre-match handshake, “but we both would have rather played someone else.”
Fittingly, the second-round match at Crooked Stick Golf Club went all the way to the 18th hole, where Turner of Tompkinsville held off the Versailles resident, 1 up.
The turning point came at the par-3 17th hole. With the flagstick in the back-left portion of the green, the hole was playing 205 yards into the wind. The left-handed Turner, hitting first because she had just won the 16th hole to square the match, drilled her tee shot to 12 feet. That forced Blackwelder to match. However, her tee shot came up short and left on the bank above a deep-face bunker. When she failed to get up and down for par, Turner managed to comfortably two-putt for the win.
Both players halved 18 with pars.
“It was a grind out there and neither one of us were on top of our games today,” said the 21-year-old Turner. “It was fun. It was tough playing against her, but you know it’s business. You had to go out there and put that aside.”
Added Blackwelder: “I would have liked to have gone farther, but I’m not too disappointed. I would rather lose to her than somebody else.”
Blackwelder has had a fruitful summer, winning the Women’s Western Amateur and reaching the finals of the Women’s Trans-National, which was held in Louisville, Ky. This was her first U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Now, she awaits a ruling from the NCAA on whether she’ll be able to compete for Kentucky this fall or be forced to sit out a year due to the transfer from the University of Florida.
“I’m really excited,” said Blackwelder of playing for her mom. “We’re hoping [I can play this fall]. If not, I am going to practice and work out a lot and try to get in really good physical shape. I’ll play as much as I can in other stuff.”
Myra Blackwelder accepted the Kentucky job this summer after a career as a LPGA Tour pro and instructor. She has coached Mallory since she first picked up a club. Myra missed Wednesday’s first-round match because she returned to Lexington for what she thought was traffic school. She later found out the class was actually on Thursday. She wound up signing up for an online class and made the three-hour trek back to central Indiana Thursday morning.
“He’s been able to caddie for me at every tournament I have played this summer, which is awesome,” said Mallory. “He really knows what he’s talking about and he gives me confidence. And, I can trust what he says.”
Turner, meanwhile, was headed to the practice putting green to work out a few kinks prior to her third-round afternoon match against 2006 USA Curtis Cupper Amanda Blumenherst.
“I’m striking the ball,” said Turner, a second-team All-American in 2006 and an honorable-mention selection in 2007. “As long as I’m doing that, I’m hoping some of the putts will fall.”
Turner qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open in June and said the experience at Pine Needles was priceless. She got the bad end of the draw, so she endured all of the weather delays on Thursday and Friday. Turner missed the cut by three strokes, but felt that it helped her prepare for this week. The Golf Channel’s television cameras certainly don’t bother her.
“No, not at all,” she said with a smile. “The pressure there was a lot more than this. I learned to deal with my emotions pretty well.”
End Of A Career
When Amanda Blumenherst eliminated Jenny Suh, 5 and 4, a brilliant amateur career came officially to an end. Suh, a 21-year-old from Fairfax, Va., is headed for LPGA Tour Qualifying School next month after spending the past four years competing for Furman and then the University of Alabama. In between, she was named to the 2006 USA Curtis Cup team, won the 2006 Women’s North and South (runner-up in 2007) and reached the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“It’s been fun,” said Suh. “I wish I could have added a USGA title to it. College golf went by [so fast]. It feels like just yesterday that my dad dropped me off at Furman.
“At the NCAA Championships [in May] it was like, where did it all go?”
On Thursday, she ran into a buzz-saw and a player looking to enact a bit of revenge for a semifinal defeat at last month’s Women’s North and South. She also ran into a heavy pro-Blumenherst gallery.
“Oh yeah, the bus full of Blumenhersts,” said Suh of the large group of family members Blumenherst had out in force. “I’ve had better days this week. Today was one of those off days. You can’t really expect to win a match when you are only shooting even par and she was like five under.”
Blumenherst was the equivalent of five under through 14 holes, with the usual concessions for match play.
It didn’t hurt to have that large, enthusiastic rooting section.
“It’s great to have the family around and to hear the cheers,” said Blumenherst, who has Indiana roots. “Especially since my family can get a little over-zealous. They really cheer loud.
“It was kind of like basketball when you have the sixth man. It really does help.”
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.