By BETH ANN BALDRY
PINEHURST, N.C. – Alison Walshe (pictured) may have been born in Galway, Ireland, but her mind is fixed on Scotland. The 2008 Curtis Cup is scheduled to be played at St. Andrews next May, and a victory at the North & South Women’s Amateur would certainly boost the college senior’s chances of landing a spot on the U.S. team.
Walshe, 22, took one step closer to winning her first amateur title by defeating recent Wake Forest grad Maggie Simons, 4 and 3, in the semifinal round over Pinehurst No. 2. She’ll face defending champion Jenny Suh on Sunday in the 36-hole finale. Suh ousted Amanda Blumenherst, college golf’s top player, by a score of 3 and 2 to earn her second consecutive appearance in the final match.
Walshe, a Massachusetts resident who enjoys dual citzenship, notched five birdies in 15 holes, taking control of the match on No. 8 and never relenting.
“It was the best I’ve played so far,” said Walshe, who hit 11 of 15 greens. “She was grinding a lot.”
Simons didn’t even think she’d get into the field this year. After missing the June deadline, her father drove the application down to Pinehurst from Raleigh and was told she’d be put on a waiting list. Simons found out she’d made it in three days before the tournament started.
Things looked promising for the soon-to-be professional when she chipped in for birdie on the sixth hole for the second consecutive day to take a 1-up lead. But she short-sided herself one too many times over the next several holes and her wedge started losing its magic.
Walshe outdrove Simons most of the day and was much more solid tee to green. A natural athlete with a big swing, Walshe moved to the U.S. at age 4 and was MVP of her high school basketball team in Massachusetts. She didn’t begin to take golf seriously until her junior year at Westford Academy.
Walshe then started her college career at Boston College and won the Big East title. She yearned for warmer weather, however, and transferred to Tulane her sophomore year, where she was a second-team All-American.
Just when Walshe was beginning to settle in, Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans and halted her junior year. With the program canceled, Walshe took a redshirt season and sat out the spring semester. She then transferred for a third time to the University of Arizona, where she won three titles last season and was ranked 15th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
As if that weren’t enough commotion, Walshe recently found out she’d be playing for her fourth head coach in five years after Greg Allen took a job at Vanderbilt. Because Wildcat assistant Shelly Haywood was chosen to replace Allen, it won’t be too tough of a transition for Walshe. In Allen, however, she lost more than a coach. She lost her basketball partner.
Allen and Walshe used to play “H-O-R-S-E” nearly every day in the school gym. Asked who was the better shooter, Walshe quickly accused Allen of cheating.
“You can actually write that,” she said with a laugh. Walshe claims to have had a six-game lead over Allen at the semester break when he erased the tally. They ended the spring season all square.
Suh knows what it’s like to hear a college coach say he’s leaving the program. Suh, however, chose to follow Mic Potter from Furman to Alabama, where she helped put the struggling program back on the map.
With her father, Jung, on the bag, Suh has marched through the stacked upper bracket with the authority of someone who knows how it’s done. Jung has done his share of homework this week, studying these Donald Ross greens from every different angle.
Blumenherst, playing at Pinehurst for the first time, misjudged several shots Saturday morning but felt like it was a solid day of ball-striking.
“I feel like I played well,” said Blumenherst, “but you have to play great.”
As the No. 1 seed, Suh has had more than her share of 7:30 a.m. tee times. The night-owl has been turning in as early as 9 p.m. every night this week from sheer exhaustion.
“I had to slap myself on the putting green this morning,” Suh said. “As soon as I put my head on the pillow I’m out.”
Suh won the 2006 North & South shortly before playing in the Curtis Cup at Bandon Dunes. Walshe would like nothing more than to follow in her footsteps.
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Beth Ann Baldry is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach her e-mail [email protected]
Results from the semifinals atthe North & South Women’s Amateur, played July 21 at the PinehurstResort’s par-73, 6,472-yard No. 2 course in Village of Pinehurst, N.C.:
Jenny Suh def. Amanda Blumenherst 3 and 2 Alison Walshe def. Maggie Simons 4 and 3
Jenny Suh def. Leigh Crosby 4 and 3 Amanda Blumenherst def. Ann Laney 4 and 3 Maggie Simons def. Mallory Hetzel 3 and 1 Alison Walshe def. Calle Nielson 6 and 5
Jenny Suh def. Meghan Bolger 1 up Leigh Crosby def. Emma Bennett 2 up Amanda Blumenherst def. Courtney Gunter 5 and 4 Ann Laney def. Maite Ortiz de Pinedo 20 holes Mallory Hetzel def. Lauren Doughtie 1 up Maggie Simons def. Abby Bools 5 and 4 Alison Walshe def. Mandy Goins 1 up Calle Nielson def. Taylore Karle 3 and 2
Jenny Suh def. Jennie Lee 6 and 5 Meghan Bolger def. Jennifer Hong 3 and 1 Leigh Crosby def. Erica Still 3 and 2 Emma Bennett def. Mary Kate Morgan 1 up Amanda Blumenherst def. Whitney Simons 5 and 3 Courtney Gunter def. Katie Kempter 2 up Maite Ortiz de Pinedo def. Alex Schulte 5 and 3 Ann Laney def. Stacy Lewis 1 up Lauren Doughtie def. Katie Elliott 4 and 2 Mallory Hetzel def. Nicole Ferrero 4 and 2 Abby Bools def. Blair Lamb 1 up Maggie Simons def. Elli Brown 2 up Alison Walshe def. Tonya Choate 6 and 5 Mandy Goins def. Katie Trotter 2 and 1 Calle Nielson def. Lucy Nunn 3 and 1 Taylore Karle def. Lindsey Bergeon 5 and 3
Jenny Suh def. Yu Lee 4 and 2 Kelly Fuchik def. Jennie Lee 6 and 5 Jennifer Hong def. Megan Grehan 3 and 2 Megan Bolger def. Carly Truitt 19 holes Leigh Crosby def. Cydney Clanton 3 and 1 Erica Still def. Ryann O’Toole 19 holes Emma Bennett def Ashley Tait 2 and 1 Mary Kate Morgan def. Clare Choi 5 and 4 Amanda Blumenherst def. Emma Jandel 3 and 1 Whitney Simons def. Chris Brady 1 up Katie Kempter def. Marisa Milligan 1 up Courtney Gunter def. Jacqui Concolino 4 and 3 Maite Ortiz de Pinedo def. Alison Whitaker 4 and 3 Alex Schulte def. Nannette Hill 1 up Stacy Lewis def. Megan McChrystal 19 holes Ann Laney def. Brooke Goodwin 1 up Katie Elliott def. Candace Schepperle 2 up Lauren Doughtie def. Amanda Johnson 3 and 2 Mallory Hetzel def. Kate Combes 2 and 1 Nicole Ferrero def. Laura Crawford 20 holes Blair Lamb def. Martha Burkhard 7 and 5 Abby Bools def. Tyrette Metzendorf 1 up Maggie Simons def. Susan Chio 19 holes Elli Brown def. Haley Brown 3 and 2 Alison Walshe def. Jean Reynolds 2 and 1 Tonya Choate def. Kelly Calkin 1 up Mandy Goins def. Piper Miller 1 up Katie Trotter def. Kristen Simson 20 holes Calie Nielson def. Kristie Smith 5 and 4 Lucy Nunn def. Heather Scholten 2 and 1 Taylore Karle def. Laura Nochta 1 up Lindsey Bergeon def. Sara Ovadia 2 and 1