Cleveland – When Breanna Elliott and Ashlee Dewhurst saw they were scheduled to play each other in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Thursday at The Country Club, both admitted being disheartened.
That’s because the fellow Australians were hoping to spread the wealth.
“At first I was disappointed because I was hoping we could spread the Aussies out,” said Elliott, 20, after losing on the 20th hole. “But if you have to lose to someone, I’m glad I lost to a countryman.”
The two, who met playing golf four years ago, had only faced each other in one other match-play event – the Australian Interstate Series – with Dewhurst, 23, winning that one. They see each other at a number of events and are often paired together because there are so few females their age who play golf in Australia, said Elliott.
On Thursday, Elliott pushed Dewhurst to the brink by making a clutch downhill, 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to force extra holes.
“The last two playoff holes I was really nervous, seeing that Breanna made that birdie putt on 18,” said Dewhurst, winner of the 2011 Australian Amateur Championship.
The pair played a stellar match. Between them, they made just four bogeys and 10 birdies. No lead was greater than 1 up, with Elliott holding the advantage on just one hole – the 168-yard par-3 ninth when she drained a 21-foot birdie putt. By comparison, Dewhurst held the lead on 11 holes.
Dewhurst was consistent off the tee, striking 15 of 16 fairways. “That’s the strength of my game,” said Dewhurst.
It put her in position to reach 14 of the 20 greens in regulation. She started with a bang, sinking a 21-foot birdie putt on the first hole to grab the early lead. She maintained a 1-up cushion through the first seven holes. Elliott took the lead with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9. She won the 529-yard, par-5 eighth despite short-siding herself on the hole, with an impressive chip to within 2 feet of the flagstick before Dewhurst conceded.
The seesaw battle was all square through 13 holes. On the 166-yard, par-3 14th, Dewhurst regained the lead with a par-saving 5-foot putt. Elliott squared the match on No. 15 with a par before Dewhurst again bounced back on No. 16 to retake the lead, sinking a 10-foot birdie putt that drew a fist pump before the ball disappeared into the hole.
Dewhurst went to the 385-yard, par-4 18th hole clinging to a 1-up lead. She played her approach shot safe, hitting the fat part of the green, which left her ball 24 feet left of the hole. In the meantime, Elliott had 135 yards to the flagstick and sent her approach shot to within 12 feet of the hole.
“I was talking to my caddie on 18 about the shot in and he said to go for the pin,” said Elliott, who found 12 fairways and 13 greens in regulation. “On the putt, I had a downhill slider that was fortunate to go in.”
Off to the side of the green, Dewhurst crouched down and turned away.
“I was thinking she was actually going to make the putt,” said Dewhurst.
On the 19th hole, both players hit clutch approach shots. Dewhurst’s ball came to rest 5 feet from the hole while Elliott’s stopped 6 feet short. Both made their birdie putts.
On No. 20, a 475-yard par 5, both players found the fairway. Dewhurst opted to lay up short of the green. With 232 yards to the hole, Elliott made a crucial mistake and hit into a left greenside bunker. It opened the door for Dewhurst, who placed her approach shot 5 feet above the hole. Elliott had trouble getting out of the bunker, blasting out 48 feet past the hole. When she three-putted from there, Elliott conceded the match. The two players hugged on the green.
“I was surprised the way my ball splashed out of the bunker,” said Elliott. “I didn’t want to leave my long putt short.”
Said Dewhurst: “I was really relieved. It was tough playing a fellow Aussie. It was a shame we met so early.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s online editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.