Blumenherst Train Picking Up More Steam With Each Win
By Stuart Hall
Eugene, Ore. – Amanda Blumenherst’s blitzkrieg march through the 108th U.S. Women’s Amateur field continues.
Blumenherst, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a methodical 4-and-3 victory over Carlota Ciganda of Spain at Eugene Country Club on Friday.
After sharing medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying with Australian Stephanie Na, Blumenherst has efficiently dispatched her four opponents, only once being extended beyond the 15th hole. Her dominance has been so striking that she has not faced a deficit since her 2-and-1 first-round victory over Lizette Salas, a span covering 48 holes.
“When I played with Lizette and I came back, I still had kind of the same feeling as when I was up, just because I had the momentum going,” said Blumenherst, a senior at Duke University. “I was hitting it well. It definitely helps, though, just to get out early and, for me, I almost can get even more into my own game and forget about who I'm playing with [and] just see how low I can go.”
Blumenherst, a two-time USA Curtis Cupper, was the equivalent of three under through 15 holes, with the usual concessions, while Ciganda was one over.
“I played really well,” Ciganda said. “I was just trying to do my best with pars, but she played really, really well. I think she was four under or something. She’s just an awesome player and I wish her good luck.”
In her fourth and final U.S. Women’s Amateur appearance, Blumenherst, a three-time national player of the year who has never won an individual NCAA championship, seeks her first individual USGA title.
And this year’s run is unfolding eerily similar to last year.
A year ago at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., Blumenhert was extended to 19 holes in the first round, then never went beyond the 15th hole in any of her next four matches leading to the final. Blumenherst never trailed in a match until the 20th hole of the 36-hole championship final – a span of 95 holes – against Colombian Maria Jose Uribe, who posted a 1-up victory.
“There is definitely a pattern,” Blumenherst said. “The only difference is I knew every girl [I played] last year, either from the college level or junior golf. And this year I've never played with any, except for Lizette. I played a little bit of college golf with her. But the last few [opponents] I've played during the tournament I've never played before. It's a little different in that aspect.”
Further adding to the similarities will be Blumenherst’s semifinal opponent. Blumenherst faces Erynne Lee, 15, of Silverdale, Wash., who was the youngest of Friday’s eight quarterfinalists. A year ago, Blumenherst met then-15-year-old Kimberly Kim of Pahoa, Hawaii, in the semifinals. Kim was the defending Women’s Amateur champion.
Against Ciganda, Blumenherst was routinely out-driven, but then used crisp iron play to stay inside Ciganda. On the 375-yard, par-4 first hole, Ciganda hit a beautiful recovery shot from the fairway bunker to 6 feet. Blumenherst countered with an approach to within 4 feet and converted the birdie attempt for a 1-up lead.
Blumenherst maintained that lead until reeling off three consecutive birdies from the seventh hole – none with a putt of more than 7 feet. Halving the next three holes, the match went dormie-5 when Blumenherst was just left of the green on the 521-yard, par-5 13th hole in two, chipped to within 8 feet and made birdie.
“It wasn't like she was playing poorly,” said Blumenherst of Ciganda, one of three Spaniards in the quarterfinals. “I just was playing well and just wanted to keep the momentum going.”
One of Blumenherst’s few mistakes came on the 399-yard, par-4 14th hole, where she hit an errant drive left under the trees and made a bogey, lipping out an 8-foot par attempt.
In preparation for this week, Blumenherst essentially took the entire month of July off. After making the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, Blumenherst played only once and that was the Blumie Open, a nine-hole Fourth of July family event in Indiana.
Otherwise, Blumenherst just worked on mechanics, mostly putting with instructor Mike Labauve.
“It seems I have a pattern if I take a long break the next time I play very well,” she said. “My dad gave me a stat that I've won the majority of [tournaments after an extended break]. From college, we get all of November until the end of February off. And I've done well on our first spring tournament. And it's been consistent like that, even through junior golf. When I do take a long break I feel so much more refreshed and really excited to play the next tournament.”
Even more exciting for Blumenherst would be finally hoisting the Robert Cox Cup Sunday evening.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.