2002: Wide awake at Sleepy Hollow
A red flag should have been raised early at the 102nd U.S. Women’s Amateur when Bob Snyder, the championship’s general chairman, drew Becky Lucidi’s name out of a pool of 150 players as the one who would win the championship by week’s end.
To make the story more compelling, Bob and Penny Snyder were Lucidi’s host family for the week, prompting some to jokingly ask the Snyders if the fix was on at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.
Not a chance.
Lucidi steamrolled through the competition, playing “the best golf ever” for five matches before beating Brandi Jackson, 3 and 2, Aug. 17 in a 36-hole championship that was less than spectacular.
“It really wasn’t good golf,” said Lucidi, of Poway, Calif., a San Diego suburb. “It wasn’t nearly (as good) as it had been earlier this week. Today was the worst I have hit the ball all week.”
On Saturday, Lucidi didn’t need her best golf to win the Robert Cox Cup, closing out the match with a par on the par-3 16th – the hole named Panorama because it features Sleepy Hollow’s most picturesque view of the Hudson River.
Heading into the final, the 21-year-old Southern California senior had recorded 26 birdies, 14 bogeys and two eagles.
In Thursday’s third-round match against Elizabeth Janangelo, Lucidi shot 30 on the front nine and ended with six birdies and an eagle. Janangelo, an 18-year-old Duke freshman, had knocked off medalist Courtney Swaim, 2 and 1, in the first round. In the quarterfinals against U.S. Curtis Cup member Emily Bastel, Lucidi shot 32 on the front nine and recorded six birdies.
Jackson and Lucidi clearly played better golf the previous day in the semifinals. Lucidi had seven birdies, two bogeys and an eagle to win, 3 and 1, over Australian Lindsey Wright, a Pepperdine senior who had five birdies of her own. Jackson was 3 down with three holes to play against 18-year-old Maru Martinez of Venezuela, but won the next four holes to take the match on the 19th hole with a 4-foot birdie.
What a difference a day makes.
Lucidi was 4 over par with four birdies, four bogeys and two double bogeys in 34 holes in Saturday’s championship. But Jackson, a 21-year-old Furman senior from Belton, S.C., did herself no favors in the morning session, playing the 18 holes in 11 over with eight bogeys, two double bogeys and a birdie. Lucidi was 6 up at the break after winning three of the final four holes.
“I wanted to go crawl in a hole after some of the shots I hit,” said Jackson, who took five weeks off earlier this summer to concentrate on a summer school class. “By the time I got back out there, I got it together. I had to do something just to show that I do know how to play golf and that I did get here for a reason.”
Jackson, who said early in the week her goal was to qualify for match play, won the first two holes in the afternoon to cut her deficit to 4 down, then closed to within two with a birdie on the par-3 10th hole. Lucidi’s advantage remained 2 up until she ended the match on the 34th hole with a two-putt par.
Lucidi credited much of her success to caddie Ed Conners, who first looped at Sleepy Hollow in 1961. The two developed a strong bond during the week, and no shot was struck until both agreed.
“He was the secret ingredient,” Lucidi said. “I look at him like a second dad now. I know it’s funny to say because I’ve only known him for about five days, but he’ll be in my life forever.”
Conners was the only “family” Lucidi had at Sleepy Hollow because her parents, Zip and Lisa Lucidi, remained in Southern California tending to a new equestrian center they are building, although Lisa Lucidi is the only “horse person” in the family, Becky quipped.
Golf seemed of little importance to Becky Lucidi last Nov. 30, when she broke her right arm after being struck by a car from behind while riding her bicycle to school. She took six weeks off, and didn’t touch a club until early this year.
“I don’t mean to sound like an old man or a golden retriever, but sometimes my elbow still hurts when it rains,” the fun- loving Californian said. “But nothing extreme by any means, just a little sore.”
Lucidi hadn’t given serious thought to winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur this year until early July, when she saw Juli Inkster – her favorite player – win the U.S. Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan.
“I remember sitting on the couch with my dad and thinking the winner of the U.S. Amateur gets to play with these ladies,” Lucidi said. “Ever since I saw that, that was my goal.”
With one goal completed – winning the championship – it was on to goals 2 and 3 for Lucidi: To go through the nearly 40 cellular telephone messages she had received during the week, then wait out the three-hour West Coast time difference before calling her parents. Lucidi had received strict orders from home not to call until the telecast was over in the San Diego area.
Even after playing 157 holes over six days, those three short hours somehow seemed like an eternity.