Greenleif wins Va. Women's Stroke Play

story courtesy Virginia State G.A.

RICHMOND, Virginia (June 18, 2009) –– For Oakton’s Lauren Greenlief, the heartbreak of watching U.Va.’s extra innings loss in this week’s College World Series might now be a little easier to take.

Winning a VSGA title while in the process of retooling one’s swing will do that to a young golfer.

The 18-year-old rising sophomore at U.Va. (pictured left) shot a final round 1-under 70 to register a two-stroke victory as the 32nd Virginias Women’s Stroke Play Championship concluded today at Meadowbrook Country Club. The championship was conducted by the Virginia State Golf Association.

Greenlief concluded the championship at 3-under 210 (72-68-70) to outlast 17-year-old high school senior Amanda Steinhagen of Oak Hill (212, -1), who equaled Greenlief’s championship-best second round 68 with one of her own on the final day. Another northern Virginian, Sara Hurwitch of Potomac Falls, the ’07 champion, also closed with 1-under 70 and finished four strokes off the pace (214, +1).

Greenlief’s 54-hole aggregate of 210 equals a championship-record set in 1991 by Vikki Valentine of Virginia Beach.

Apparently neither the nervousness that accompanies owning the lead entering the final day nor staying up all night and into Thursday morning watching U.Va’s season-deciding baseball game had much of an impact on Greenlief.

She stormed out early, building on her two-stroke overnight advantage by birdieing three of the first four holes. Greenlief peppered flagsticks right from the start, playing a three-quarter sand wedge to 2 feet at No. 1, then drilled a 7-iron to inches at the par-4 third hole and blistered a 270-plus yard drive at the par-5 fourth hole to set up another birdie to move to five under for the championship.

“I had a lot of confidence after those holes,” Greenlief said.

“I just wanted to attack all the flagsticks that I could and I made some putts. Today, I was looking at the [flagsticks] and knew I was going to be right on it every time.”

U.Va. graduate school student Kristen Simspon (Norfolk), her college teammate for a year, began the day two strokes back but three-putted the first three holes and fell out of contention. Instead, playing in the same grouping, Steinhagen, a rising senior at Oakton High, was the one applying the pressure.

A fellow club member at International Country Club and a high school teammate of Greenlief’s for two years, Steinhagen (pictured right) was four back to start the day but put together an early barrage. She holed a 20-footer for birdie at No. 2, hit the par-5 fourth hole in two shots and finished the birdie run with a 12-footer at No. 9 to turn in 3-under 33.

Despite a strong start, Greenlief had a pair of three-putt bogeys at Nos. 6 and 8, dropped to from five to three under for the championship and owned a two-stroke lead over her next-nearest pursuer in Steinhagen.

In addition to altering her swing mechanics, Greenlief says she’s changed her mental approach and she answered the two blemishes by holing a right to left breaking 20-footer at the par-3 11th and her lead then grew to six strokes after draining a 12-footer at the par-4 13th hole. Steinhagen made consecutive bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11.

But at par-4 14th hole, Greenlief’s self-described “uh-oh” hole, she pushed her drive, was forced to chip out, missed the green with her approach shot and wound up making double bogey, resulting in a three-stroke swing. At the same hole, Steinhagen hit a perfect drive knocked in an uphill 8-footer for birdie.

Reliably and almost systematically able to gather herself when moments of adversity struck throughout the event, the final round was no different for Greenlief who found the fairway with her drives at Nos. 15 and 16 to help quell any chances of a championship-deciding rally from a fellow-competitor.

“I’ve come a long way in learning how to hold rounds together,” Greenlief said. “I tried to stay confident and it worked out well."

Steinhagen closed within two strokes by making a 12-footer from the fringe at No. 17. Greenlief hit her approach long at the par-4 finishing hole and chipped her third shot short of the flagstick.

She’d fought and fought and fought the mental battle to become a closer, the one who finished her rounds. No way was it ending with a bogey, she thought. Her 7-footer for par tumbled right down the throat of the cup.

“I just thought, ‘OK, get this up and down and it’s your trophy,’ ” Greenlief smiled. “I knew it was going to go in. I wanted to finish the day under par.”

And a much-needed happy ending for a person with allegiance to all things Cavalier-related.

“I guess we brought something home for U.Va. today,” Greenlief (pictured right) laughed.

She’ll bring home the Sydney Elliott Trophy and her first VSGA title. A walk-on as a first-year member of the golf team at U.Va., in the spring Greenlief began the undertaking of rebuilding her swing with the help of Cavaliers head women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen and her progress showed throughout the three-day event.

“I’ve been working really hard and it’s nice to start seeing it all pay off,” Greenlief said. A double-major in economics and math at U.Va., Greenlief plans on pursuing dual masters degrees in commerce and finance.

Steinhagen, who had been battling her swing entering the week, says she leaves the championship a more confident competitor with a busy summer of junior golf awaiting.

“I’m really happy with the way I played today,” she said. “I know now that I can play as well even some of the college players out there, but I’ll work on my game and try to get to the top next year.”

Central Virginian Jean Baumgartner (Glen Allen) triumphed among players competing from the secondary set of tees after firing a final round score of 79 (250).

ABOUT THE VSGA Women's Stroke Play

54-hole, stroke play competition (18 holes per day). The field will be flighted by score after the first two rounds of play into an appropriate number of flights based on field size. The champion is the player with the lowest 54-hole score and the champion and runner-up may come from any flight. Open to female golfers of all ages. Participants must hold an active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA member club in good standing.

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