By Julie Williams, Golfweek
ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Down the stretch in the final round of the South Atlantic Amateur, Kelly Shon got resourceful.
On the amateur circuit, there are no electronic leaderboards, and no coach is standing nearby with live scoring on her phone. So Shon pulled out her range finder on the 17th tee, not to scope a yardage but to size up the competition. Among the final group, she had a two-shot advantage, but a look up the fairway showed that Shannon Aubert was 4 under on the day, and tied with Shon at 8 under for the tournament.
“I figured I needed to made a birdie (at No. 17),” she recalled after the round.
Shon had birdied Oceanside Country Club’s 17th the previous day to keep her one-shot advantage on Kelsey MacDonald. On Saturday, Shon took advantage of a good drive, laid up her second shot, then hit a knock-down wedge to 9 feet. She easily made the putt to get to 9 under. At No. 18, with a crowd of locals pressed around the green, Shon stuck her approach to 20 feet, and two-putted for a final-round 69 and the most prestigious victory of her amateur career. Other victories for Shon, No. 48 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, include three collegiate titles in the past 2 1/2 years at Princeton, and three AJGA titles as a junior.
“It feels amazing,” said Shon, a New Yorker who was a last-minute entry into the Sally. “I was so nervous coming down the stretch, but I’m just really proud of myself for the way I handled my back nine, considering everything.”
Shon’s last victory, at the Lehigh Invitational in October, also came down to the wire. At that tournament, she had to birdie No. 18 to win.
Shon had little time to collect her trophy as the sun went down on Saturday evening. She had a quick flight to catch back to Princeton. Final exams await.
As for Aubert, who finished one shot behind Shon at 8-under 280, next week starts another tournament. Aubert will play the AJGA Annika Invitational for the fourth time in her career. It’s a home game for the 17-year-old, who plays and practices out of Reunion Resort, the tournament venue near Orlando.
Last year’s runner-up finish at the Annika was among a series of close calls for Aubert. She also finished T-3 at the Thunderbird International Junior and T-4 at the Ping Invitational. Aubert, Golfweek's No. 8-ranked junior, is overdue for a win, but she’s moving in the right direction.
Aubert regrouped from second- and third-round 72s to shoot a 68 in the final round of the Sally. She missed only two greens, and had neither a three-putt nor a bogey.
“Today I really did everything I could,” she said at the end of the day.
Aubert also finished T-19 at the Harder Hall Invitational and T-13 at the Dixie Women’s Amateur.
“I feel like my game is doing a lot better than it has been,” Aubert said. “I’m hitting my irons a lot more solid, and putting is pretty good. I just need to work out some tweaks in my chipping.”
With the Sally’s bronze medal, Alex Stewart will return to Norman, Okla., to continue work on her game. The 20-year-old is originally from Elk Grove, Calif., but moved to Oklahoma in the past year when her dad went there for a job. She plays and practices out of Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, where the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links will be played later this year.
Stewart spent one year on the Purdue roster before transferring to Colorado. She led the team in scoring during a historic season that included the first trip to the NCAA Championship in program history. Stewart left Colorado at the end of last year to fine-tune her game after a major swing change, and the Sally showed marked progress.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played well in a tournament,” she said. “I kind of struggled over the summer with my swing, so just to get back into tournament mode, it takes a little bit.”
Stewart put pressure on Shon until the 13th hole, where she hit a 5-wood into the green and a bad kick off the bank of the green set her up for bogey. She never could recover. Still, with more tournament finishes like this, a pro career could be right around the corner.
“I think it just depends how I play in the summer,” she said. “If I feel like I’m ready, then I’ll give it a shot.”