VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Finally, Katelyn Dambaugh proved it could be done.
After 272 rounds of stroke play over three days on Pinehurst No. 2, Dambaugh, a rising junior at powerhouse South Carolina, finally carded the first – and only – under par round at the 113th Women’s North & South Amateur on Wednesday.
Dambaugh’s 2-under 68, which included an eagle, five birdies and just seven pars, the first of which came on the 9th hole, enabled her to move from a share of sixth place all the way to medalist honors. Dambaugh edged 2014 Women’s North & South Runner-Up Lori Beth Adams by a single stroke after a three-day total of 8-over-par 218, giving Dambaugh the No. 1 seed entering match play on Thursday.
“This golf course is just so difficult; it’s really tough,” said Dambaugh. “It’s a grinding golf course. You just have to take what you get and move on. You can’t really stay in the past. That’s what I tried to do – stay in the present.”
And she tried to stay positive, even after opening with a bogey.
It worked well for her. On the 390-yard, par-4 2nd, Dambaugh holed her approach shot from 137 yards with a 9 iron. At first, she was despondent, thinking the ball had rolled over the green, making another bogey likely. Then she got the news.
“I couldn’t see it,” Dambaugh said. “I thought it maybe bounced and rolled over. I went up there, couldn’t find it, and (my playing partners) looked in the hole and said, ‘Hey, your ball’s in the hole.’ I was like, ‘OK, that’ll work.’”
It definitely did. Dambaugh stayed hot, making birdies on 3, 4 and 5 to go from 11 over for the championship after the first hole to near the top of the leaderboard at 6 over.
“I tried not to get frustrated,” Dambaugh said. “It was the first hole; there are 17 left. Then I hole-out on 2, and I was like, ‘OK, staying positive is good.’”
Adams had the same epiphany after her struggles to a 7-over 77 on Tuesday knocked her from a share of the lead. The UNC-Wilmington graduate regrouped for a solid round in difficult and windy conditions, making two bogeys and 16 pars to shoot 72 to earn the No. 2 seed.
“I told myself to relax today and get back to my old ways,” said Adams, who last week played in the U.S. Women’s Open. “I needed to stop worrying about the outcome, that the outcome would take care of itself. I just wanted to play carefree golf, and I think I did that pretty well today.”
Adams returns to match play a year after finishing second to Alison Lee, who’s now on the LPGA Tour. Adams led 1-up after 16 holes a year ago before Lee stormed back and won in 19 holes.
Adams said she’s relieved to be back in match play, even though she has a hard time remembering much of her run a year ago.
“It was a blur,” she said. “All of my matches went 18 holes or 19 holes. It really was a blur.”
Anna Redding moved from a tie for 11th into third place by herself following a tidy even-par 70 on Wednesday, coupling two birdies with two bogeys for a solid round. Redding will try to become the fourth North & South Junior Girls’ Champion to also win the Women’s North & South, joining Donna Andrews, Beth Bauer and May Wood.
"That would be amazing,” Redding said, pausing. “That’s about all I can put into words about that. But I’d have to make it through four matches for that to happen, and I’m going to focus on the one (Thursday) morning first.”
Redding did admit she stops by the North & South Junior wall in the Pinehurst clubhouse to look at her name emblazoned in bronze.
“It’s really cool,” said Redding, who will play for Virginia next season. “I’m a part of the history here. That’s what every golfer dreams about.”
Several players made dramatic moves into match play on the final day of stroke play. Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse, whose final-round match earlier this year clinched the NCAA Championship for the Cardinal, shot 72 Wednesday to move from 23rd to the 11th seed. Erin Choi made the biggest leap of all, shooting 71 to move from 34th to the No. 15 seed.
Round of 16 matches will begin at 7 a.m. on Thursday and quarterfinal matches will begin around 12:30 p.m.. Semifinal matches will begin at 7 a.m. on Friday with the championship scheduled for noon. The North & South is free to attend and the public is welcome.
One heavyweight matchup will square off in the Round of 16 when the top-ranked junior in the world, No. 4 seed Bethany Wu, takes on No. 13 Rinko Mitsunaga. In May, Mitsunaga teamed with Mika Liu to win the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes.
North & South champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey, Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng. As much as the North & South is a championship with a great past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Nine of the last 12 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour.
Story by Alex Podlogar