LAYTON, Utah (July 21, 2011) — After being dominated by college-age golfers for decades, this year’s Women’s State Amateur was one for the ages. Or should we say one for the “veterans.”
By the time the field had been whittled down to two golfers for Thursday’s match-play final, Julie McMullin and Lachell Poffenberger were still playing while their younger opponents had all fallen by the wayside.
In the end it was the 43-year-old McMullin, a small-business owner from Park City, who won her first State Am title, edging 42-year-old Poffenberger, a three-time champion from Salt Lake, on the 19th hole of their scheduled 18-hole match.
With her victory, McMullin became the oldest winner since Bev Nelson won her eighth title in 1979, and also became just the second golfer over age 30 to win the title since ‘79.
“I can’t put it into words, it’s just incredible,” McMullin said after accepting the large silver trophy. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Neither player was shy about talking about being a couple of the older players in the original field and outlasting all the youngsters.
“We both enjoyed the fact that we’re both veterans and have been competing against each other for a long time,” said McMullin. “I guess I’m the oldest of the veterans. I feel like I’m always playing someone who’s younger in this tournament. I barely survived.”
Poffenberger pointed out that it had been 12 years since a golfer past her mid-20s had won the tournament, going back to the 1999 win by 36-year-old Sue Nyhus. “That’s a long time for us older people to break through.”
Both had beaten younger opponents less than half their age in Thursday morning’s semifinals as McMullin edged BYU golfer Annika Afoa, of Murray, 2 & 1 and Poffenberger came back from a three-hole deficit on the back nine to beat 18-year-old Tara Green of Pleasant View.
In their afternoon final, neither player led by more than a hole in a tightly-contested match that saw some great shots as well as a few not-so-great.
McMullin led by one after nine holes and it looked like she’d get another at No. 10 when she hit within 15 feet, while Poffenberger hit into the bunker. However, Poffenberger holed out her sand shot from 30 feet to even the match when McMullin missed ber putt.
McMullin won No. 12 with a par, but Poffenberger had two chances to tie the match, but missed four-foot par putts at 14 and 15. However, she tied the match with a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 17.
“That was the only putt I made all day long,” Poffenberger said.
At No. 18, both players hit into the front left bunker in two. You figured Poffenberger had the edge since she had holed that shot on 10, while McMullin had twice failed to escape bunkers on the front nine.
McMullin went first and left her shot in the sand. The second try wasn’t much better, ending up on the fringe, 20 feet above the hole. Meanwhile Poffenberger barely got out onto the fringe, but knocked her next shot to gimmie range.
That left McMullin with a testy downhill putt from off the green that broke slightly to the right, which she had to make or the match was over.
“I’ve learned in all the tournaments I’ve played, just don’t give up on the hole,” McMullin said. “Even though I was really frustrated with my two bunker shots, I just wasn’t going to give up. I was going to give it everything I had.”
The putt trickled down the green and at the last moment, fell in the right side of the hole, much to the delight of several of her friends, who whooped it up at the side of the green.
The match moved to the downhill par-4 No. 1 hole, which McMullin had played well all week.
“I was thinking ‘just put it somewhere on the green and two putt and get out of here,”’ she said.
After McMullin stuck her approach shot 25 feet past the hole, it was Poffenberger’s turn. She was in a divot and her approach was short and to the right. From there she bladed her chip across the green to about the same distance away as McMullin.
When McMullin putted within a foot, Poffenberger had to sink her downhill tester and just missed, leaving McMullin the winner.
For Poffenberger, a mother of three who works as a middle-school teacher, it was another in a career of close State Am finishes. Although she won in 1989, 1991 and 1998, she has finished second seven times, including two in playoffs and three times by one shot.
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