Stelzmiller Continues Surprise Run At Women's Amateur
By David Shefter, USGA
Eugene, Ore. – In college basketball terms, Chelsea Stelzmiller would be the George Mason of this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Few people outside UC Davis or the Big West Conference had likely heard of the 19-year-old from Placerville, Calif., prior to this week, and many might be Googling her name after her performance Thursday at Eugene Country Club.
With two victories, one of which came in 19 holes over 2008 USA Curtis Cupper and first-team All-American Alison Walshe, Stelzmiller finds herself among the eight quarterfinalists, including three-time college player of the year Amanda Blumenherst, three Spaniards who each own national titles and a 19-year-old Australian who won her country’s stroke play title this year.
Stelzmiller’s only claim to fame thus far was being named the Big West Player and Freshman of the Year. She owns just one college victory and was lightly recruited out of high school.
“There’s a lot of good players in this tournament and there’s a lot of good players who didn’t make the cut,” said the 6-foot Stelzmiller after dispatching Louisiana State University sophomore-to-be Megan McChrystal, 2 and 1, in the round of 16. “So I kind of felt like it’s anyone’s game.
“I’m just doing my thing: fairways and greens. Pars will win this tournament. That’s pretty much all you have to do. Just wait for someone else to mess up.”
Stelzmiller had par magic working against the 20-year-old McChrystal from Stuart, Fla. At the par-3 12th, her tee shot landed over the green, but she executed a perfect flop shot to 12 feet and holed the putt for a halve. She drained a 7-foot downhill par putt at 14 for another halve before holing out a bunker shot from behind the green at 15 for a winning birdie. She closed out the match by two-putting from 30 feet at 17 after McChrystal’s approach went well beyond the green. The Floridian failed to reach the green with her third shot and her fourth stopped 10 feet beyond the flagstick.
When it ended, Stelzmiller got a hug from her father/caddie, Morris, who was wearing his alma mater’s (Northern Arizona) hat.
“That’s where he went to school, so he’s representing that,” said Stelzmiller, who lives 75 minutes from the UC Davis campus. “He wore the Davis hat yesterday. I’m just hoping this will be good for our team too, and we can get some girls who want to come to UC Davis.”
In the team’s first full season in Division I and just its third playing varsity women’s golf, the Aggies qualified for the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. While the team finished 21st out of 24 teams, the experience was priceless for the young squad. Stelzmiller won one tournament in her freshman season and lost a playoff to UC Irvine’s Kim Lorenzana for the Big West individual title.
To qualify for her first USGA championship, Stelzmiller was the medalist at her sectional at Hacienda C.C. in La Habra Heights, Calif., with a 70. And in stroke-play qualifying, she registered a pair of 74s before upending fellow Aggie Alice Kim in the first round (20 holes).
Tired and exhausted from playing 92 holes in four days, Stelzmiller is just hoping for some rest before Friday’s 11:30 a.m. PDT match against 15-year-old Erynne Lee of Silverdale, Wash.
She’s also planning on spending some extra time on the practice range to work out a few kinks.
“Right now my swing is not the best it could be,” said Stelzmiller. “I’m having trouble staying in the fairway and that’s actually not good to be in the rough and under the trees. I’m working on it. My short game is coming through for me.”
No matter what she’s done to get this far, Stelzmiller stands just three victories away from the biggest prize in women’s amateur golf.
And a huge moment for the UC Davis program.
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.