California Women's Am: Sara Camarena of Mexico claims the win
Sara Camarena (NCGA)
Sara Camarena (NCGA)

The 20-year old Cal State Fullerton golfer Sara Camarena kept Katherine Zhu just out of arm's reach with a clutch par on the par-3 18th to win the 54th California Women's Amateur at Pasatiempo Golf Club.

The first foreign-born player to win the event, the Mexico City native was also playing in her first non-collegiate event in the state, after transferring to Fullerton from Oklahoma State in the spring. With COVID-19 shutting the season down, Camarena got to play just one event as a Titan.

Two holes up with two holes to play, Camarena jeopardized her lead with a triple-bogey on the 17th. In medal play, that kind of score could be disastrous. But in match play, a lead can only be whittled down one hole at a time.

Camarena, once she saw her opponent tee off on the rare finishing par-3, knew what she had to do. Make sure to hit the green, and force your opponent to hole a birdie putt to extend the match.

“On the tee on 18, I knew I was still 1-up. She (Zhu) hit a nice shot [to about 9 feet]. I just wanted to be on the safe side,” said Camarena.

But sometimes the subconscious mind knows where the pin is, and the body reacts.

Her choked-up 8-iron off the tee of the on the downhill, 145-yard par 3 headed towards the tucked front-right hole location never left the flag.

“I wanted to hit a draw but my ball actually just went straight," she explained. "It worked out.”

When Zhu missed her birdie putt, the rest was a formality; even though Camarena missed the birdie putt she wasn't taking any chances on the speedy greens, where even three footers can get away from you.

Having never seen Pasatiempo prior to the tournament, Camarena is a big fan of the Alister MacKenzie layout -- one that is open for the public to enjoy.

“I learned where to hit and where to miss it,” Camarena said. “A big thing for me all week I think was my focus. I would try to relax in between shots. It’s hard to focus the whole time.”

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ABOUT THE California Women's Amateur

The California Women’s Amateur Championship was founded in 1967 and played at Pebble Beach Golf Links until 1987 when the Championship was invited to Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, where it was played through 2019.

36-hole stroke play qualifying round, 18 holes each day, to determine 32 players for match play. Prizes will be awarded to the Champion, Runner-up, Semifinalists, Quarterfinalists and the 36-hole Low Gross Medalist from qualifying rounds.

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