Dancing Queen: Finalist Uribe Has All The Right Moves
By David Shefter, USGA
Carmel, Ind. – Apparently, Maria Jose Uribe can cut it up on the dance floor. According to future college teammate Tiffany Joh, who visited Uribe’s Colombia hometown of Bucaramanga last month, she’s “Dancing-With-The-Stars” good when it comes to performing the Salsa.
The fiery 17-year-old has shown this week she’s also quite proficient on golf’s version of the ballroom. That was on display in Saturday’s U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinals, where she delivered an inspiring 2-and-1 victory over 15-year-old Korean Ha Na Jang at Crooked Stick Golf Club.
Need proof? Just rewind the tape of her putts at 16 and 17. She made a 20-foot par save on 16 to halve the hole and then closed out the match with a 50-foot birdie on the par-3 17 th. Each putt brought out a shout of "vamos" as the ball rolled toward the hole and then a patented fist-pump when the ball disappeared.
In fact, you’ll find Uribe illustrating all sorts of moves each time she plays a shot. Mina Harigae, Uribe’s 5-and-4 quarterfinal victim on Friday, called her passionate. That’s taking it mildly.
Uribe thrives on playing with emotion. She’ll talk to her ball in mid-flight. She’ll contort her body in a variety of waves hoping for the ball to move the desired way. She’ll fist-pump when holing a clutch putt.
And she’s not afraid to shed a few tears. Win or lose. Photographers love her because she makes great pictures. Fans love her heart and competitive fire.
“It’s just the spirit Latin people have,” said Uribe on her emotional demeanor. “We’re really into things. It’s just the way we are. It’s like my personality.”
Even the Hispanic grounds crew at Crooked Stick has adopted her as one of their own. Clad in orange shirts, these gentlemen followed Uribe’s every move Saturday, applauding each shot. Uribe first met them upon her arrival at the central Indiana club July 30.
“It’s really good,” said Uribe of the crew’s support. “They’re Latin people, so wherever you go you will find them, and even if they don’t know you, they just go and cheer for you. They’re really nice.”
She might need that extra support in Sunday’s 36-hole final against Amanda Blumenherst and her band of family members. While Blumenherst was born in Scottsdale, Ariz., and currently resides there, she has Indiana roots. As she has advanced her gallery has grown from 12-13 people to more than 25, including a cousin from St. Louis. On Sunday, more friends could be making the 115-mile trek south from Ft. Wayne.
All week Blumenherst’s gallery has made plenty of noise on the course, so you can bet grounds crew will try to give Uribe a little bit of boisterous assistance.
“They just started like, ‘Come on, keep it up,’ ” said Uribe. “Yesterday, they were following me, and today there were like 20 of them there.”
Uribe burst onto the national stage in the U.S. two years ago when she advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women’s Amateur at Settindown Creek. She qualified for the 2006 and ’07 U.S. Women’s Opens and reached the round of 16 at the 2006 Women’s Amateur and ’07 U.S. Girls’ Junior. Those performances helped land her a college scholarship to UCLA, where she will begin classes as a freshman next month.
But now she’s on the verge of becoming the first Colombian to ever win a USGA championship. Camilo Villegas, now a star on the PGA Tour, lost in the 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur final to Hunter Mahan, while Marisa Baena fell to Kelli Kuehne in the 1996 Women’s Amateur final.
“They will be really impressed,” said Uribe of the reaction back home should she win. “People [question] why I come to these tournaments [in the U.S.] because they don’t think that we have a chance to win. They think that Americans are really good, and now they know that we can [compete].
“They will be really excited, though. They were really excited when we got third in the  Women’s World Amateur, and then this will be like a really huge thing.”
Because The Golf Channel’s broadcast of the championship is not available back home, Uribe said her parents and family have been tuning in via the Internet. Neither of Uribe’s parents made the trip to the U.S., -- her father Jorge owns an electric cable company and her mom works in a home-improvement store – so Uribe is here just with her coach/caddie Pedro Rossi. Her nights are spent watching movies and the television show “So You Think You Can Dance?”
Uribe was asked which she does better, golf or dance?
“In both of them I’m good,” she said with a smile.
If she does happen to win Sunday, somebody might want to find some good salsa music. Uribe then said she would need a partner.
The Robert Cox Cup might be a pretty good one.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.