Michaels Gets Best Of Neuhauser Again
By Stuart Hall
St. Louis – Flash back to June 25 and the third round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Red Tail Golf Club in Devens, Mass. A tightly contested match between Sydnee Michaels and Whitney Neuhauser is decided on the 18th hole when Michaels drains a 50-foot birdie putt for a 1-up victory.
Now fast forward to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship’s second round at Old Warson Country Club on Thursday. Fate brought Michaels, 21, a senior at UCLA, and Neuhauser, 21, a senior at the University of Virginia, together again.
“It is kinda funny,” said Neuhauser of the chance rematch. “Right after that [WAPL] match, we were both really excited about how it went, but I told her ‘Wait for a rematch at the Women’s Am,’ so I was looking for a little revenge.”
In a match that was a little less compelling than their first meeting, Michaels survived Neuhauser’s good-natured retribution by posting a 3-and-2 victory.
“We certainly didn’t play our best golf compared to how we played at the Pub Links,” said Michaels. In the first match, the pair was a combined six under par; Thursday, they were a combined three over.
“She’s a great putter and made all the putts she needed to make today,” said Neuhauser, a quarterfinalist in last year’s Women’s Amateur. “That’s how you win in match play.”
Despite the leaky play, the match was tight until the second nine. Both held 1-up leads on the outward nine and made the turn at all square. Michaels hit her third shot to within 2 feet at the 525-yard, par-5 12th and converted the birdie for a 1-up lead. Michaels took a 2-up lead at the 158-yard, par-3 13th hole when Neuhauser missed a 9-foot par putt.
Michaels won the 420-yard, par-4 15th with a par and halved the 16th to win the match.
“Hey, it’s been a good summer,” said Neuhauser, an All-American for the Cavaliers this past season. “Round of 16 at the WAPL and Women’s North and South, won the Virginia Women’s Am and made it to the second round here. Not too bad, but I’m looking forward to a little break and then getting back to school for the fall.”
For Michaels, the victory advanced her to the third round against Jennifer Johnson, 17, an incoming freshman at Arizona State University. Another win would advance Michaels to the quarterfinals, a round she has not advanced past in 10 previous USGA amateur championships.
“Obviously, all I can do is what I’m doing at the moment and the rest will take care of itself,” said Michaels, “so I’m not really thinking about it. I can block it out.
“I was a little bit rusty for stroke play, only because I haven’t played the past few weeks and if you’re not playing you get out of tournament mode. So I’ve just been practicing, but now I think I’m back into tournament form.”
An avid guitarist who likes to compose her own music, Michaels would not mind composing a victory at Old Warson this week. She, however, is quite aware of the twists and turns of match play.
“When they say anybody can win on a given day, they really can,” she said. “What if someone who is not that good has a great day and her opponent doesn’t have a good day, well then she’s going to lose. It’s just so different than stroke play, but I love it. It’s the survival of the fittest.”
And for the second time in less than two months, Michaels was able to survive all Neuhauser had to offer.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.