Photo courtesy of Virginia State Golf Association
There was nothing particularly stressful about Becca DiNunzio’s
run to the 96th Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship title on Wednesday at Evergreen Country Club. She clinched her semifinal match on the 13th green and the championship match one hole later.
That was totally by design. DiNunzio and caddie Mason Carmel developed a plan early, where DiNunzio would be far more invested in fighting the course rather than worrying about her opponent—no matter who it was.
“Our mentality from Day 1 was that we were just going to play with what the golf course gives to us, and that was our strategy,” Carmel said. “Becca mentioned it the other day, and the one thing I reinforced was ‘trust it.’ We got on the same page early, whether it was a putt or a drive, the line or the yardages. We picked something we liked, agreed to it and trusted it. We knew once the ball left the face, we were going to accept the result no matter what.”
With the focus on her own game, DiNunzio used spectacular ball striking and steady putting to earn four victories over two days, allowing the former VSGA Junior Girls’ champ to pose with the Kohler Trophy for the first time.
“It means a lot, because any time I get to play in a VSGA event, I have so much fun,” said DiNunzio, a rising junior at Virginia Tech. “I know all of the girls that I’m competing against, and I look up to the girls who have won it in years past. To be able to say that I’ve won that title too, it’s a big honor.”
DiNunzio defeated Brambleton teenager Julie Shin in her semifinal match 6 and 5 before jumping to an early lead in the championship match against Alexandra Austin
and cruising to a 5 and 4 victory.
DiNunzio became the third player in the last 11 years to earn both stroke-play medalist honors and the championship trophy. Lauren Greenlief (2018) and Amanda Steinhagen (2010) were the others.
In the final match against Austin, the difference between the two players was simple. Both players drove the ball well. But DiNunzio’s flat stick was better all afternoon, helping her build a 4-up lead through six holes, winning holes 1, 2 and 6 with birdies and 5 with a par.
Austin (Springfield G&CC) earned her first championship match appearance in thrilling fashion in the morning, chipping in for birdie on the first extra hole against Danielle Suh to advance. Suh led 1 up through 16 holes and had about a 10 footer for birdie on 17 to clinch the match but missed. Suh then found the water twice on 18, leading to a conceded birdie for Austin to send the match to extra holes.
For the 28-year-old Austin, a trip to the final match was validation that her game was continuing to round back into form. Austin won the VSGA Women’s Stroke Play title in 2016 and briefly turned professional before regaining her amateur status. With work responsibilities on her plate, she doesn’t have as much practice time as she used to.
“I’m very pleased with making it to the final,” Austin said. “I had zero expectations coming into this. I hardly ever practice. That showed up in the last match. None of my putts went in. But Becca played great the whole week.”
DiNunzio earned her first match-play event victory, which bodes well for her going into next week’s prestigious North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst. She advanced to match play there last year, and the experience gained this week against the field at Haymarket is sure to help if she can qualify again next weekend.
“I had good competition here, and it was good practice in handling adversity, seeing somebody get 2 up on you (as Emma Landis did in the quarterfinals) and being able to come back around,” DiNunzio said. “Overall, I’m really confident in my game now, especially with how I played this week.”
There’s a good chance Carmel, who played at Longwood, will be on the bag once again next week, as the two formed a quick bond after a chance meeting at 1757 Golf Club when DiNunzio was in town visiting a family member and stopped in at 1757 to practice.
“It was really cool,” DiNunzio said. “You never know how much you’re going to click with your caddie, so it was awesome to be able to trust him. He gained my trust right away when he said hit it here, I did, and it went in. He was able to keep me calm. It seemed like he knew me after just spending part of the first day with me. After hole 9, I was like, ‘we’ve got this.’ It was great to keep it going, and to know I had him on my team was awesome.”
Trophies were also handed out in four other flights this week. Leesburg’s Amanda Perez won the first flight; Front Royal’s Estelle Verny won the second flight; Blacksburg’s Abby Hunter won the third flight; and Midlothian’s Maggie Ladd won the fourth flight.
by Chris Lang, VSGA’s manager of media and communications
View results for VSGA Women's Amateur
ABOUT THE VSGA Women's Amateur
Match play tournament with 36-hole on-site stroke play
qualifying. The low 16 qualifiers advance to match
Open to female golfers of all ages. Participants must
hold an active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA
Member Club in good standing.
View Complete Tournament Information