EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 8, 2008)--Stroke-play co-medalists Amanda Blumenherst, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Stephanie Na, 19, of Australia, both claimed two victories Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being played at the 6,516-yard, par-72 Eugene Country Club.
Blumenherst, the three-time national collegiate player of the year, recorded two easy victories, 4 & 3 over Nikki Koller of Lewisburg, Ky., in the second round and a 7 & 6 third-round win over Ellen Mueller of Bartlesville, Okla., later in the day.
“I am starting to get the course down now,” said Blumenherst after playing just 27 holes in the two victories. “Some of the fairways really kick one way or the other. It takes a few rounds to really get to know a course.”
The victories brought the highly acclaimed Blumenherst closer to another shot to claim her first national title. A year ago, she lost a heartbreaking 1-down decision to Maria Jose Uribe in 36 holes at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind.
“I was playing great last year too,” said Blumenherst. “I was hitting the ball really well and I feel like I am putting the ball better now.”
Na’s two matches were a different story. In her morning second-round match against Sydney Burlison, 18, of Salinas, Calif., Na trailed, 3 down, after 11 holes, but came back to earn a 2 & 1 victory. Her third-round match against Kristina Wong, 17, of Vestal, N.Y., would be a close, seesaw affair, with neither player holding more than a 1-up advantage.
The turning point came on No. 16, when Na, 1 down, made a 27-foot birdie putt to square the match.
“I was 1 down with a few to go and I needed to make a move sometime,” said Na, the 2008 Australian Stroke Play champion who is playing in her first USGA championship. “On 16, I have good feelings about that hole. I really like it. I hadn’t holed anything really today, and I had an 8-meter putt and I just felt really good about it and it went straight in so that got me going.”
A three-putt by Wong on No. 17 gave Na a 1-up lead. On the 18th, Wong’s birdie putt from 25 feet stopped just short of the hole and Na converted her 3-footer for par to earn the 1-up victory.
“Very relieved,” said Na when asked how she felt after the win. “I’m really happy with myself that I could come back in the end and just never give up.”
Another Women’s Amateur rookie, Whitney Neuhauser, 20, of Barboursville, Va., also advanced, with a 1-up victory over 18-year-old Stephanie Kono of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Neuhauser, who had missed qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur by one stroke the past three years, was elated by the reality of advancing to the quarterfinals.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a golf tournament,” said Neuhauser, who will be a sophomore at the University of Virginia this fall. “I came in with no expectations and to play well it’s all icing on the cake.”
Also reaching the quarterfinals were three Spaniards, as 18-year-old Carlota Ciganda, 19-year-old Belen Mozo and 20-year-old Azahara Munoz, the reigning Division I national collegiate individual champion, all recorded two victories to advance.
The trio will team to represent their country at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Australia later this year, something they did two years ago in South Africa in leading Spain to an eighth-place finish.
“That’s perfect because we are like the three best friends,’ said Ciganda about reaching the quarterfinals with her two compatriots. “They are like my best friends so I am happy for them and that’s really nice. We are having a lot of fun. That’s great to be the three of us here.”
Erynne Lee, a 15-year-old from Silverdale, Wash., and 19-year-old Chelsea Stelzmiller of Placerville, Calif., round out the quarterfinalists. Lee is playing in her fourth USGA championship, including the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, while Stelzmiller is playing in her first.
Match play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur continues with the quarterfinals 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.