Annie Thurman wins U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Annie Thurman said she wouldn’t dare compare herself with all the big-name players who have won U.S. Golf Association championships. But whether the 19-year-old is comfortable with it or not, Thurman’s name will be engraved on the sizable silver cup awarded for winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
Thurman, from Highland, Utah, won the 26th WAPL June 23 at Sunriver Resort’s Meadows Course. She defeated another 19-year-old, Hwanhee Lee, 6 and 5 in the final match, which was lengthened to 36 holes for the first time.
“I’m not sure it’s hit me yet, but it’s awesome – the thought of it is awesome,” said Thurman, who just finished her freshman year at Oklahoma State.
Winning a USGA event had been a dream for Thurman, but she never thought when she piled into the back of her family’s 1998 Volkswagen Beetle that she would come home with the trophy. She barely had room for her golf clubs, and had to take the woods out of her bag to get everything wedged in. Also along for the ride was childhood friend Lana Sitterud, who casually mentioned she would like to come see Thurman play and ended up caddying for nine competitive rounds.
“She was great,” said Thurman. “She made it fun out there, which really took a lot of pressure off me.”
The laughs started early in the week, but one of the biggest came when Sitterud was handed a caddie bib with the name “Thuman” on the back. After she won both her third round and quarterfinal matches that day, Thurman refused an offer to have her name corrected.
“It worked, so why change it?” said Thurman. “I’m a golfer – we’re all superstitious.”
Thurman decisively plowed her way into the finals, defeating Debbie Dahmer, 4 and 2; Elizabeth Allen, 6 and 5; and Candy Herrera, 6 and 4. In her closest match, she defeated 2000 U.S. Junior Girls’ runner-up Ina Kim, 2 and 1, to reach the semifinals.
Thurman faced UCLA sophomore Yvonne Choe in the semis. She slowly wore down Choe with her trademark consistency. Though Thurman didn’t pull ahead in the match until the 11th hole, she never lost her lead. She went 2 up with a par on 14 and held on until the holes ran out.
“She played great,” said Choe, 19, from Arcadia, Calif. “She hits lots of fairways and greens. That is really important out here, especially with this rough.”
It seemed, however, that Thurman would meet her match in Lee, who also had built a reputation during the week for robot-like play and a knack for avoiding mistakes. Lee beat Margaret Gibby, 5 and 3, in the first round, then got an unexpected victory by default when Elena Kurokawa said she couldn’t play because she had a plane to catch. Lee defeated Jenna Cannon, 2 up, to reach the quarterfinals, then knocked out Aimee Cho, 3 and 2.
Lee’s semifinal match against 12-year-old Michelle Wie was one of the most anticipated duels of the tournament. Wie, from Honolulu, already is 5-foot-11 and hits 300-yard drives. But it was Lee’s consistency that propelled her to a 3-and-2 victory ver Wie and a spot in the final.
“She hits almost every fairway, almost every green,” Wie said of Lee. “I always had a wedge in my hand on my approach shots, so it didn’t really bother me, but when her long putts started going in – wow.”
Consistency deserted Lee in the final against Thurman. She fell behind early, losing the first hole with a bogey, then failed to capitalize on birdie opportunities at Nos. 2 and 3. Five more bogeys put Lee 6 down through 14 holes, a deficit she couldn’t overcome.
“I was so ready to play well,” said Lee, a sophomore at UNLV. “I made a lot of mistakes out there. It was like someone else got into my body and destroyed my swing.”
Lee’s birdie on 18 left her five down to Thurman at the end of the morning session. After winning the 23rd hole with a par to cut Thurman’s lead to 4-up, , Lee looked as if she might draw even closer when Thurman missed the green on the next hole. But the tide turned just as quickly back to Thurman when she sank an 8-footer to save par and Lee three-putted for bogey, again leaving her five back.
“That was a big disappointment,” said Lee. “That was my big chance right there.”
Lee made birdie at the 27th hole, but two more bogeys sealed her fate and the 6-and-5 triumph for Thurman.
Thurman, the first Utah player to win the WAPL, said she likely will display her trophy at Tri City Golf Course, where she often plays at home. As part of her victory celebration, she planned to caddie the following day for friend Natalie Stone in a U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier at Boise, Idaho.