NEWPORT NEWS, VA (July 22, 2016) -- Abby Portyrata, the champion of the 90th VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship at Country Club of Fairfax in 2015, had to be convinced at the last minute to sign up to defend her title. She did so, with little time to spare.
Golf had almost become secondary to the 20 year old from Richmond. She took a stab at advancing through LPGA Tour Q School last fall, but it was unsuccessful. Instead, she took a job working overnights at a warehouse. Regular sleep hours were from about 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There’s not much time to practice when you work those hours.
Portyrata accepted her invitation to play for the Virginias team at the Women’s Virginias-Carolinas Matches earlier this month, and she caught a little bit of the golf bug again. And about an hour before the deadline, she threw her name in the ring for the 91st Women’s Amateur, played this week at James River Country Club.
After two days of dazzling match-play golf, Portyrata will have a hard time convincing folks she was rusty. She shot 11 under par over 27 holes on Friday and won two matches, including a 6-and-5 win over Amanda Hollandsworth in the championship match. Portyrata (First Tee of Greater Richmond) knocked off stroke-play medalist Caroline Curtis (Hermitage CC) 4 and 3 in the semifinals.
Portyrata became the third player since 2010 to win consecutive Women’s Amateurs, joining Amanda Steinhagen and Lauren Coughlin. Her margin of victory was the largest in the championship since Mandy Beamer beat Becky Poindexter 7 and 6 in 2002.
“It’s really reassuring that I can be that good,” Portyrata said. “I enjoy being good at something. This was a nice way to end my very short golf summer. I certainly can’t complain.”
Hollandsworth (Great Oaks CC) was a runner-up for the second time in the Women’s Amateur, having lost to Coughlin in 2013. She shed tears of frustration at the VSGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship in June when she finished second. Friday, she was a little bit in awe of how well her opponent played.
Hollandsworth never really had a chance in the championship match, and that was all because of Portyrata’s sensational play. Portyrata won the first five holes to take a commanding lead. Hollandsworth’s father served as her caddie, and after Hollandsworth hit a wayward shot into a bunker on No. 5, he pleaded with his daughter to relax.
Easier said than done, it seemed.
“It’s almost impossible to relax,” Hollandsworth said. “That’s something that I have to work on. And it’s nice having him here telling me that. But sometimes, it’s just easier to hear it and not actually do it. That’s the biggest thing I need to work on. In pressure situations – and I ran into a couple of them this year in college golf – just having the lead and thinking about having the lead.
“I mean, I didn’t have the lead ever, today. But being down and not being able to get out of the hole … after we tied a couple of holes, I felt a little bit better, like she wasn’t going to completely annihilate me. Congratulations to her. … I lost today. There’s not really anything else to say. She played so awesome.”
Hollandsworth won only one hole in the final match, a par on No. 9 cutting Portyrata’s lead to 4 up. Portyrata went dormie with a birdie on No. 12 and clinched the match when both players made par on 13.
Portyrata trailed for all of one hole of match play, falling behind Curtis after losing the fifth hole of their semifinal match. She tied it immediately with a win on the next hole and took the lead for good with a birdie on No. 8.
“The first hole has always been a nervous hole, and that hole has been great for me all week. I can’t say it didn’t work out well,” Portyrata said of her dominating starts in her matches. “It was really nice to just start off strong and just continue that throughout the day. Once I know I’m committed, and I’ve had some positive results, it’s kind of reassuring. I’m in a good place. My head’s on straight. I’m hitting it pretty well. I’m comfortable physically with what’s going on. It’s just sort of a mash of those things.”
Hollandsworth, who defeated 14-year-old Victoria Tip-Aucha (VSGA Junior Golf Circuit) in the semifinals, will take some time off of competitive golf to practice and refocus for her upcoming season at Virginia Tech. She’ll head into her redshirt sophomore season off a pair of runner-up finishes in the VSGA’s signature women’s events. Though the losses sting, she found some positives to use heading into the college season.
“I think I’m in a different place than I was last summer,” Hollandsworth said. “I have some things I need to work on with my swing right now, since I’ve just been going and going and going. But I’m in a great spot physically and emotionally. I think it’s helping me, being in these situations. I hate coming in second, for sure. But I know I’m right there, on the border, and eventually something has to fall into my favor.”
Portyrata wasn’t sure what was next for her, golf wise. She didn’t rule out another run at Q School in the future, just not this fall. If she disappears from the golf radar from a bit, she can be assured she left a lasting impression with two days of dominant play at James River’s venerable 5,875-yard, par-71 layout.
View results for Virginia Women's Amateur Golf Championship