WILLIAMSBURG, Va (July 12, 2012) –– University of Virginia teammates Elizabeth Brightwell, 21, of Nellysford and Lauren Coughlin, 19, of Charlottesville posted a pair of victories in quarterfinal and semifinal round matches and will meet in Friday’s scheduled 18-hole final at the 87th Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship being conducted at the 5,770-yard, par 72 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club Gold Course.
Coughlin, who redshirted as a newcomer at U.Va., and Brightwell (pictured right) were among three U.Va. women’s golf team members from the 2011-12 squad to reach the round of four. Brightwell, a rising junior, bested fellow 21-year-old Lauren Greenlief (Oakton), 2 and 1 in the semifinals. Greenlief finished her last season as a member of the Cavaliers golf team in the spring while fulfilling her degree requirements in graduate school at the university’s McIntire School of Commerce.
Coughlin notched two wire-to-wire victories, defeating 14-year-old central Virginian Alex Wright (Midlothian), 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals, before ousting stroke play medalist and 28-year-old mid-amateur Carol Robertson, (Virginia Beach), the head women’s golf coach at Old Dominion University, 6 and 4 after lunch.
Brightwell, meanwhile, posted a 2-and-1 win over 17-year-old Lauren Eklund of Charlottesville in the morning session before knocking off Greenlief.
Both Brightwell and Coughlin will be making their first appearance in the final. The championship match is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.
Playing the consistent golf that is rewarded in match play, Coughlin won the first three holes with pars against Robertson and made birdie at the par-5 sixth hole, getting up and down from just left of the green to push her lead to four holes up.
After Robertson made a 7-footer for birdie at the par-3 seventh hole, Coughlin showed a steely nerve, draining her putt from just inside her opponent for a halve. Then, at the par-4 eighth hole, Coughlin pulled her tee shot into a strand of trees on the left, punched out and converted a gutsy up and down from 55 yards to keep her 4-up advantage.
Coughlin closed the match by making birdie putts inside 8 feet at the par-4 13th and 14th holes. Counting the concessions that are typically a part of match play, she was the stroke play equivalent of three under par in the quarterfinals and four under in the semifinals.
Seemingly all parts of her game have come together at the right time.
“I’m definitely hitting the ball probably the best I’ve ever hit it, especially with my driver. I’m hitting it pretty much exactly where I want to every single time,” Coughlin said. “And I’m putting probably the best I’ve ever putted.”
Not a bad way to enter your first final.
“Yeah, it’s a good combination,” she said with a laugh.
Prior to this year, Coughlin had never advanced past the first round of match play at the Women’s Amateur in three previous starts.
“I’ve always known I could do it – it’s kind of surreal that it’s actually happening,” she smiled.
And she’ll see a familiar face in the final; both players grew up playing in many of the same events during their junior golf days before becoming teammates.
“I’m really excited about it. We’ve known each other for a while,” said Coughlin, the fourth low qualifier for match play.
Brightwell and Greenlief shared a similarity aside from their semifinal round appearance. Unintentionally, they both showed up for play on Wednesday wearing the exact same team uniform – a white golf shirt and an orange skirt. It only seemed destined that they’d face one another in the round of four.
“We have a lot of different options – different color shirts – orange, blue, white. We both ended up wearing the same exact uniform, which was pretty hilarious,” Brightwell said with a laugh. “The chances of it are low. When she pulled in this morning, she said, ‘We look the same.’ I said, ‘That’s going to be pretty funny if we play each other in the afternoon.’ ”
Greenlief burst out to a three holes up lead through five holes in the match, completing the early stretch by knocking in an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fifth, showing some animation as the ball tumbled into the hole as a part of her early surge.
“She did a little fist-pump, which inspired me to focus a little harder,” Brightwell said. “Even though we’re teammates, we can get competitive.”
After a sluggish start, Brightwell responded, winning three of the final four holes of the first nine, Nos. 6, 7 (10 inches for birdie) and 9 to square the match.
Brightwell took her first lead at the par-4 11th, scoring a par-win after her opponent didn’t get up and down from the greenside bunker. Brightwell two-putted from 70 feet at the par-5 15th to earn an important halve and needed only two putts to claim the par-3 16th to go 2 up. There, Greenlief missed on her 10-foot par putt that would’ve kept the margin at one. Brightwell finished off the match one hole later.
Brightwell has enjoyed success at the Women’s Amateur in recent years and is eyeing her first title. She advanced to the semifinals in 2009, reached the round of eight in 2010, was the stroke play medalist last year (lost in the round of 16 of match play) and is the second low qualifier for match play this time around.
She has admittedly come away impressed with Coughlin’s play at the Women’s Amateur – in her she sees a player who can be a part of the team’s rotation and the program’s continued growth.
“I’m super happy she’s playing this well because we can’t wait to have her travelling next season,” Brightwell said. “She’s made an enormous amount of birdies at this tournament, so I’m excited for what she can bring to the future of the U.Va. women’s golf team.
“Obviously, the fun thing is that we’ll be competitive, as teammates always can be, but at the end, we’ll hug, and a Wahoo will have won.”
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