BY JAY A. COFFIN
May Wood is good.
And if you don’t believe Wood has major game, ask the folks at Pinehurst Resort, who are well acquainted with the lean 6-foot-1, 18-year-old long-hitting birdie machine.
Last year, Wood dominated the field at the North and South Junior, winning by six shots in the stroke-play event held on Pinehurst Nos. 5, 8, and 2.
This year, the soon-to-be Vanderbilt freshman moved up a notch to play in the 100th Women’s North and South Amateur, testing her match-play skills against a field that included four U.S. Curtis Cup team members, as well as former U.S. Women’s Amateur, U.S. Girls’ Junior, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur champions.
Although it was a different year and a different competition, the end result was the same. Wood overpowered the field June 28 at Pinehurst No. 2 to defeat 19-year-old Adrienne Millican, 4 and 3, in the all-teen 36-hole championship.
“This is definitely the top,” said Wood, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., as she wiped away tears of joy. “It’s beautiful here, and it sets up perfect for my game. There’s just something about it here with all the history behind it.”
Wood’s superior length was her biggest advantage all week, allowing her to reach all the par 5s in two (there were five par 5s on No. 2, as the fifth hole was converted from a par 4 for this event) and most par 4s with a pitching wedge.
On the 375-yard, par-4 first hole, Wood never had more than 100 yards in all week. In the morning portion of the championship match, Wood hit driver, 5-iron over the green on the 457-yard, par-5 eighth hole. In the afternoon, she had 65 yards left for an approach on the 351-yard 12th hole.
Do the math.
“It’s amazing, she hits it so far,” said Millican, a sophomore at East Carolina. “It’s just great to watch. She’s such a great player, and she’s so strong. I know I’m not going to be able to hit it that far.”
In her opening match against Duke junior Leigh Anne Hardin, a Curtis Cup participant, Wood made five birdies and an eagle in 12 holes en route to a 7-and-6 victory. Diminutive Ashley Hoagland gave Wood her most challenging match of the week in the second round, when the duo went 20 holes.
Against Kristin Dufour in the quarterfinals, Wood was 4 up after four holes. She began the match with four consecutive birdies, then went par, birdie, eagle on the next three holes. The scrappy Dufour, a finalist at the previous week’s Women’s Western Amateur, pulled to within one on the back nine but lost 3 and 2. Wood then beat Carrie Summerhays, whose father is Senior PGA Tour player Bruce Summerhays, 2 and 1, in the semifinals.
Millican ousted two veteran match-play competitors in her route to the championship. After defeating Sharon O’Neill, 1 up, in the first round, Millican handily defeated Laura Myerscough, the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up, 5 and 4. In the semifinals, Millican defeated 2000 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, Lisa Ferrero, 2 up, on the 18th hole.
“It’s just an honor to be playing on the last day,” Millican said. “I love Pinehurst, and it’s a great place.”
Millican is a soft-spoken, small-town player from Fuquay-Varina, N.C., 30 minutes from Raleigh. To find out more about Millican, it’s easier to speak with East Carolina coach Kevin Williams. He’ll talk about her game; she won’t.
“When she’s played, she’s played well,” said Williams, who also coaches the East Carolina men. East Carolina recently completed only its second season of women’s golf. “She just doesn’t have as much national exposure as a lot of these other girls do. This ought to put her over the edge and get her to where I think she can be.”
In Millican’s first semester at East Carolina, a campus that has 10,000 more people than Fuquay-Varina, she had tonsillitis. After recovering from that, she developed kidney stones. But she still played in all 10 of the team’s tournaments and finished first in the Pirate Fall Invitational, East Carolina’s home event.
Millican proved a worthy opponent for Wood. She made birdie on the first hole in the morning and was 2-under 35 on the front nine. But Wood shot 36, and the duo made the turn all square. Wood lost No. 18 when she three-putted and was 1 up at the lunch break. The afternoon match was all square after the first four holes, but Wood won three of the next five to take a 3-up advantage into the final nine holes.
After Wood won the 12th hole to go 4 up with six holes remaining, the match was suspended for more than an hour because of heavy rain and lightning. However, the delay only prolonged the inevitable. The duo halved Nos. 13-15, and the match ended on the 15th green, 4 and 3.
By week’s end, it was Wood who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest, continuing her love affair with Pinehurst.
“I love it here,” she said. “I’ll be here every year that I’m an amateur.”
That could be bad news for future North and South competitors.