VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Make par.
If there was a rallying cry as match play wore on during the 113th Women’s North & South Amateur, it was that: Make pars.
And if you happen to make a lot of pars, you’re likely to keep playing.
As Pinehurst No. 2 continued to play difficult amidst July’s warm gusts of wind, a standout field of some of the best women’s amateurs was whittled down to four on Thursday. And, for most the part, the matches were won with a steady stream of pars.
“And in some cases, even bogeys,” said Anna Redding, the 2013 North & South Girls’ Junior champion, who advanced to Friday’s semifinals. “But definitely pars. Oh, I love pars.”
Even Kaitlyn Dambaugh, the No. 1 seed from the University of South Carolina and the only player to break par on No. 2 during the week, found that attrition by par was the path to victory. She won seven holes in her afternoon match against Muchin Keh, taking five of them with pars in her 4 & 2 victory.
“I just tried to make as many pars as I could today, and I made a ton,” said Dambaugh, who shot 68 on No. 2 on Wednesday to earn medalist honors. “Par here, it feels like birdie most of the time. These greens are so difficult. You don’t know what you’re going to get. If you make pars, you’re going to win holes with that.”
Bethany Wu, the top-ranked junior golfer in the world, felt the same way. A par was good enough to win the 18th hole and clip fifth-seeded Lauren Stephenson 1-up in the afternoon matches.
“I think par is birdie here,” said Wu, who will face Dambaugh in the semifinals. “Whenever you can make a par on each of these holes, it’s impressive.”
Georgia recruit Bailey Tardy was the lone player to make a run of birdies in the afternoon, and in doing so, unseated 2014 North & South runner-up Lori Beth Adams. Birdies on 10, 11, 14 and 17 enabled Tardy to prevail 2 & 1. Her birdie on the long par-4 14th was particularly impressive, coming after a triple bogey on 13 that had trimmed her lead to just one hole.
“I know Lori Beth was runner-up last year so I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Tardy said. “I was prepared to go all the way to 18.”
That win sets up a semifinal match against Redding, who is trying to become the fourth player in history to win both the North & South Junior and Women’s championships. It will be a matchup of two players with significant Pinehurst ties; Tardy played in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open and Redding, a native of Concord, counts Pinehurst Golf Academy instructor Kelly Mitchum as her short game coach.
Tardy is the only player left who has seen No. 2 play tougher. “I feel like in the Open I was a little more intimidated by the slopes off the greens,” she said. “Now that I’m back I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re not that big.’ But I think it was better that I played it in tougher conditions.”
“It was a shock I qualified, but it was a lot of fun,” Tardy said of her Women’s Open experience. “I didn’t play very well, but it was awesome being around the atmosphere and signing autographs and all that. It’s cool seeing this place without all the grandstands and the ropes. My mom was saying, ‘It’s so weird; I don’t have to stand behind a yellow rope!’”
Wu’s and Dambaugh’s semifinal is a pairing of two of the best young women’s amateurs in the world. It’s such a good matchup, Wu said that this time, par may not be enough.
“She’s a great player, so maybe birdies are going to be needed to beat her,” Wu said.
Story by Alex Podlogar