Co-Medalist Na Can't Keep Pace With Munoz
By David Shefter, USGA
Eugene, Ore. – Stephanie Na had played some brilliant golf at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Eugene Country Club.
The 19-year-old from Adelaide, Australia shared medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying, then won three matches to reach the quarterfinals in her first-ever USGA competition.
But unfortunately, golf doesn’t allow competitors to play defense. And Na needed a good shield to stop hard-charging Spaniard Azahara Munoz on Friday.
Munoz was nearly unconscious in a 7-and-6 victory, playing the equivalent of 4-under-par golf (with concessions) over 12 holes. Even when Na was in position to win a hole, Munoz answered with a birdie to get a halve.
“It was really impressive to watch,” said Na. “Halving with birdies is crazy. She really didn’t give me much room to try and get a win.”
Na didn’t help matters by struggling right from the outset with her ball-striking. Her opening drive found heavy rough on the edge of a fairway bunker. Not that it mattered. Munoz, the reigning NCAA Division I individual champion, stuck her approach to 18 inches for a conceded birdie.
At the second hole, Na’s tee shot came up short and right of the green. When she failed to get up and down, Munoz’s two-putt par from 20 feet gave her a 2-up lead. One hole later, Na stuck her approach to 5 feet and Munoz’s second shot from the left rough stopped 11 feet from the flagstick in the fringe. No problem. She made the birdie putt, forcing Na to convert (she did) for a halve.
The lead swelled to 3 up at the 187-yard fifth hole, even though Na almost holed out a bunker shot for a 3. Both players birdied the par-5 sixth, but Munoz closed out the first nine with three consecutive victories, two of which were birdies, for a commanding 6-up advantage. Three holes later, the match was over.
“I was definitely not on my ‘A’ game,” said Na. “It’s just disappointing I couldn’t compete against her.”
Na heads back to South Australia on Monday to prepare for the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, to be held Oct. 8-11 at The Grange and Royal Adelaide golf courses, where Na has memberships. She will team with Claire Choi and Julia Boland on the three-member squad.
She’s not sure about returning to college as she missed most of the first semester during her summer-long golf tour of North America.
But she’ll leave Oregon with fond memories despite falling a few matches short of hoisting the trophy.
“This week has been just amazing,” said Na, who was a house guest of Eugene C.C. member and native Aussie Paul Clary. Clary served as her caddie for the championship. “Just the way we’ve been treated and the way the USGA has run the tournament. The condition of [the course] was immaculate. You can’t get much better than this.”
In two months, Na could run into the Spanish trio of Munoz, Belen Mozo and Carlota Ciganda, as all three have been chosen to play at the Women’s World Amateur. Australia last won the title in 2002 when it was held in the Asia-Pacific Zone (Malaysia) and the country also was victorious in 1978 (Fiji). The only previous time the biennial competition was held in Australia was 1968, where the Aussies finished runner-up to the USA.
“To have it in South Australia in little old Adelaide is really exciting for our city,” said Na. “Hopefully we can host a great tournament and everything goes well for us.”
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.