From Exasperation To Elation: Blumenherst Family Gets Happy Ending
By David Shefter, USGA
Eugene, Ore. – Dave Blumenherst couldn’t exactly reveal the number of miles he has walked since his daughter Amanda first started playing competitive golf tournaments 11 years ago.
You could say he’s been through plenty of sneakers, blisters, heartaches, hand-slaps and other various forms of victory celebrations.
But he had not been through anything as gut-wrenching as this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Eugene Country Club. It’s not like if this was Amanda’a first rodeo in arguably the world’s most prestigious female amateur competition. It was only last year when Amanda reached the final at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., only to see Maria Jose Uribe play just a little bit better.
That’s what made this go-round so vital. This was Amanda’s last chance, her final shot at claiming the Robert Cox Cup. With a professional career looming after next spring’s NCAA Women’s Championship, Amanda knew the hour-glass was emptying rapidly.
So when Blumenherst finally achieved her ultimate goal with a 2-and-1 victory Sunday over Spain’s Azahara Munoz, Dave Blumenherst could finally exhale. His heart rate could return to normal. He could give his daughter a congratulatory hug instead of being a consoling shoulder for the tears.
“I know I was terrible,” said Dave Blumenherst, revealing his mercurial state of emotions. “You know why this was hard on me? I’ve watched Amanda play since she was 10 years old in all these tournaments, but she wanted this one more than anything. And I knew she wanted it more than anything. She might not have let it out, but for her to go away as runner-up two years in a row, that would have been tough on her.”
The always-upbeat Blumenherst didn’t want to become a negative statistic. Only one player in the 107 previous Women’s Amateurs had reached multiple finals and not won. That would be Margaret Gavin, who was a three-time championship-match victim (1915, 1919 and 1922). Glenna Collett Vare, who won a record six titles, is the only player to lose back-to-back finals.
And Amanda certainly did not want to return for her final season at Duke and hear the words “great playing, but sorry…”
The 21-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., had been reminded of that all too often during her junior season, where she earned an unprecedented third college player of the year honor.
But in those 365 days in between Women’s Amateurs, Blumenherst matured even more. Her patience and course-management skills went up a notch. Thus she never got down on herself this week. Not when she trailed first-round opponent Lizette Salas by three after four holes. Not when Munoz took an early 2-up advantage in the morning 18 or chipped in from 50 feet on the 23rd hole for another 2-up advantage.
Blumenherst had the same confident gait from the first hole to the 35th. So while Dave Blumenherst ducked in and out of view and sweated over every 5-footer, Amanda’s focus, determination and emotions never wavered. Oh, there were fist-pumps and one or two yelps of “Oh Amanda!” on poor putts, but she had the intestinal fortitude to remain calm.
After all, it took 31 holes before she had a lead.
“That’s really what this game is at this level,” said Duke women’s golf coach Dan Brooks. “Can you wait for your talent and your ability to win that one hole? Can you wait long enough for things to turn your way or is something going to get you frustrated. She’s learned to handle all that stuff a lot better.”
Blumenherst also came into the week rested. She didn’t play any competitive events since the U.S. Women’s Open at the end of June. She practiced about three hours a day, but also went to her family’s lake home in Indiana, watched her boyfriend play baseball in the Cape Cod League, lounged around at the pool and did a lot of reading, including a second helping of the seventh Harry Potter novel.
The night before the championship match, she took time out to watch the Summer Olympics, but got unnerved seeing the USA men’s gymnastics team struggle to make it through the preliminary round. She played cards with her mom and enjoyed what turned out to be a ritual, eating at Olive Garden. Her dad didn’t want to upset the apple cart. If it’s going good, keep doing it.
And why not. Dad had been through the routine so many times, from Junior Worlds in San Diego to American Junior Golf Association invitationals, to the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Junior Solheim Cup, Canon Cup and all the big college events.
He walked, watched and worried. This week, it was more worrying than ever. But the end was sweet. Seeing Amanda clutching the trophy with a smile as bright as the final day at Eugene C.C. made all the sacrifices worthwhile.
“I can tell you these are the best miles I have ever walked in my life,” said Dave Blumenherst. “I would say the most stressful too. Because it was hard. It’s a grind.”
Said Amanda: “I would have been crushed if I hadn't won. This match was huge. It’s definitely going to make the trip home a lot easier on my parents. I wanted to kind of prove to everyone that I wasn't overrated or that those awards that I had gotten in college weren't kind of a coincidence or something that was given to me.”
No, to take a line from “Jerry Maguire”, the Women’s Amateur completes Amanda Blumenherst. She’s won virtually everything: college player of the year, two NCAA Division I team titles, three conference championships, two Curtis Cups, and now this.
Now she can also confidently say she is a national champion.
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.