2005: Women's Amateur - Fiery Aussie awaits a call
Adam Scott, Alison Whitaker is awaiting your phone call.
The tall, blonde Australian figures the least you can do as one of her country’s most eligible bachelors is give her a jingle to congratulate her on a spectacular week at the 105th U.S. Women’s Amateur. Whitaker did, after all, vault from anonymity to reach the semifinals at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course in suburban Atlanta.
“I’m sure he won’t call in a hurry,” Whitaker said Aug. 7 while in the gallery of the championship match between Morgan Pressel and Maru Martinez. “But a girl can still hope.”
While Whitaker loves to joke about her crush on Scott, she certainly showed that her game is nothing to scoff about. Whitaker delivered late heroics in four match-play victories, going to the 17th hole against Ryann O’Toole, the 18th hole against Claire Dury and Maria Uribe, and the 19th hole against Amanda Blumenherst. She eventually lost, 4 and 3, to a red-hot Martinez in the semifinals.
“She took five years off my life,” said Al Arnold, an Augusta National looper who served as Whitaker’s caddie for the week.
“They’ll probably be nursing home years, so that’s OK.”
With each match the fiery, fist-pumping 19-year-old became a gallery favorite. However, it’s not entirely clear if she was beloved more for her game or her garb. Her game was sharp and seemed to get better as the week progressed. Her garb, while quite fashionable, showed more skin than Daisy Duke. If this championship were a skins game, it is certain that Whitaker would have won in a landslide, exposing her stomach with each swing because of a short, untucked shirt. It’s no surprise that Whitaker grew up idolizing Jan Stephenson, Australia’s first golf sex kitten.
“She was a bit of a pinup girl,” Whitaker said. “It’s what Aussie girls strive to be like – in the media’s eye and still playing good golf.”
When Whitaker arrived on American soil for the first time two months ago, she wasn’t sure if she had what it takes to play well for the entire summer. So, along with Aussie pal Kristie Newton, Whitaker played in everything she could, which included the Women’s Western Amateur, a couple of Colorado state events and the Women’s Amateur qualifier. (Whitaker took temporary membership at Mira Vista Golf Club in Aurora, Colo., so she could be eligible for the Colorado tournaments.)
After qualifying for the Amateur, she jetted back to Australia for a two-week break before coming back to the U.S. Three days before she was to return to the States, Whitaker was involved in an auto accident when a nun slammed into the back of her car. Whitaker’s mother told her it was an omen that meant she’d play well in Atlanta. Whitaker jokingly replied that she wished the nun simply would have told her she was going to play well instead of ruining her car. Still, neither Whitaker nor her mother could have imagined how well her week at Settindown Creek would turn out.
“I didn’t know how my body was going to hold up, and I had played 12 out of the last 13 weeks,” said Whitaker, who goes by Al. “After all that, my best tournament was at the end.”
The newfound success has given Whitaker plenty to think about. Although she trains at the Victorian Institute of Sport and still has three years of college remaining, Whitaker is contemplating a move to the U.S. next year to play college golf.
“That’s all dependent on the offers I get,” Whitaker said. “I don’t want to come over for a mediocre offer, but if it’s worthwhile I’ll look into it. This year I’ve been taking in all the information I can. I wanted to see how emotionally and physically I could hold up over here. It was a good positive finish for my mind to know that I can do this.”
While Whitaker was doing “this,” she seemingly received support from Aussies everywhere. She turned her cell phone off during the week, occasionally checked her numerous messages and returned only those from her immediate family. Whitaker says she told only a select few that she was at the Amateur and doesn’t know how so many people heard about her performance.
“It must have spread like a disease,” she said.
“A good disease.”
The only familiar face during the championship was that of Newton, the daughter of Australian golf legend Jack Newton who was wearing an Australian flag around her waist and had more flags temporarily tattooed on her face, arms and legs. Since Newton failed to qualify for match play, her lone duty for the week was to keep Whitaker at ease off the course. The duo killed their down time swimming and reading Harry Potter books at their host family’s house.
This summer has taught Whitaker many lessons – that it’s difficult to eat healthy because junk food is so tempting and that Americans possess the best life has to offer. Whitaker says she considers Americans extremely friendly but says the golf tournaments are “semi-corporate” because every last detail is handled. In Australia, Whitaker says she must buy her own drinks, find her own caddie or pull a cart around for 18 holes. Here, the only worries a player has is on the course. Happily, Whitaker didn’t have many worries there, either.
“It’s been interesting,” Whitaker said. “I came from Australia, where a lot of people know me. I come here, where nobody knows me. I play well, and everybody knows me. Now, I’ll go home and just be Alison again.”
And wait for Adam Scott’s phone call.