2007 USGA WOMEN'S AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP

"'I haven't won a tournament in the States, and now I win this one. It's an honor to international players, it's really good to get it done against a great opponent..''

 

–Maria Jose Uribe, 2007 USGA Women's Amateur Championship

MARIA JOSE URIBE • CHAMPION

Barely more than two weeks after the 2005 Solheim Cup matches conclude, Crooked Stick once again finds itself in the golf world spotlight. On September 26, the USGA announces Crooked Stick’s selection as host for the 107th U.S. Women’s Amateur in August 2007. Less than a month later, the club again makes news. On October 11, 2005, the USGA announces its selection of Crooked Stick Golf Club as the site for the 29th U.S. Senior Open to be held in late July 2009. The two upcoming tournaments are among the 13 national championships staged annually by the USGA, 10 of which are contested strictly among amateurs.

 

Improvements on the course in the past decade along with the new clubhouse mean the club faces few changes to make itself tournament ready. In staging the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur, Crooked Stick joins an elite company of host clubs that includes: Pebble Beach, Chicago Golf Club (C . B. Macdonald, 1895), Shinnecock Hills GC (William S. Flynn, 1931), and Pasatiempo GC (Alister MacKenzie, 1929).

 

The Women’s Amateur, along with the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open, is one of the USGA’s first three championships—with all three making their debut in 1895. The visit to Crooked Stick marks the second time for a U.S. Women’s Amateur to make a stop in Indiana—the first being in 1956 at Bill Diddel’s 1923 Meridian Hills CC layout in Indianapolis.

 

Crooked Stick’s Marcia Luigs, two-time women’s club champion, a member of the Indiana Golf Association (IGA) Hall of Fame and sitting chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee is named Honorary Chairman for the competition. Marcia’s husband Joe Luigs (a fellow IGA Hall of Famer), along with Sally Peacock serve as co-chairs for the 156-player competition.

With Crooked Stick’s tees set to 6,595 yards, play begins with 36-hole stroke-play qualifying: 18 on Monday, August 6, followed by another 18 on Tuesday. Stacy Lewis and Kristina Wong earn co-medalist honors with five-under 139 scores, as the field is cut to the low 64 players who advance to match play. One notable achievement from the first two rounds leaves spectators, fans, and the media astonished. For the first time in 107 championships, a competitor younger than 13 qualifies for match play. What’s more, two pre-teens achieve the lofty accomplishment at Crooked Stick: 12-year-olds Pearl Jin of San Gabriel, California and Alexis Thompson of Coral Springs, Florida. Remarkably, each player wins her opening match, and in a curious twist, the two history-makers face off in Thursday’s second round.

 

Thompson prevails in the historic face-off, 5 & 4 before falling to eventual semi-finalist, 15-year-old Ha-Na Jang of Korea 5 & 4 in the quarterfinals. In the semi-final, Jang takes 17-year-old Maria Jose Uribe to the 17th hole before falling 2 & 1. The other semi-final match features last year’s winner Kimberly Kim (the youngest ever champion at age 14) against Amada Blumenherst, a 20-year-old Duke University junior. Blumenherst, who spends much of her youth in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sports a large gallery that includes numerous family members from nearby. Uribe, a virtual unknown from Colombia, also has a following, albeit of much different makeup. Golfweek magazine reports on the support both players receive at Crooked Stick.

 

Blumenherst lists Scottsdale, Ariz., as her address, but likes nothing more than to be back home in Indiana. Around 20 relatives made the trip to Carmel Saturday to show support. Uribe also felt a lot of support from Indiana residents during her semifinal match as practically the entire maintenance staff at Crooked Stick came out to watch the South American.

I have been here for two weeks now, so I have seen them as a lot of times,” said Uribe of the Hispanic workers. “It’s good and I know that Amanda has a lot of family here and I don’t have anybody.”

 

Sunday’s 36-hole final turns into a nip and tuck battle, with the players never separated by more than a one-hole margin. The morning 18 ends with the match all square, the same tally that faces the players as they walk to the 193-yard par-three seventeenth hole, their 35th of the day.

 

Playing first, Blumenherst strikes five-iron to 16 feet. Uribe counters with a towering five-iron of her own that ends up just seven feet from the cup. Blumenherst, feeling she must make, strikes her putt aggressively, but the ball slides by, running six feet past the hole. Uribe, just outside of her opponent, misses the short birdie attempt and taps in for three. And when Blumenherst’s must-make par putt fails, Uribe finds herself 1-up as she strides to the 18th. Needing to avoid the water, Uribe plays well left off the tee. But her ball comes to rest a bit too far left in the left rough near Pete’s grass pit “Dye-pression.” Blumenherst takes advantage of the opening, her tee-ball finding the middle of the fairway 150 yards from the pin.

 

Next to play, Uribe knocks a seven-iron to the front of the green, leaving 55 feet to the hole. Blumenherst muscles an eight-iron that lands five feet from the hole, but failing to check, the ball runs just off the back of the green.

Her ball away, Uribe plays next, coaxing her lag putt up to five feet short—and leaving the door open for Blumenherst, who decides to chip. Playing the shot with precision, she trickles her ball up one foot from the hole—and Uribe faces a testing five-footer for the win.

 

“It was in my hands to finish the tournament,” she says afterward. “I didn’t need her to miss any putt. I just needed to make that one. That is the best part of my game, the five-footers, and four-footers.”

And so it is. Her putt on Crooked Stick’s 18th green rolls true. And when the ball strikes the bottom of the cup, Maria Jose Uribe captures the 107th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. In doing so, she becomes the 12th foreign player to win the crown.

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