Virginia Tech junior Amanda Hollandsworth after her title
BLACKSBURG, VA (June 14, 2017) - Near the scoreboard at Blacksburg Country Club Wednesday, Amanda Hollandsworth’s Virginia Tech teammates mobbed her and hugged her. Tears flowed.
This time, they were tears of joy.
Runner-up at the last two Virginia Women’s Stroke Play Championships, Hollandsworth (Great Oaks CC) finally broke through to win her first VSGA championship since her junior days. Hollandsworth roared back from the pack, posting a 4-under-par 68 to erase a five-shot deficit and claim the 40th VSGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship. She returned a three-day 217 to finish one stroke clear of 2015 champion Elsa Diaz (Independence GC).
A two-time winner of the VSGA Junior Girls’ Championship, Hollandsworth has been knocking on the door at the VSGA women’s majors for the last several years. Last year, not only was she the stroke play runner-up, but she was the finalist in the VSGA Amateur as well.
To say Wednesday’s win was cathartic for the Floyd native would be an understatement.“I was getting mixed emotions from everyone,” Hollandsworth said. “I heard that if [Diaz] made the putt on the last hole, then she had won. So then the tears came. But then I got over here, and when I saw I won, the tears started again. I was on an emotional roller coaster, because I didn’t know what was happening. That’s what made it even more special.
“I didn’t make the putt on 18 to know that I had won. I had to wait around to find out.”In the 20th VSGA Senior Women’s Stroke Play Championship, which was played concurrently at Blacksburg Country Club, Natalie Easterly (CC of Virginia) won her second championship 10 years after her first Senior Women’s Stroke Play triumph, carding a two-day 149 to finish a stroke ahead of Mimi Hoffman (Belle Haven CC), Shelley Savage (Army Navy CC) and Allisyn Terry (River Creek Club).
The win came as a surprise, not only because it’s been a decade since her last title. Easterly thought she had posted a final-round 72, which would have put her in a four-way playoff with the three runners-up. Instead, it was determined that she had incorrectly added her score and had finished at 71, which gave her the win.“I’m in a state of shock,” Easterly said.
The Women’s Stroke Play Championship appeared to be a two-woman race, even after the turn. Hollandsworth was playing well, but she needed some help to get back into the tournament. When Diaz birdied the par-5 13th hole, she pulled into a tie with second-round leader Whitney Stevenson (Blacksburg CC) at 1 under.
Disaster struck for the co-leaders at No. 14, however. Both players launched their drives to the left on the par-4 hole, putting them behind a series of tall trees and leaving them limited sight of the green. Both were sort of left in a hit-and-hope situation. Diaz’s second shot landed near the green to the left. Stevenson’s second shot settled next to a tree trunk well short of the green, and her only option was to declare her lie unplayable, costing her a stroke.
Stevenson then hit into a greenside bunker, and it took her two shots to get out. Once she finally emerged, she ended up over the green. She needed to get up and down to save a quadruple-bogey eight.
Diaz’s pitch went well past the hole, and she three putted for a double-bogey six. Hollandsworth was right back in the mix, though she didn’t know it.Nor did she care to know.
“I think I liked it better, not being in the final group,” Hollandsworth said. “I didn’t compare myself to anyone all day. I focused on my game and what I was doing. If I was in the final group, I think I would have been, ‘Oh, I should do this because she did that on this hole.’ I didn’t even know how well [fellow competitor Karishma Thiagaraj, who was in Hollandsworth’s foursome] was playing. That’s how oblivious I was.”
Diaz, who shot 71, did birdie No. 18, but she rushed a par putt on No. 16 for a three-putt bogey that ultimately cost her a chance at joining a playoff. Still, after a rough junior season at Richmond, she was encouraged by her contending performance in Blacksburg.“I’m really excited about how I played,” Diaz said. “I’ve been working with a good friend of mine, Missie Berteotti. I met her, and she’s been working with my mental game, along with my father who has been working on my swing. … To see that I can play well … it’s summer golf. I always love summer golf. And it’s always good to play well.”
The seniors started their round on No. 10, and Easterly did most of her work on her front nine. She made an eagle on No. 12 when she hit a half 9-iron from 107 yards away and the ball hopped into the hole. She added birdies at 16 and 18 to make the turn at 3 under. She made two bogeys on her back nine to finish at 71.
Hoffman made a run early on her back nine, making birdies at 1, 3 and 4. But she went bogey-triple bogey at 7 and 8 to fall behind Easterly. Similarly, a double bogey on No. 4 proved costly for Savage. Easterly’s winning score of 149 was the lowest in the Senior Women’s Stroke Play since Linda DiVall’s 142 in 2009.
“I had a wonderful group, and everybody played exceptionally well,” Easterly said. “That’s what made it so fun. Everybody was rooting everybody else on. It was probably one of the more memorable rounds for me. When you get to be seniors like we are, we’ve known each other for a really long time. We care about each other as people.”
Alexandra Austin (Springfield G&CC), the 2016 Women’s Stroke Play champion, shot 71 Wednesday and finished two shots behind Hollandsworth at 219. Karishma Thiagaraj (Dominion Valley CC) returned 72 and finished fourth at 220. Stevenson rounded out the top five at 221.
View results for VSGA Women's Stroke Play