Whitaker Wins Colorado Women's Match Play in Landslide

AURORA, CO (August 5, 2010) -- Someday, the folks from the CWGA may be able to proudly point to the 2010 Match Play tournament and say that Alison Whitaker put on quite a show in her final individual amateur championship before she began a successful professional career.

The pro part of that equation remains to be seen, but based on what Whitaker did this week at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, don’t bet against her being a formidable professional, perhaps even at the LPGA Tour level.

The Australian who now lives in Denver put on a clinic in the CWGA Match Play, especially in Thursday’s 36-hole championship match against Dana Zamprelli of Castle Rock. Whitaker cruised to a 9-and-7 victory and played the 29 holes in 11 under par. It was her second Match Play title in the last five years.

“It was kind of exciting because it was my last chance to get a win in (an individual amateur) tournament and I really wanted to because I knew I was playing well,” said Whitaker, who plans to turn pro in late October after representing Australia in the World Amateur Team Championships. “I knew I just had to get that putter going this week, and it happened. It’s exciting to have that come through and do it the way I did.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kim Eaton also played some stellar golf in claiming the senior title, defeating Colorado State University women’s golf assistant coach Susan Jennings 5 and 3. Eaton was 5 under par through 15 holes on Thursday.

After turning 50 a year ago, Eaton has won both the CWGA Senior Stroke Play and the senior division of the Match Play.

“That feels good,” said Eaton, the CWGA Player of the Year and the Senior Player of the Year in 2009. “I took a lot of grief after qualifying about why I wasn’t playing in the open division. I’m like, ‘You know, I don’t have to play in the open division anymore.’ … I wanted to win (the senior division of the Match Play). I wanted to make sure I had both (senior titles) while I was still playing great.”

As for Whitaker, the low amateur in the last two HealthOne Colorado Women’s Opens, she played nearly flawless golf in her four matches. In 72 holes of match play, she went 23 under par, and she made just one bogey. The results of her matches were 9 and 7, 5 and 3, 2 and 1, and 9 and 7. In Thursday’s final, she made 11 birdies and no bogeys.

“I told myself I can lose to birdies, I just can’t lose to pars,” said Zamprelli, the qualifying medalist. “But she just kept making birdies. She was on fire.”

Zamprelli, a sophomore-to-be on the University of Wyoming golf team, never trailed in the first 10 holes, after which the match was all square. But Whitaker won the next four holes -- three with birdies -- and seven of the last eight in the first round. The former Duke standout shot a 5-under-par 31 on the back nine and a 7-under 66 for the first round.

After going into the second 18 with a 6-up lead, Whitaker didn’t let up, making birdies on three of the next five holes. She was 9 up after 24 holes, then played steady until it was impossible for Zamprelli to catch up.

“I’m thrilled with the way I played,” the 24-year-old Whitaker said. “I’m excited about my golf game. It’s the best it’s ever been. It seems to be improving steadily, which is exciting for me.”

Despite Whitaker’s winning margin, Zamprelli played solid. Over the course of 29 holes, she made seven birdies and was 1 under par.

“It doesn’t really bother me that I lost because I did play pretty good,” the 19-year-old Zamprelli said. “I did all I can, but she played lights out today. She made birdies non-stop and got momentum going her way. It was hard to beat.”

Whitaker is certainly no stranger to high-level amateur competition. Besides being on the Australian national women’s amateur team, she made it to the semifinals of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur. But this week’s success -- even on a state-wide level -- has her feeling optimistic 2½ months before she turns pro.

“This is a really good experience for me to be feeling right now as I’m working toward becoming a professional,” she said. “The more chances you can get to win -- and do it in this manner -- is definitely positive. The way I went about (winning) this year was meaningful just because I can see the growth in my own game.“

A day after losing to Whitaker in a semifinal match, University of Denver golfer Anna Christenson was caddying for her friend. And the pairing (pictured at left) obviously paid dividends.

“It’s a testament to her character” to be willing to caddie for a player who beat her, Whitaker said. “Having her on the bag was awesome. She’s bright and bubbly and a good friend and a good green-reader. She gave me a lot of confidence out there.”

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