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By RAY McCARTHY
EUGENE, Ore. – She claims she didn’t need it, but Duke senior Amanda Blumenherst validated her amateur career Sunday with her victory at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“Now when people talk to me about the U.S. Am, instead of, ‘My condolences,’ it’ll be, ‘Congratulations, you played great,’ ” the three-time Golfweek College Player of the Year said.
After suffering a devastating loss to Maria Jose Uribe in last year’s final, Blumenherst put what she called the “cherry on top” of her amateur career with a 2-and-1 win over Arizona State senior Azahara Munoz in the 36-hole final.
The Women’s Am will make a nice addition to Blumenherst’s long list of achievements: an 11-time winner at Duke, three-time first-team All-American, a three-time ACC individual champion, a school-record 14 consecutive top-5 finishes entering her senior year, and the No. 1 ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings three years running.
“I wanted this so much,” she said. “I would have been crushed if I hadn’t won it, especially going to the finals again.”
The latest innocent victim in Blumenherst’s torrid run was Munoz, who was followed on the course by fellow Spaniards and best friends Belen Mozo and Carlota Ciganda. Mozo was eliminated in the semifinals by Munoz while Ciganda was ousted in the quarters by Blumenherst. Each took turns wearing a Spanish national flag during Munoz’s match.
“I was laughing when I saw it,” Munoz said.
Munoz showed little emotion as she led 27 of the first 31 holes. Despite her lead, Munoz claimed whatever control she thought she had was an illusion.
“Oh, I knew that,” Munoz said when asked if she thought Blumenherst would come back. “I didn’t feel I was in control but I felt really comfortable.”
Munoz pushed her lead to 2 up on the 19th hole when Blumenherst missed another par putt, and the Spaniard gained what appeared to be a huge momentum swing on the 23rd hole.
After her tee shot on the par 3 trickled through the green, Munoz chipped in from an awkward, sidehill lie, but lost the next hole after missing a 3-footer for birdie.
“That was a big hole (No. 6),” Blumenherst said. “If it had switched, I think she would have been 3 up instead of 1 up.”
Blumenherst squared the match on No. 10 with a 10-foot birdie putt and took her first lead of the entire day on the 31st hole, perhaps the most pivotal point of their match.
An off-target tee shot had Blumenherst facing overhanging tree limbs on her second shot. She found more trees in the left-hand rough, nullifying her distance advantage on the par 5.
Munoz had gone for the green in two and was almost certain to regain her lead with a simple third shot from a greenside bunker. Blumenherst scrambled for her par, but Munoz skulled her bunker shot over the green and failed to get up-and-down for a costly bogey, giving her opponent a 1-up lead.
“I had a similar shot (skulled bunker shot) on my second day on No. 8, and I did the same thing,” said Munoz. “I was thinking about that.”
Utilizing length that carried her throughout the week, Blumenherst reached the par-5 16th in two and a routine two-putt for birdie gave her a 2 up lead. Munoz failed to get up-and-down from greenside rough.
The final blow to Munoz came on the par-4 17th, when a lip-out for birdie ended her chances. Blumenherst made a 4-footer for par and the championship.
“I definitely knew it was the winning putt,” she said.
Blumenherst drew upon a lesson her dad has given her through the years: to imagine practice putts determining the outcome of major championships.
“So when I was over it definitely helped me relax and not put as much pressure on myself,” said Blumenherst.
There is little pressure when you’re on top of the world.
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Ray McCarthy is a Golfweek assistant editor. To reach him email email@example.com.
Final results from the U.S. Women’s Amateur, played Aug. 4-10 at the par-72, 6,484 Eugene (Ore.) Country Club:
Amanda Blumenherst def. Azahara Munoz 2 and 1
Azahara Munoz def. Belen Mozo 4 and 3 Amanda Blumenherst def. Erynne Lee 3 and 2
Azahara Munoz def. Stephanie Na 7 and 6 Belen Mozo def. Whitney Neuhauser 6 and 5 Amanda Blumenherst def. Carlota Ciganda 4 and 3 Erynne Lee def. Chelsea Stelzmiller 4 and 3
Stephanie Na def. Kristina Wong 1 up Azahara Munoz def. Tracy Nichols 1 up Whitney Neuhauser def. Stephanie Kono 1 up Belen Mozo def. Stephanie Sherlock 6 and 5 Amanda Blumenherst def. Ellen Mueller 7 and 6 Carlota Ciganda def. Jennifer Hirano 2 and 1 Erynne Lee def. Kira Meixner 19 holes Chelsea Stelzmiller def. Megan McChrystal 2 and 1
Stephanie Na def. Sydney Burlison 2 and 1 Kristina Wong def. Lauren Doughtie 20 holes Azahara Munoz def. Ha-Na Jang 2 and 1 Tracy Nichols def. Breanne Loucks 2 up Whitney Neuhauser def. Lucy Nunn 5 and 4 Stephanie Kono def. Jane Chin 4 and 3 Stephanie Sherlock def. Sydnee Michaels 1 up Belen Mozo def. Lindy Duncan 3 and 2 Amanda Blumenherst def. Nikki Koller 4 and 3 Ellen Mueller def. Selanee Henderson 3 and 1 Carlota Ciganda def. Jennifer Johnson 1 up Jennifer Hirano def. Pearl Jin 2 and 1 Kira Meixner def. Stefanie Kenoyer 3 and 2 Erynne Lee def. Cindy LaCrosse 1 up Chelsea Stelzmiller def. Alison Walshe 19 holes Megan McChrystal def. Julia Potter 3 and 2
Stephanie Na def. Kelley Louth 3 and 1 Sydney Burlison def. Erica Moston 2 and 1 Lauren Doughtie def. Mina Harigae 1 up Kristina Wong def. Tiffany Lua 5 and 4 Azahara Munoz def. Alison Lee 2 and 1 Ha-Na Jang def. Shannon Fish 2 and 1 Tracy Nichols def. Sara-Maude Juneau 2 up Breanne Loucks def. Michelle Shin 2 and 1 Whitney Neuhauser def. Kristen Park 3 and 2 Lucy Nunn def. Lisa McCloskey 1 up Jane Chin def. Tiffany Joh 1 up Stephanie Kono def. Julie Yang 3 and 2 Stephanie Sherlock def. Tara Goedeken 19 holes Sydnee Michaels def. Christine Song 20 holes Lindy Duncan def. Sara Hurwitch 3 and 2 Belen Mozo def. Ayaka Kaneko 19 holes Amanda Blumenherst def. Lizette Salas 2 and 1 Nikki Koller def. Natalie Sheary 5 and 4 Selanee Henderson def. Jennifer Song 2 and 1 Ellen Mueller def. Allie White 3 and 2 Carlota Ciganda def. Caroline Kim 6 and 4 Jennifer Johnson def. J. Gulyanamitta 2 and 1 Pearl Jin def. Victoria Tanco 6 and 4 Jennifer Hirano def. Alexis Thompson 1 up Kira Meixner def. Jennie Lee 3 and 2 Stefanie Kenoyer def. Ryann O'Toole 4 and 3 Erynne Lee def. Paola Moreno 1 up Cindy LaCrosse def. Pennapa Pulsawath 9 and 7 Alison Walshe def. Jaclyn Sweeney 2 and 1 Chelsea Stelzmiller def. Alice Kim 20 holes Julia Potter def. Dottie Ardina 3 and 2 Megan McChrystal def. Sydney Crane 2 and 1
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