EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 7, 2008)--Stroke-play co-medalists Amanda Blumenherst, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Stephanie Na, 19, of Australia, both recorded victories during Wednesday’s first round of match play Wednesday at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being played at the 6,516-yard, par-72 Eugene Country Club.
Blumenherst, the Women’s Amateur runner-up a year ago, lost three of the first four holes in her match against 19-year-old Lizette Salas of Azusa, Calif.
“I don’t know what happened out there,” said Blumenherst. “I just wasn’t really in sync and I wasn’t playing my game. I was just kind of out of it.”
But the three-time national collegiate player of the year was able to square the match after a birdie on No. 8 and pars on the 10th and 12th holes, and took her first lead with another par on the par-4 15th.
On the par-5 16th, Salas had a chance to square the match but missed a 10-footer for birdie.
“I would definitely want that putt back,” said Salas. “That was a big one, and I just couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity she gave me.”
Salas’ tee shot on the next hole wound up behind a tree, and she eventually conceded the hole, and the match, to Blumenherst, who earned a 2-and-1 victory.
Despite her vast match-play experience, which includes two Curtis Cups and more than 10 USGA championships, Blumenherst said it was the first time she had come back to win a match after being 3 down.
“I think it’s great that I fought back,” said Blumenherst. “I’ve never actually done this before, where I’ve been down that much. Usually I’ve come back so it’s not embarrassing how much I’ve lost by, but to actually come back and win on the 17th hole, I haven’t done that yet. And Lizette played well too, so it wasn’t like she gave it to me by any means. I had to really work for it and I think it’s great when your first match is one of your tougher ones, because it’s gotten me into match-play mode in the past.”
Na had a much easier time against Kelley Louth, 22, of Corpus Christi, Texas, who survived a three-hole playoff that concluded Wednesday morning to earn the last spot in the match-play field. Na, who is playing in her first USGA championship, birdied the first hole to take a 1-up edge and was 4 up after seven holes en route to a 3-and-1 victory.
“I started off really well and I was hitting it really good and I got off to a good start with a birdie,” said Na, the 2008 Australian Stroke Play champion. “I was really happy with the way I was going. We halved a couple of holes with bogeys but that’s all you have to do in match play, it doesn’t matter what the score is in the end.”
Tiffany Joh, 21, of San Diego, Calif., and Alexis Thompson, 13, of Coral Springs, Fla., had their hopes of becoming the seventh player in history to win two USGA championships in the same season dashed after first-round losses Wednesday.
Jane Chin, 21, of Mission Viejo, Calif., made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole to eliminate Joh, the 2006 and 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, 1 up.
Joh trailed 2 down after 12 holes but cut the deficit with a par on the 13th and squared the match with a birdie on No. 16. After the two traded pars on the 17th, both hit their approach shots on No. 18 to the fringe in front of the green. Joh, putting first, missed her 6-footer for par, opening the door for Chin, whose par putt from 4 feet had the same line as Joh’s.
“I was like, ‘Oh I need to make this’ because I didn’t want to play extra holes and I’m sure she didn’t want to,” said Chin. “I saw Tiffany’s putt break a little so I picked my line and hit it.”
The always-cheery Joh saw a silver lining in the close loss.
“Obviously I’m going to be disappointed but to be honest I was 2 down through 11, just coming back, I’m not going to lie, I had a blast on the back nine, making a couple birdies when I really needed them,” said Joh, who also played on the victorious 2008 USA Curtis Cup team. “It’s unfortunate the way that it ended, but I have to give myself a little pat on the back for how I played coming down the back nine.”
Thompson, who won the Girls’ Junior 10 days ago, trailed 4 down after 14 holes against Jennifer Hirano, 18, of Pinole, Calif., but won three consecutive holes to trail by one hole on No. 18. Thompson had an opportunity to win the hole but missed an 8-foot par putt that would have extended the match.
Match play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur continues with the second and third rounds Thursday. The quarterfinal matches are on Friday, the semifinals will be played Saturday and the 36-hole championship final will be played Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Story written by Beth Murrison of USGA Media Relations.