EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 9, 2008)--Amanda Blumenherst, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Azahara Munoz, 20, of Spain will meet for the 2008 Championship after winning semifinal matches Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, being played at the 6,516-yard, par-72 Eugene Country Club.
The final will be matchup of two top collegiate players. Blumenherst is the reigning three-time national collegiate player of the year from Duke University, while Munoz, a senior at Arizona State University, won the NCAA Division I individual women’s title in May.
After three consecutive easy victories, Blumenherst found a more difficult opponent in 15-year-old Erynne Lee of Silverdale, Wash. Coming into the semifinal match, Blumenherst had not trailed in 48 holes, but fell behind to Lee after a bogey on the third. Blumenherst squared the match a hole later, but again fell 1 down with another bogey on No. 6 after Lee holed a 20-footer from the fringe for par.
“I didn't hit the ball as well as I have been at the beginning,” said Blumenherst, the U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up a year ago. “My driver was going a little left, and the rough was just so thick that it kind of can be a little trickier. I was putting well and everything came together on the last part of the front nine.”
That included an 8-foot downhill par putt on the ninth hole, which she made to again square the match. It looked like Blumenherst would take her first lead when she made a 30-footer for birdie on No. 10, but Lee answered from 27 feet.
On the 11th hole, Lee’s long birdie putt from the back fringe nearly rolled off the green and she missed her 20-foot comebacker for par. That opened the door for Blumenherst, who safely two-putted for par to go 1 up. She would build the lead to 2 up after another bogey from Lee on No. 15, and closed out Lee, 3 & 2 with a birdie a hole later.
Despite the loss, Lee, a high-school sophomore-to-be, was upbeat after the match and pleased with her effort.
“I thought I played pretty well,” said Lee, who qualified for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. “My putting was good too. I just struggled on the back nine which was okay. This was a really neat experience and I had a lot of fun.”
She said she enjoyed playing against Blumenherst, who in addition to her success on the collegiate level has also made the cut at the last three U.S. Women’s Opens and played for the last two victorious USA Curtis Cup teams.
“Her game really taught me a lot,” said Lee. “The fact that she is a long hitter, now I am going to work a little harder to hit it longer too. I was a little nervous playing against her side by side, but from the very first tee I was confident that I was going to do well today.”
For Blumenherst, her return to the final is a chance to redeem her loss from a year ago, when she dropped a tough 1-down decision to Colombia’s Maria Jose Uribe at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. She expects to feel a range of emotions as she again tries to add a national championship to her impressive collection of victories.
“I'll definitely be nervous,” said Blumenherst. “If I didn't have the first-tee butterflies then I would know something was wrong. But I'm going to try to stay calm and just play my best because it will be a long day. I'm not going to try to let my nerves get to me too much. Turn it into energy, I guess.”
In the other semifinal, Munoz got off to a quicker start against her countrywoman and close friend Belen Mozo. Back-to-back bogeys by the 19-year-old Mozo on the first two holes gave Munoz an early lead, and although Mozo would twice cut the deficit to 1-down, she was never able to catch Munoz, who earned a 4 & 3 victory.
Munoz, who was the equivalent of 1-under par, with the usual match-play concessions, credited the victory to her consistency.
“The pins were really tough today, so most of the time I just went for the middle of the green,” said Munoz. “And that's what I did – fairway, green and two putts most of the time.”
Mozo knew coming back against Munoz would be difficult. Mozo, who had played even-par or better in her three previous matches, wasn’t as sharp Saturday, finishing four over par.
“I knew it was going to be a really hard match today because I knew she was playing awesome,” said Mozo. ”Losing the two first holes really hurt me. Not in my mind, but in the match because it was going to be really hard to come back.”
For Munoz, the confidence she gained after winning the NCAA title has helped her this week at Eugene Country Club.
“It made me believe in myself, that I can win,” said Munoz. “My game is the same, the same as before, but I never won before, and after that I was confident.”
The spot in the final gives Munoz the chance 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.
Count Mozo among those who think she can do it.
“I think she’s really skillful and a really great player,” said Mozo. “She made it because her stroke is perfect. I hope she can finish strong tomorrow.”
The 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur concludes with the 36-hole championship final 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.