VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (July 11, 2008)––Suffolk’s Lauren Doughtie played so well on Friday that the flagsticks had to take cover.
The 21-year-old Doughtie hit the flagstick on two approach shots and scored a wire-to-wire 5 & 3 victory over friend Kristen Simpson, 22, of Norfolk to win Friday’s scheduled 18-hole championship final at the 83rd Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship at Bayville Golf Club (5,766 yards, par 36-36—72).
Doughtie, a rising senior at North Carolina State University, was the stroke play equivalent of 3-under-par for the match en route to taking home her first VSGA Women’s Am title in an all-Hampton Roads encounter that she never trailed.
“I’ve wanted this for a long time,” said Doughtie, a finalist at last year’s event. “I’ve wanted to be a state champion. To be able to do that and pull it out – it means more to me than a lot of things.”
Doughtie blended dominating length with uncanny precision in taking home the VSGA’s most prestigious women’s amateur championship. She won three of the first six holes, taking an early 1-up lead with a par at No. 2. At the par-3 fifth after her opponent’s birdie chance somehow stayed out, Doughtie holed a downhill slider to gain a 2-up advantage, buckling her knees as the ball tumbled into the cup.
After blistering at drive at the par-5 sixth, Doughtie then hit the green in two and two-putted from 50 feet to go 3-up.
So dialed in was Doughtie through the first eight holes that one of her worst breaks of the match came at the par-4 eighth, where her three-quarter 9-iron approach from 138 yards took a bounce and hit the flagstick more than halfway up. On the deflection, her ball bounded unluckily came to rest 10 feet below the cup, resulting in a two-putt par and a halve.
Simpson, who hit every green on the first nine, made brief inroads at the par-4 ninth, where Doughtie’s approach flew the back of the green. There, Simpson two-putted for par for her first and only win of the match.
The match continued to tighten during the early stages of the second nine when Doughtie’s approach from the right rough at the par-4 10th found the upslope of a cavernous area fronting the green, but she pitched from a partially-blind spot and made the ensuing 5-foot par-saver.
Owner of a 2-up lead at No. 12, Doughtie went flagstick-hunting again, this time knocking down a pitching wedge from 120 yards that struck the flagstick on the fly. The shot was so on target that it jarred and nearly knocked the flagstick out of the hole before the ball trickled 30 feet down the green’s swale on the carom.
When Doughtie walked onto the putting surface to fix her ball mark, the dent was within three inches from the front of the cup.
If the two shots had missed the flagstick, they were likely going to afford Doughtie birdie chances from close range. Doughtie said she thought the shot on No. 12 had a good chance of going in had it missed the flagstick, which measures about 10 millimeters in width.
“It would have been more frustrating if things had ended up a different way,” Doughtie said.
Witnessing the pair of shots clang off the flagstick was a first for Simpson.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played with someone who has done that twice,” said Simpson, a University of Virginia graduate who will attend graduate school there in the fall and has one more year of eligibility remaining on the golf team. “I was waiting for a holed shot. After she hit the first one, I thought, ‘A holed shot is coming.’ I thought the second one was in the hole.”
The steady Simpson hit every green through the first 12 holes, but was 2-down. Riding a strong ball-striking day, Doughtie ended the match by winning three straight holes from Nos. 13-15. At the par-3 13th, she went the more conventional route, tracing her tee shot to 8 feet left of the flagstick before making the ensuing birdie putt to push her lead to 3-up.
Simpson missed her second consecutive green at No. 14 where her approach went long and rolled down to a chipping area below the back of the green. Doughtie knocked in a 5-foot par putt and went dormie-4 after her opponent just misfired on a 12-footer for par.
Doughtie closed the match at the par-5 15th, chipping to three feet and Simpson conceded her birdie putt. The match ended when Simpson’s 20-footer for birdie when past the cup.
“I just couldn’t get the ball in the hole today, but sometimes that happens,” Simpson said. “I didn’t play badly. She just played really well.”
Looking comfortable for most of the match, Doughtie’s length poses an additional challenge for her opponents in the match play format, which is admittedly a fit for her game. She hit two of the three par 5s in the match in two shots.
“When they’re reachable, I feel like I’m going to be around the green in two,” Doughtie said. “Whether I actually make birdie or not, it makes the person I’m playing think that they have to make birdie.”
In addition, Doughtie noted the importance of harvesting an early advantage against her opponent, whom she has known for at least a dozen years going back to their days of junior golf at Suffolk’s Cedar Point Country Club. They know each others games so well that Doughtie was admittedly waiting for her opponent’s normally reliable putter to catch fire.
“I was trying to build the lead up for when her putter got hot, because I’ve played with her too many times when everything she looks at goes in the hole,” Doughtie said.
For Doughtie, she continues to build on a breakthrough year in which she’s already medaled in three USGA qualifiers, reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and competed in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Despite those accomplishments, Doughtie, also N.C. State’s all-time leader in stroke average, says this is her first win in a competitive event since she captured a junior event four-and-a-half years ago during the summer of her junior year of high school at Nansemond Suffolk Academy.
“Hopefully,” Doughtie said, “I just got that monkey off my back.”
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