Notebook: Alternate Shirley Continues To Live On Edge With Upset Of Lewis
By David Shefter, USGA
Carmel, Ind. – Margaret Shirley barely made it to Crooked Stick. In fact, she wasn’t in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur field until late last week.
When 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin withdrew, Shirley, a 21-year-old from Roswell, Ga., found herself headed to central Indiana.
Shirley must like living on the edge because the University of Auburn rising senior barely snuck into the 64-player match-play draw, grabbing the No. 63 spot, before taking out stroke-play co-medalist Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands, Texas, in the first round Wednesday, 2 and 1.
“It feels great,” said Shirley, who is competing in the Women’s Amateur for a fourth consecutive year and hoping to improve on her round-of-16 performance in 2004. “This morning, I knew it started over and it didn’t matter what I had done.
“I went out there and played solid and Stacy didn’t have her best stuff.”
Lewis, the 2007 NCAA Division I individual champion and member of the winning 2007 USA Copa de las Americas team, was one of five players to post two sub-par rounds during stroke play. But Shirley got off to a quick 2-up lead through seven holes (she chipped in for birdie at seven) and never relinquished her advantage.
“We had a good match out there,” said Shirley. “I’ve been pretty calm this week. I’ve had to calm my dad [and caddie] down more than anything. Especially today … I tried to stay as low key as I could. I know I get excited and get ticked off sometimes. I can let it go pretty easily and that’s actually helped my golf game in the past few years.”
For the second consecutive day, Andrea Messer had to hoof her pink golf bag 27 holes. Only this time, the nine extra holes were simply bonus golf. On Tuesday, Messer, who is not using a caddie, had to complete the first round of stroke play and then play her second 18-hole round.
On Wednesday, 17-year-old from Largo, Fla., was only scheduled to play an 18-hole first-round match against Lauren Hunt of Little River, S.C. It wound up tying the Women’s Amateur record for the longest 18-hole match in the championship’s history. Three other Women’s Amateur matches had gone 27 holes, the last coming in 1996 when Joellyn Erdmann defeated Grace Park in 1996 at Firethorn Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb. Ironically, the walking USGA Rules official for this match was Laura Saf, who is from Lincoln.
The match concluded when Messer managed to make a 5 on the par-5 ninth hole after Hunt hit a tree with her third shot and settled for a 6.
When it was over, Messer was looking forward to just having some food.
“Mainly, I’m tired because I haven’t gotten to eat since like noon,” said Messer. “I did bring a protein bar, but I left it in a cooler to get cold and I forgot it. My body was running on Gatorade.”
Neither player gave an inch once Hunt squared the match with a par at 18. Messer holed a 15-foot birdie putt at the 20th hole before Hunt holed her 6-footer. At the third hole, Messer got up and down from a greenside bunker, converting a 10-footer for par.
“At the very beginning [of extra holes] there were some clutch putts,” said Messer, who plans to use a pull cart Thursday since there’s a potential for two matches. “As we started getting tired, it was like who was going to bogey first.”
That finally happened at the 27th hole. Messer managed to two-putt from 15 feet to secure the victory.
More Extra! Extra!
The Messer/Hunt match was one of six first-round matches that went extra holes. Among the other survivors was 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Tiffany Joh of San Diego, Calif., who needed 21 holes to oust Spain’s Azahara Munoz. In a match-up of Pacific-10 Conference rivals, UCLA’s Joh finally outlasted Arizona State’s Munoz on the third extra hole, when the former three-putted from the front of the green.
Then again, going beyond the requisite 18 holes in the 93-degree heat and humidity was no easy task on the body.
“I don’t know how I made it,” said Joh. “I drank more Gatorades than the first day [of stroke play]. I think I set a record … and put Gatorade out of business.”
Joh was 2 down at the turn, but birdied No. 10 and then holed a 70-foot birdie putt at 14 to square the match. The two then halved the next six holes before Joh prevailed.
“Honestly, I don’t think she wanted to hit those testy 3-footers,” said Joh. “And neither did I. We must have done two or three good-goods coming down the stretch. On 18, we both must have had 3½-4-footers [for par] and she looked at me like, ‘Good, good?’ I was like, ‘All right, let’s go [to the first tee].’ ”
Another exciting match saw Joh’s UCLA teammate Sydnee Michaels of Temecula, Calif., rally from a 2-down deficit with two to play to beat Jennifer Ackerson of Allen, Texas, in 20 holes. Michaels won 17 and 18 with pars and also took the 20th hole with another par.
Odds And Ends
The last remaining Indiana resident, Kylie Pulley of Kokomo, was eliminated by 2007 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Shanshan Feng of the Peoples Republic of China, 3 and 1…At last year’s Women’s Amateur, six opening-round matches also went extra holes…Last year’s runner-up, Katharina Schallenberg, 27, of Germany, was defeated by 2006 USA Curtis Cupper Jennie Lee of Henderson, Nev., 3 and 1…The second-round match between Amanda Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jenny Suh of Fairfax, Va., not only will feature two 2006 USA Curtis Cup teammates, but it’s also a rematch of this year’s Women’s North and South Amateur semifinals, which was won by Suh.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.