U.S. Women's Am: Blumenherst stays hot, reaches semis

EUGENE, Ore. – Stroke-play co-medalist Amanda Blumenherst, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., cruised to another easy victory Friday to lead the quarterfinalist winners at 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, will be joined in the semifinals by Erynne Lee of Silverdale, Wash., and two Spaniards, 20-year-old Azahara Munoz and 19-year-old Belen Mozo.

In her match against the third Spanish quarterfinalist, 18-year-old Carlota Ciganda, Blumenherst never trailed, winning the first hole with a birdie. She made three consecutive birdies, starting at No. 7, to take control en route to a 4 & 3 win.

“I'm very confident,” said Blumenherst, the U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up a year ago. “I'm hitting the ball really well. And the putts are starting to fall in. I kind of struggled with my putter really all last year, but I've been hitting the ball great. So I'm kind of putting both together.”

It was the third commanding win in a row for Blumenherst, who has now not trailed since the 11th hole of her first-round match, a run of 48 consecutive holes.

“It definitely helps, just to get out early and just for me I almost can get even more into my own game and forget about who I'm playing with, and just see how low I can go,” she said.

Lee got off to a slower start in her match against 19-year-old Chelsea Stelzmiller of Placerville, Calif., and was all square after eight holes. But Lee won the next four with three pars and a birdie to take control and advance with a 4 & 3 win.

The youngest of the quarterfinalists, the 15-year-old Lee said patience was the key to her victory.

“Today I played my own game and stuck to a strategy,” said Lee. “I tried to just stay on the fairways and reach the greens and play a good game. And if I had a chance to make a birdie, to capitalize on it sometimes.”

Lee knows she faces a major challenge Saturday when she faces Blumenherst in the semifinals. Lee, a sophomore-to-be in high school whose career highlight to date has been playing in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, has been reading about her opponents online before she plays them but doesn’t expect to do so before her match against Blumenherst.

“Not really because I know enough about her,” said Lee. “Yesterday on the [USGA] web site I saw the blog about the quarterfinalists, and I read all about it. So I already know all about Amanda. She’s an amazing player and she’s really good.”

The other semifinal pairing will feature the field’s two remaining Spaniards, as Munoz and Mozo both recorded easy quarterfinal victories thanks to solid play on Eugene’s layout. Munoz was the equivalent of 4-under-par in her 7 & 6 victory over stroke-play co-medalist Stephanie Na, 19, of Australia, while Mozo birdied four of the last six holes in her 6 & 5 win over Whitney Neuhauser, 20, of Barboursville, Va..

The close friends will team with Ciganda to represent Spain at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Australia in October, something they also did at the 2006 championship. They admitted it will be strange to face each other in the semifinals.

“We are best friends and obviously tomorrow, we want to win, each of us, obviously,” said Mozo. “But it's just ... we kind of just, I don't know, change our attitude. You just go and play our game. She plays better and wins, awesome. If I do, awesome, too.”

The two have faced each other in match play once previously, in a Spanish International junior event several years ago, where Mozo was the victor.

“It's going to be awkward because I have to play her,” said Munoz. “But it's going to be normal because we’re going to be talking. It's not like I'm not going to talk to her.”

Munoz, the reigning Division I national collegiate individual champion, is trying to achieve a rare double in winning the NCAA and Women’s Amateur titles in the same year. Just once previously has that been accomplished, when Vicki Goetze did so in 1992.

Match play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur continues with the semifinals Saturday. 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

Results For U.S. Women's Amateur Championship
WinAZAmanda BlumenherstScottsdale, AZ2000
Runner-upSpainAzahara MunozSpain1500
SemifinalsSpainBelen MozoSpain1000
SemifinalsWAErynne LeeSilverdale, WA1000
QuarterfinalsAustraliaStephanie NaAustralia700

View full results for U.S. Women's Amateur Championship

ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur

The U.S. Women's Amateur, the third oldest of the USGA championships, was first played in 1895 at Meadowbrook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. The event is open to any female amateur who has a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4. The Women's Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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