Roswell, Ga. (August 4, 2005) -– Virginia Derby Grimes was asked if she caught the license plate of the truck that ran her over in the third round of the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur on Thursday afternoon at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course. But considering the size of her opponent, it was more like a Porsche than a Hummer.
Maru Martinez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan who is entering her senior year at Auburn University, blitzed the Auburn graduate and former women’s golf coach at the Alabama school like a true Tiger. The 2002 Women’s Amateur semifinalist made eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch – against just one bogey – to eliminate the last mid-amateur competitor in the field.
“I ran into a buzz-saw,” said the 41-year-old Grimes, who coached at Auburn from 1990-95. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Grimes frequently returns to her alma mater, where the school’s annual women’s tournament is named in her honor (Auburn Tiger Derby Invitational), to watch the team perform and was asked if this was Martinez’s finest performance.
“Oh yeah, by far,” said Grimes. “No doubt about it.”
Martinez concurred with the ex-coach’s assessment. It was that kind of day for the 2004-05 second-team All-America. In her morning second-round match against 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion and 2004-05 first-team All-America Annie Thurman-Young (Oklahoma State) of Highland, Utah, Martinez converted six birdies with one bogey over a 15-hole stretch to post a 4-and-3 victory.
“I enjoyed it today,” said Martinez, who made four birdies in a row starting at the seventh hole in the match against Grimes when she shot the equivalent of 6-under 30 on the front nine with the usual match-play concessions. “I’ve never made that many birdies in a row. It’s a tough course, but I think I have a good game plan. I am hitting the ball straight this week, and I knew it was just a matter of getting the right feel of the greens.”
With her father, Julio, pulling a cart as her caddie and her 10-year-old brother, also named Julio, walking the fairways in support, Martinez is having the same vibes she did three years ago when she got to the semifinals and dropped a heartbreaking, extra-hole match to Brandi Jackson at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club north of New York City.
“He always caddies for me in this tournament,” Martinez said of her father. “We talk about the game and he helps me. I can’t say how he helps me, but we get along very well and it’s nice to have somebody like that.”
Unlike many of her fellow competitors here this week, Martinez did not hit the amateur circuit this summer. Following a three-week hiatus from golf after the NCAAs in May, she enrolled in summer school and just spent her down time practicing. Few people were at the golf course, which gave Martinez the opportunity to work on different aspects of her game without distractions. The only competitive event she played was Women’s Open qualifying, where she missed making the field at Cherry Hills Country Club by a stroke at sectionals.
So she arrived in Atlanta refreshed and ready to go.
“When I am playing well, I have the same kind of mindset,” said Martinez. “I’m confident and doing the same thing before each shot. I’m focusing and forgetting about everything else. No water, no rough, no nothing. Just what my target is [for the shot].”
Making Most Of Second Chance
Because she was an alternate for the Women’s Amateur field, 15-year-old Maria Uribe of Colombia had booked a flight back to Colombia from the U.S. Girls’ Junior in Idaho on July 24, instead of staying the extra week in the U.S. Two days after returning to Bucaramanga, Uribe got a call from the USGA. She was in the Women’s Amateur field if she could get to Atlanta.
Uribe, who got into the 2004 U.S. Girls’ Junior when Carmen Bandea withdrew and then made it to the third round before losing to Morgan Pressel, scrambled to get a plane reservation and got to Atlanta last Friday.
Rounds of 75 and 74 in stroke play qualified her for the match-play portion of the championship, where she has won three consecutive tight matches – all have gone to the final hole – to reach the quarterfinals, where she’ll face 19-year-old Australian Alison Whitaker. Uribe defeated fellow 15-year-old Ayaka Kaneko of Honolulu, Hawaii, in the third round, 1 up, after eliminating Ashley Knoll of The Woodlands, Texas, 2 up, in her morning match.
Had she not come to the Women’s Amateur, Uribe was scheduled to play in a qualifier for the South American Junior Girls’ Championship, which is being played in Bogota, Colombia this year at Bagande Golf Club the first week of September. Two players get in through the qualifier and another is chosen by the Colombian Golf Federation.
“I hope they choose me,” said Uribe.
As her expectations for this week, she added, “In this tournament, anyone can beat anyone. You just never know.”
Even if you are a last-minute replacement.
A day after the biggest rally when Paige Mackenzie beat Amber Prange in 19 holes after trailing by six holes at the turn, Alison Whitaker of Australia won six consecutive holes from No. 12 to overcome a 4-down deficit and defeat 18-year-old Ryann O’Toole of San Clemente, Calif., 2 and 1.
“I wasn’t hitting it well [on the front nine] and my putts were lipping out right, left and center,” said Whitaker, competing in her first Women’s Amateur. “On the 12th, I hit it in the trees on the left and it bounced back onto the green. It was just unbelievable luck. I ended up winning that hole [with a par] and then I started hitting it straight and made some good up and downs.”
O’Toole helped the comeback with several bogeys on 13, 15, 16 and 17, and a double bogey at 14.
“She made it easier on a few holes,” said Whitaker. “[But] I felt like I lost six in a row on the front nine. It really is kind of unbelievable. I was just trying to get [the match] over before the 18th hole for my caddie (Al Arnold). I didn’t want him to have to walk down that hill.”
The second rally occurred in the day’s final match as Jenny Suh, 19, of Fairfax, Va., won three consecutive holes from the 14th to eliminate Lorraine Ballerano of Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 20 holes. Suh was a second-team All-America this past season at Furman University, but is transferring to Alabama in the fall because her coach (Mic Potter) took at a job at the Tuscaloosa school and she wanted to follow him.
Suh meets Martinez in a battle of second-team All-Americas in the quarterfinals.
Two-Timing At Amateur
Laura Matthews wasn’t wearing a University of Georgia hat by accident at this week’s Women’s Amateur. The 25-year-old, who helped the Lady Bulldogs win an NCAA Division I title in 2001, is now an assistant coach for the women’s golf team. But in between helping current players and recruiting new ones, she gets to play some competitive golf.
She was one of three mid-amateurs (25 years and older) to qualify for match play, winning one match before falling to stroke-play medalist In-Kyung Kim in 19 holes.
While Kim speaks little English and it’s not known whether or not she’ll even go to college, it’s likely Matthews made a few pitches during their match Thursday morning.
“I hope she’ll come to Georgia,” said Matthews, leaving her comments there since she can’t talk about specific recruits until they officially sign letters of intent. “[But] I am very much here recruiting. I love the competition and I love to play, but I am very much out here recruiting. That’s part of my job.”
Because of that job, Matthews did not file an entry for the Women’s Mid-Amateur to be played Sept. 10-15 in Houston. This is the first year she became eligible for that event, but her schedule doesn’t allow to play much in the fall.
“I am sure [Coach Todd McCorkle] would [give me time off], but I hate to ask,” said Matthews. “I have asked for so much [time off] already this summer.”
And Matthews might need a week next October for the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa. At the 2004 event in Puerto Rico, she helped Canada tie for second with the USA, three shots behind Sweden. Matthews finished fourth individually to earn a 2005 Women’s Amateur exemption. It was her third Women’s World Amateur as she competed in 2000 (Germany) and 2002 (Malaysia).
If Matthews, who is married to a high school football coach, decides to remain a career amateur, she might have a chance to follow in the footsteps of arguably the country’s greatest female player, Marlene Stewart Streit, who became the oldest champion in USGA history in 2003 when she captured the Senior Women’s Amateur at 69 years, 6 months and 2 days. Streit was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last November.
“I don’t know,” said Matthews on her future. “Coaching is a great side of the game that I love. We’ll just see where that path takes me. I would like to have my own program someday, but I still have [pro] aspirations also. Right now it’s up in the air.”
No Rally In Round Two
Paige Mackenzie played much better in her second-round match against 15-year-old Japanese-born Ayaka Kaneko of Honolulu, Hawaii, but dropped a 2-up decision to the high school freshman a day after rallying from a 6-down deficit at the turn to beat University of Washington teammate Amber Prange of Noblesville, Ind.
Mackenzie, 22, of Yakima, Wash., who watched her opponent make five birdies, saw her chance to extend the match at 18 ended when she dunked her second shot into the pond.
“I lipped out birdie putts on 16 and 17 and she made her birdie at 16,” said Mackenzie. “I put good rolls on them and they didn’t go in.”
Nevertheless, it’s been quite a summer for Mackenzie, just two years removed from being out of the game for 10 months with back problems. In late June, she made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open and finished tied for 13th for third-low amateur honors behind Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang.
Then she was the runner-up at the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women’s Amateur after earning medalist honors and followed that up by taking the Women’s Trans-National in Southern Pines, N.C., with an 8-and-7 win in the 36-hole final over NCAA first-team All-American Elizabeth Janangelo. She made the cut here at the Women’s Amateur after missing match play in her two only other appearances.
Now she heads to Pinehurst, N.C., for the Women’s North and South before going home for two weeks. Then it is off to Japan with her team to the Tophy Cup.
Mackenzie will be a fifth-year senior and one of the elder stateswoman in college golf.
“Now I’m the one with all the experience,” said Mackenzie, a prime candidate for the 2006 USA Curtis Cup team considering her playing résumé that includes being named an honorable-mention All-America last season. “I was like, ‘When did I get that old? But I feel good about it and I am comfortable [physically] and that’s cool for a change.”
Odds And Ends
The 8:10 a.m. second-round match could have been coined “The Firm,” as in Lee, Lee and Lee. The match featured 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links winner Eun Jung Lee of Korea against 18-year-old Duke University incoming freshman Jennie Lee of Huntington Beach, Calif. The referee for the match was Lee Cassady of Savannah, Ga., a volunteer with the Georgia State Golf Association and a member of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Committee.
Morgan Pressel finally gets to play someone older than she is in Friday’s quarterfinals when she meets 18-year-old Jennie Lee. The 17-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., beat fellow 17-year-old Sooji Cho in the first round, 15-year-old Mina Harigae in round two and 14-year-old Jane Rah in the round of 16. Ironically, all three are Californians and guess where Lee is from? Yep, Huntington Beach, Calif. If she wins and Angela Park beats medalist In-Kyung Kim, Pressel would play a fifth Californian. Park is from Torrance.
Medalist In-Kyung Kim has played 56 holes in her three matches, the most by any of the quarterfinalists. In contrast, Maru Martinez has needed only 41 holes to reach the round of eight. Angela Park is second with 43 holes.
The run of defending champion Jane Park also ended as the fun-loving, 18-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., lost in 20 holes to reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion In-Kyung Kim of Korea. Park was seeking to become the first player since Juli Simpson Inkster to reach the championship match of the Women’s Amateur in three consecutive years. Her record at this event over the past three years is an impressive 13-2.
Amanda McCurdy’s caddie Neal Howard has had no problems finding a parking spot near the golf course this week. A few houses from the entrance to the club is a sign that reads “University of Arkansas Fans Parking Only.” It was put there by the owners of the house. The couple went to the University of Mississippi, but the husband’s father is from El Dorado, Ark., the hometown of McCurdy. Unfortunately, the space won’t be required the rest of the week as McCurdy dropped a tough 20-hole decision to Jennie Lee.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions and comments at email@example.com.