Bama's Talley captures U.S. Women's Amateur title

Emma Talley holds up the Robert Cox Trophy after she defeated Yueer Cindy Feng 2 and 1 at the 2013 U. S. Women's Amateur at Country Club of Charleston.

Emma Talley holds up the Robert Cox Trophy after she defeated Yueer Cindy Feng 2 and 1 at the 2013 U. S. Women's Amateur at Country Club of Charleston.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Emma Talley doesn’t know a stranger at the Country Club of Charleston. Even on the 34th hole of Sunday’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, Talley strolled down the fairway flanked by blue-shirted U.S. Golf Association volunteers. Talley can, and will, talk to anyone about anything.

Talley is the Alabama sophomore who came to Tuscaloosa from Princeton, Ky., and her thick accent shows it. She is a smiling southerner, whose 2-and-1 victory on Sunday seemed fitting in the blazing hot south. Talley survived a week of matches and a long day against junior golfer Yueer Cindy Feng for “a dream come true.”

“It’s definitely been a blessing from God, and it’s been a great experience,” Talley said.

It was a slow Sunday morning as Talley began the day with five 3-putts in the early holes. She and her dad Dan, also her caddie, needed to do something to get comfortable on the greens again.

“I think we need to start singing again,” Emma remembers Dan saying.

It was uninspired golf from Talley and Feng, and Talley remembers telling herself it couldn’t go on. With the usual match-play concessions, Talley shot a 75 over the first 18 holes. Feng shot 77.

“It was a stressful day, it was a long match,” Feng said. “In the morning, it was awful. We were like sleep-walking in the morning. A lot of missed opportunities from both sides, really.”

With birdies at Nos. 17 and 18, Talley took a 1-up lead into lunch. She had extended that lead to 3 up by the fourth hole in the afternoon, but Feng won Nos. 5, 6 and 7 (the first two with birdie) to square the match.

Feng was on the offensive, and it helped Talley to tell herself that she wasn’t simply giving it away. In the end, it once again came down to putting.

Talley jokes that she was somewhat scarred by a comment from TV analyst Dottie Pepper during the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open because Pepper pointed out the oddity of Talley’s putting stroke. Her feet were open and her head was tilted, and Talley acknowledges that “I was doing something that nobody else in the world did.”

That prompted Talley to address her short game, and with the help of Alabama coach Mic Potter, it’s come a long way – even since this spring’s NCAA Championship, after which Potter suggested some intensive work.

Potter’s influence has been perhaps the greatest on Talley at Alabama, but college suits the self-described “small-town country girl” well. Once Talley acclimated to being five hours away from home, she excelled for the Tide, winning the Ping/ASU Invitational and was T-4 at the NCAA East Regional. Potter and teammate Stephanie Meadow followed in the gallery for the most of the day. Meadow carted around a hand-made sign, complete with glittered lettering and the Alabama “A.”

Talley becomes the first Crimson Tide player to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Feng remains undecided on college, but has announced that she will attend the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School in the fall as an amateur. Talley, meanwhile, is staying put at Alabama as long as she can.

“It was really hard, but once I got there and made all my friends, it was just a great transition,” she said. “The team, the coaches, everybody was there for me. I do want to go pro, but right now, I love college too much.”

Talley is big on faith and family. Dad was on the bag all week, and mother Jennifer was never too far away. She braided Emma’s hair on the first tee of the afternoon 18.

But then again, the entire tournament seemed to be in Emma’s corner by week’s end, and she had a place in her heart for them, too.

“I love the fans and the volunteer this week,” she said. “It was so fun to be out there. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten this far.”

Humility and love are part of a familiar refrain for this champion.

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