Photo courtesy of North & South Amateur
Donald Ross’s turtleback greens can break your heart. They can sour your soul. They can infuriate you, perplex you, confound you, rob you of everything you thought you knew about putting and golf.
They can also exhilarate you. They can amaze you. They can let you in on all of the subtle secrets that make Pinehurst No. 2 what it has been, what it is today, and what it forever will be.
And for a select few, they can place one into history.
“This would mean everything (to win the North & South),” Emilia Migliaccio said moments after prevailing in her quarterfinal match to advance in the 120th Women’s North & South Amateur on Friday. “I’m from North Carolina, this is the biggest event in North Carolina, and I think it’s one of the biggest events in the country behind the U.S. Amateur. I strongly believe it’s at least the second-most competitive field. It would be awesome to say I have won here.”
And, to think, by the end of her round Friday, the last place Migliaccio probably wanted to be was anywhere with a putter in her hand.
Yet, that’s what Pinehurst No. 2 can do to you.
It did it for Megan Schofill, the Auburn senior who may have been the best of the four players on this day to stay alive in this momentous championship, which is unequaled in that it has tested the best amateurs in the women’s game every year since 1903. Schofill needed 21 holes to prevail in her morning Round of 16 match, but after she did, she returned to the semifinals for the second consecutive year after a 2&1 win over Melanie Green.
“I felt like I was a lot more consistent this afternoon,” Schofill said. “I hit a lot more quality shots. I didn’t get myself into too much trouble, made pars, make a few good birdie putts down the stretch. It was just really solid.”
Look what it did for Amanda Sambach, whose family moved to Pinehurst not long ago because it’s the perfect place to nurture the University of Virginia sophomore’s talent. On the par-5 5th hole, she found herself one mistake away from what legendary caddie Willie McRae would call “Dead City.” Her ball on the front-right of the green and the pin tucked on the front-left, Sambach was facing the very real possibility of putting for birdie one second and then grabbing her 60-degree wedge to try to make par from the bunker – or worse.
Sambach’s caddie pointed to a spot. She didn’t like it. It was early in the match and she had already recovered from a 2-down deficit to square things.
“He pointed to a spot, and I said, ‘How about 5 feet higher than that?’” Sambach said.
Uh-oh. Questioning a Pinehurst caddie? Careful, now. Then again, remember – Sambach herself had caddied for UNC’s David Ford two weeks ago, helping him to the quarterfinals of the North & South Amateur. “She’s been amazing at reading greens,” Ford had said.
“He was like, ‘OK, but it might leave you up there with 5 feet downhill.’ But I was like, ‘I think it’s going to snap.’”
It snapped. And fell.
“I just decided on that line, and it looked good the whole way. But it was unreal to watch it go in,” she said, incredulously. Sambach eventually took a 3-up lead, made five birdies in one six-hole stretch, and beat her college teammate Jennifer Cleary, 2&1.
Look what No. 2’s greens did for Anna Morgan. This championship’s runner-up a year ago, Morgan looked skyward as she walked down the hill from the tee to the 17th green, knowing her ball was 60 feet away from the cup. She pulled her purple Paladins hat down hard over her eyes, believing her hopes of a chance to return to the championship match were finally dashed on a day she…made…nothing.
“I said to my caddie, ‘Do I need to start putting with my wedge?’” Morgan said.
One-down to Southern Cal’s Cindy Kou, Morgan had not led since Kou tied the match on the second hole. Morgan had just lost a chance to win the 16th with a birdie, but missed. Time was running out.
“On long putts, we’ve been talking more about speed,” Morgan said. “So, we just picked a spot, and next thing I know I drain a 50-plus-footer.”
Kou, blindsided, blocked her tee shot on 18 into the trees on the right. Morgan laced a drive down the middle. A two-putt par and, improbably, a win to find herself still standing.
“Probably one of the clutchest putts I’ve made, oh, ever?” she said.
“It’s a little bit of relief, to be honest. But excited. But a relief. I am kind of a little amped up right now. I feel like I could go run a mile.”
Migliaccio might’ve wanted to go run and hide. In total control of her match against Australia’s Justice Bosio, the acclaimed amateur had a chance to go 4-up with just four holes to play. But her par putt lipped-out harshly on 14.
On 16, still 2-up, Migliaccio had a 4-footer for birdie to close out the match.
On 17, her lag putt down the hill settled left of the hole, about 2 ½ feet away. Bosio had her mark it.
Another miss. Her caddie shrieked.
On to 18.
Migilaccio, now just 1-up, tugged her approach shot left of the green, leaving her with a delicate chip to a back-left pin perilously close to the ridge that has sent many an attempt back to the player’s feet. (Thank you, Mr. Ross.)
But, well, it wasn’t on the green. Migliaccio pulled a wedge.
“I was like, ‘All right, I’m not on the green, so I’ll be fine,’” she quipped. “Let’s see how close I can chip it.”
She never needed her putter again, nearly holing the chip and earning a 1-up win to go back to the semifinals for the second time in the last three years.
“I love the feeling of competition. There’s nothing like it,” said Migliaccio. “There’s nothing like being, you know, a little nervous over a 3-footer. You don’t really get that stimulation anywhere else.”
You do at Pinehurst. Especially on No. 2.
And then some.
North & South Women's Amateur
No. 16 Emilia Migliaccio vs. No. 12 Anna Morgan 7 a.m.
No. 7 Megan Schofill vs. No. 19 Amanda Sambach, 7:08 a.m.
TBD, 12:45 p.m.
by Alex Podlogar
ABOUT THE North & South Women's Amateur
The Women's North & South has drawn the top
amateur women from around the country. Three
rounds of stroke play followed by four rounds of
match play will determine the Champion.
The 96 player field will be cut to a 16 player
match play field and medalist honors. All stroke
match play rounds will be contested on Pinehurst
No. 2. The top 16 players who qualify for match
play will play two rounds a day until our
Nine of the last 12 North & South Women’s
Amateur champions have drawn paychecks as
members of the LPGA Tour. The equation is near
perfect. Win the North & South Am, go on to
professional success at the highest level.
North & South champions are among the legends
of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs,
Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey, Brandie Burton, Brittany
Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
Along with the Women's North & South,
Resort & Country Club annually plays host to the
Men's North & South, the Junior North & South,
and Senior Men's and Senior Women's North &
View Complete Tournament Information