by Alex Podlogar, North & South Amateur
- John Patota / PinehurstPhotographer.com photo
As if Emilia Migliaccio
needed another reminder.
In a span of three match play matches on Pinehurst No. 2, the amateur star had missed more short putts than she has at any other point in her life. There was no explanation for it. This thing, this block, this…whatever this was, didn’t even happen at Augusta National, where she finished as the runner-up in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Yet here she was, after a beauty of a tee shot into the 156-yard, par-3 17th hole of No. 2, facing a 4-footer for birdie to win the 120th Women’s North & South Amateur on Saturday. A sizable gallery circled the green, many of them sporting Wake Forest garb to cheer on the Demon Deacons’ star.
The clouds darkened above all of them. A match that had already been stopped twice on the front nine for lightning suddenly seemed to be moving in a state of frenetic worry. Migliaccio stayed with her routine, lined up the putt, stood behind it, took another look and addressed the ball.
As she peered at the cup one last time, a loud clap of thunder bellowed above her. A tempest, real or imagined, was brewing.
The ball never left the cup. And as the first heavy drops of an impending storm descended, Migliaccio, impervious to it all, turned to her mother and dedicated caddie Ulrika to see her arms raise in triumph. The 23-year-old Cary, NC, native had won her first Putter Boy trophy.
It may not be the last.
“This means everything,’ said Migliaccio, who rallied past Auburn’s Megan Schofill
2&1 to win the championship. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as happy for winning a tournament as I am for this one, especially for everything I’ve been through in my life, career-wise, golf-wise, and to win in North Carolina – I don’t remember the last time I did that. It just means so much.”
It was a hard-fought victory for Migliaccio, the Curtis Cup veteran and ACC Champion who will return to Wake Forest for one more season of golf as a graduate student. She plans to keep her amateur status and will not turn professional as she continues to mix elite amateur competition with broadcast work for Golf Channel and others.
Her amateur career could be limitless. After all, mid-round, she seemed to figure out Donald Ross’s famed turtleback greens on No. 2, and who does that?
Migliaccio was not without her hiccups, which seemed eerily similar to the ones she battled in the waning holes of her quarterfinal match against Justice Bosio on Friday. Then, she had missed short putts to extend what was shaping up as a comfortable win to one that finished needing a brilliant chip from left of the 18th green.
Against Schofill, who seemed content to make Migliaccio mark every putt outside of 2 feet, she missed from 3 feet on the 7th for a double bogey to lose the hole. On the par-3 9th, Migliaccio flew a gorgeous tee shot to 5 feet for birdie. Even after a pep talk from Ulrika, it still grazed the edge.
“She knew I had been tense about my putting because I had missed some putts that I’m not used to missing,” Migliaccio said. “She just told me, ‘You’ve practiced putting your whole life, you’re an incredible putter, you’ve made some awesome putts today, so just do your routine and roll it in.’ And, obviously, I didn’t roll that one in.
“But I rolled the rest in.”
And all of them mattered. After tugging her approach shot on the par-5 10th into the front-left bunker, Migliaccio left herself with a slick 5-footer above the hole, 1-down in the match.
“I re-did my putt on 9 after I had missed, and then I just felt good,” she said. “At 10 it was a right-to-lefter, which is a little bit easier for me, and I made that putt, center-cut with really good pace, and I just kind of took that momentum.”
She made a birdie from 15 feet on 11 to tie the match. She was flawless on 12 – good drive, good approach, good putt that just barely missed for a comfortable par – that led to a 1-up lead after Schofill’s 3-putt.
Schofill tied the match after a brilliant shot to 3 ½ feet for birdie on 13, but Migliaccio drained an 11-footer to save par on 14 to win the hole. She got up-and-down from long and right of the short-sided pin on 15, making a 3 ½-footer down the ridge to win that hole and take a 2-up lead. Schofill won the 16th with a nice birdie, leading to the tee shot at 17.
“As soon as I made contact with it, I knew I had hit it center of the face,” Migliaccio said. “It was just going nice and high. I’ve hit a lot of good shots under pressure when I’ve needed to in past experience, so it felt really good. When I saw it in the air I knew it was going to be close.”
Migliaccio smiled as she walked down the hill from the tee. At the green, Ulrika saw the length of the putt awaiting her daughter, turned to the gallery behind her – and also grinned.
“It’s so satisfying. I don’t know if I can say any other word except that,” Migliaccio said. “To be able to close out and not have to go on to another hole – and I’ve been kind of doing that; being up and having to go another hole – I’m just so proud of the way I fought through a lot adversity with grit and perseverance.
“I’ve made a lot of 4-footers in my life, so I knew I could do it,” she said, laughing.
In the end, Migliaccio won five of the eight holes played after the miss on 9. On four of them, she only needed one putt.
“I played really well. I needed to make a few more putts down the stretch, but Emilia played really great today,” said Schofill, who has reached the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in each of the three years she’s played the North & South. “She made a double when I made a bogey, but after that, it was nothing but birdies and pars. It was just really great golf between the both of us.”
“It was important for me to tell myself, ‘You know what? The greens are really, really hard out here,’ so not to get down on myself if I miss a short putt,” Migliaccio said. “It’s just so easy to be tentative on these greens, and so I just kind of took that momentum after 10 and ran with it.”
One putt changed everything. Sounds like another Pinehurst moment in a host of them over the years.
This one just didn’t happen on 18.
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