CARROLLTON, Ga. (April 13, 2007)-– Thirteen-year-old Mariah Stackhouse of Riverdale rallied from a three-hole deficit after 11 holes to edge Erin Packer of Tyrone, 1 up, in the final of the Georgia Women’s Match Play Championship. Stackhouse becomes the youngest champion in the 10-year history of the event, which took place April 11-13 at Sunset Hills Country Club.
With the match all square after 17 holes, Stackhouse found the green in two at the 375-yard 18th, landing about 30 feet away. Packer was well short of the green with her second shot, then found the fringe just beyond the green with her third. Her chip for par just slid past the hole, opening the door for Stackhouse to seal the victory with two putts. Her first putt stopped about three feet short, and she calmly made the second for the win.
Neither player conceded much early on – each held brief, 1-up leads – but were all square through six holes. Packer then went on a run, winning the seventh and 10th holes with pars and connecting on a 15-foot birdie putt at 11 for a 3-up lead, the largest margin of the match.
Stackhouse didn’t give in, however. At the very next hole, the 302-yard 12th, she put her approach shot to within three feet to win the hole. She did the same at the 349-yard 14th, again reaching the green in two shots to within three feet of the hole and sinking the birdie putt to move to just 1 down with four to play.
“It was getting a little depressing, to be honest,” Stackhouse said of falling behind, “I just knew I had to stop making bogeys and just get close enough to be able to make putts.”
At the 15th, Stackhouse evened the match for the first time since the sixth hole. Both players found trouble off the tee on the 182-yard par-3, as Stackhouse’s shot came to rest in a greenside bunker and Packer’s ball landed just above a water hazard. She then found a bunker on her second shot. Stackhouse’s bunker shot landed on the green above the hole, and her two-putt for bogey won the hole as Packer’s long par putt fell short.
Packer gained it back at the 16th, however, as she stuck a great approach shot – partially blocked by trees – to within six feet for par. But at the 17th, Stackhouse found the green in two and made par, while Packer’s tee shot landed near a line of trees and she came up short of the green on her second shot. She missed a six-foot downhill putt for par to once again make it all square heading into 18.
“It feels great,” Stackhouse said of winning a statewide title. She stated that she was determined to win it on 18, and didn’t allow the thought of playing extra holes to even cross her mind. “That par putt (on 18) was the most nervous I’ve ever felt about a putt,” she said. “When my dad hugged me afterwards, I couldn’t even lift my arms.”
Packer, the eighth seed in the championship flight, made it to the finals by first defeating her sister, Michelle Doyle of LaGrange, 5 and 4, in the opening round. She then dispatched six-time champion Laura Coble of Augusta in the quarterfinals, 1 up, and topped Patti Huxford of Cumming, 6 and 5, in the semifinals. Stackhouse, the third seed, opened with a win over Liz Butler of Columbus, 4 and 2, then defeated Susan Rheney of Greensboro, 2 and 1, in the quarterfinals and fellow teenager Louisa Yang of Suwanee, 1 up, in the semifinals.
Stackhouse tied for second in last year’s Georgia Girls’ Championship and also competed in the 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Packer, who advanced to the second round of the 2006 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, is the daughter of six-time Georgia Amateur champion, current Champions Tour player and reigning two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Allen Doyle of LaGrange.
Stackhouse is the youngest player to appear in the final of the Georgia Women’s Match Play Championship, surpassing current University of Georgia golfer Alina Lee of Athens, who was 14 when she fell to Coble in the 2005 final.
In the other flight brackets, Sue King of Chatsworth defeated Claudeen Lindberg of Atlanta, 6 and 5, in the first, Rochelle Weaver of Resaca won 1 up over Jean Dawson of Suwanee in the second, Lori Soles of Perry topped Sissi Gann of Kathleen 5 and 4 in the third flight, Cheryl Drewyer won in 19 holes over Dale Perry of Carrollton in the fourth flight, Fran Coody of Perry won 3 and 1 over Bonnie Revoner of Atlanta in the fifth and Diane Rowe of Carrollton carded a 2 and 1 win over Becky Benjamin, also of Carrollton, in the sixth flight.
Consolation bracket winners included Doyle in the first flight, Eleanor Kirkland of Stockbridge (second), Sherri Tindle of Alpharetta (third), Nancy Abraham of Albany (fourth), Nancy Hennier of Dalton (fifth) and Sharon Loftin of Carrollton (sixth).
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--Story courtesy GSGA