CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. (Jan. 2, 2012)—Paula Reto cruised to a five-shot win over Thai teenager Moriya Jutanugarn on Monday to successfully defend her Dixie Amateur title at Heron Bay Golf Club.
Reto shot 13-under 275 (69-67-70-69) while Jutanugarn went 68-75-69-68. Jaye Marie Green of Boca Raton, Fla., finished alone in third another shot back (71-74-67-69), while England’s Holly Clyburn (72-73-71-70—286) was solo fourth. Tied for fifth at even-par 288 were Madison Opfer of Plant City, Fla., and Madison Pressel of Boca Raton.
“I consider Heron Bay my home course, so that helped a lot,” said Reto, who was born in South Africa but now makes her home in Coral Springs. “I just tried to stay focused and play my game; to play conservative, but good.
“Normally, my strength is my long game,” said the 21-year-old Reto, a junior at Purdue University who did not start golfing until 2005. “But this week it was my putting that made the difference. The greens here were great; the whole course was in great shape.”
Reto, who became the first back-to-back champion in women’s Dixie history, said the win would give her increased confidence heading back into the collegiate season. “The Dixie is a lot bigger than most college tournaments, so it will be a big boost for me, especially this year with this field. There were a lot of great players here this week.”
On Sunday, Diane Lang of Weston, Fla., solidified her reputation as one of the dominant senior golfers in the world, edging Lisa Schlesinger of Laytonsville, Md., by two shots to claim her third straight senior women's Dixie Amateur. Ivy Steinberg of Stouffville, Ont., finished third. Lang, a three-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion, has won the title every year since the division was established in 2009.
Almost 100 top female amateur golfers from 21 U.S. states and nine other countries were entered in the Dixie Amateur, one of the most prestigious championships in the world. The women's championship is played over 72 holes (Friday through Monday) with a 36-hole cut, while the seniors play 54 holes (no cut) from Friday through Sunday.
While the men’s Dixie Amateur has been played since 1924, the women's division was instituted in 2002. Since then, it has featured world-class fields and an impressive list of champions who went on to make their mark on the LPGA.
The inaugural women's champion, future LPGA winner Meaghan Francella, narrowly defeated Paula Creamer, now an LPGA superstar. In 2007, the sensational Alexis Thompson won at the age of 12 before breaking onto the professional scene this year, becoming the youngest-ever to win on the LPGA and European women's tours at 16. (Her brother, Curtis, a freshman at Louisiana State University, won this year's men's Dixie Amateur on Dec. 22.) That same year, two-time Dixie champion Angela Park (2003, 2005) was named the LPGA's rookie of the year.