Annika Clark victorious at Women's Texas Amateur
2015 Women's Texas Amateur champion<br>Annika Clark of TCU (TGA photo)
2015 Women's Texas Amateur champion
Annika Clark of TCU (TGA photo)

WACO, Texas — Annika Clark from Highlands won the 94th Women's Texas State Amateur on Friday with an impressive 3&2 victory against Maddy Rayner from Southlake in the Championship Match.

Clark, a TCU freshman, did her work early at scenic Ridgewood Country Club. Riding a hot putter that propelled her through the Championship Flight match play bracket, Clark drained birdie putts of 10, 12 and 8 feet within the first four holes to stake an early 3-up lead.

The advantage held throughout the day. Rayner, a University of Houston sophomore, won her first hole with a 10-foot par save on the 11th hole. Clark regained her 3-up lead one hole later when she rolled in a slick, 6-foot par putt of her own. Clark closed out the match with a two-putt par on the 16th hole.

Clark’s name now goes alongside former WTGA State Amateur champions such as Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Betsy Rawls and Sandra Haynie. Some of the greatest names in the history of women’s golf have won this championship.

“It means a lot to me,” Clark said. “It’s kind of unreal. It definitely hasn’t hit me just yet. This was my first match play tournament win.”

Not only was Clark born to play golf – literally – she was born to win. In his younger days, father Jody Clark played golf six days a week and was as big of a fan as you’d find. When he and wife Ana found out they were having a girl, there were only two names considered: Annika and Karrie.

That would be Annika, as in Sörenstam, the Hall of Famer who won 72 times on the LPGA Tour, including 10 major championships. And Karrie, as in Webb, another Hall of Fame member who notched 41 wins and seven majors. At the time of Annika’s birth in 1997, Sörenstam was the No. 1 player in the world. Webb was No. 2.

So, naturally, the Clarks named their daughter Annika.

Clark, who celebrated her 18th birthday at Ridgewood on Tuesday with a Round of 32 victory, started going to Golfcrest Country Club in Pearland when she was 3 years old. She rode in the golf cart with her dad. By age 5 she was swinging a club. Two years later she was playing in tournaments.

By the time she was 16, Clark had won three Legends Junior Tour events, including the 2013 Texas State Junior Girls Championship. She also who won three straight Class 2A TAPPS high school championships for First Baptist Christian Academy in Pasadena and the AJGA’s 2014 BilliardFactory.com Junior Championship. That same year, she was honored with the LJT’s James A. Ragan Sportsmanship Award.

Her dad admits to trying to force golf on Clark early on. It was a mistake he eventually corrected – with positive results.

“I pushed her really hard when she was young,” said Jody Clark, who from 2004-10 played in about 15 Texas Golf Association events and won co-medalist honors at a 2010 Mid-Amateur Qualifier. “When I stepped back and let her go at her own pace, that’s when she started to take off and really want it for herself. That was a lesson I had to learn.”

Parents Jody and Ana were two of the dozen of Clark supporters walking the fairways Friday at Ridgewood. Clad in TCU purple, the small throng included her brother Kurt, grandparents, family friends and TCU Women’s Golf coach Angie Larkin.

They weren’t Clark’s only observers.

Watching the hole-by-hole scores on his phone from Houston was Clark’s swing coach Art Scarbrough, the Director of Instruction at Lakeside Country Club. He said he couldn’t be more proud of his student.

“Annika is very comfortable in situations where many wouldn’t be,” said Scarbrough, who has worked with Clark since 2011. “She hits the ball a long ways and is very accurate; that’s a huge advantage. She’s a pleasure to work with.”

She’s also apparently fun to play with. Clark and Rayner chatted each other up during their Championship Match. At times they appeared like two friends just out having a friendly game.

“I got so lucky with my opponents this week,” Clark said. “Everyone I played was so nice. I knew most of them.”

For Rayner’s part, she leaves Ridgewood nearly as happy as Clark. She said early in the week that she was surprised she kept winning. She’s in the middle of a swing change and doesn’t have much match play experience. She often defers to two of her UH teammates, Megan Thothong and Emily Gilbreth, who happened to earn the top two seeds in the Championship Flight after posting the best scores in the stroke play Qualifier on Monday.

Yet it was Rayner who advanced to the Championship Match. Thothong lost in the Round of 16. Gilbreth made it to the Semifinals before Clark disposed her.

“I come away from here knowing that I am a pretty good match play player,” said Rayner, who overcame a late 4-down deficit to win her Round of 32 match 1 up. “I kind of found an internal fire I didn’t know I had.”

There were four other match play flights decided Friday as well. In the First Flight, Heather Shake from Pearland defeated Jenna Phillips from Leander, 2&1. In the Second Flight, Leah Meza from Southlake defeated Nancy Beck from Dallas, 4&3. In the Third Flight, Carol Turnage from Anna defeated Joanna Staton from McKinney, 3&2. In the Fourth Flight, Korey Coburn from Corpus Christi defeated Nannette Wheelis from Waco, 3&2.

ABOUT THE Texas Women's Amateur

Field Limit: Lowest handicap indexes in multiples of 8 with a maximum of 88 players. In the event the championship becomes over-subscribed, entries will be accepted in order of handicap index.

Format: The 32 players with the lowest qualifying scores will fill the Championship flight and contend for the title. The qualifying round is optional for all but the players with the 32 lowest handicap indexes. The 16 players eliminated in the first round of Championship flight match play may participate in an 18-hole Stroke Play consolation round. Remaining players will be flighted into seven flights of eight based on handicap. The four players eliminated in the first round will proceed to a consolation match play bracket for each flight.

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