Catherine Cartwright (now Tumbleson) made the most of her only U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship appearance in 2000, defeating Russamee Gulyanamitta, of Thailand, 3 and 1, in the 18-hole final match at the Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen, N.C. It was only the third time in USGA history that co-medalists had squared off in a USGA championship match. Cartwright graduated from high school the following January and turned professional, spending seven seasons on the LPGA and Futures Tours. Cartwright retired fromt pro golf in 2007 and enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University. The 30-year-old Cartwright is now married – she met her husband, Jerrod, on a blind date – with two daughters, ages 2 and 6, and teaches fourth grade at Tree Oaks Elementary School in Estero, Fla., not far from her hometown of Bonita Springs.
Why did you only play in one Women’s Amateur Public Links?
I worked and practiced out of a private club in the years prior to 2000. I started working at one of the public courses in town and that is where I practiced out of.
You had played in three U.S. Girls’ Juniors and the 1999 U.S. Women’s Amateur prior to the 2000 WAPL. How did those experiences prepare you for the 2000 WAPL?
Just the whole match-play format. It’s a little different. I loved match play. Just the fact that you could make a 13 on a hole and it’s like nothing ever happened. You only lose a hole. It keeps the competition more tightly packed in most cases. Compared to the Girls’ Junior, it was the same type of field and same type of setup.
What do you remember about the week?
I had one match where it was one of those rounds where you don’t even think and just go through the motions. It was all good. I can’t remember which round it was, but I ended up winning 6 and 5 or 7 and 6 (actually 5 and 4 over Lynda Upton in the third round). The girl I played was so nice and took it so gracefully. She could have been so mad and instead she just said, “You were just so much fun to watch today.” It was fun for me because there wasn’t this bitterness between competitors. I would say that was the round that gave me the confidence to push through the rest of the week.
You struggled a bit in the final against Gulyanamitta, but that frustration boiled over on the 12th green. How did you regain your focus?
My dad (Paul) caddied for me and he can remember that I messed up on a hole and was practice putting, which is something you could do. He said I walked off that green a different player. I was focused and kind of a little mad, which kind of gives you encouragement along the way. If you asked him, that was the turning point [that showed] I am not going to lose that one.
What did it mean to win a USGA championship?
It’s on the top floor simply because it’s a USGA event. It’s top class and high competition and I got to win it. USGA events are the crème de la crème. I just wanted to compete and play in them. I dreamt of winning and that was the one.
Any regrets about turning pro out of high school instead of playing in college?
No. I soaked up every possible experience I could possibly soak up [as an amateur] and the path I was set up on was definitely the path I was intended for. Those experiences have made me the woman I am today, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
When did the tipping point occur that indicated your pro career was finished?
I was in Rochester, N.Y., and my dad was on my bag. I was just grinding it out … and nothing was really changing. I was still the same level player no matter how hard I worked or how many golf balls I pounded or how many psychologists I went to go see. There wasn’t anything good to write home about. My dad looked at me and said, “Do you even care?” I said, “No, I don’t.” That’s a problem. That’s when you know you have to step back and evaluate.
Do you have thoughts of regaining your amateur status?
I have thoughts of trying to qualify for a [Women’s] Open (she qualified for three), mainly for my husband and children to experience what I went through those years. They didn’t get to live through it. I think that would be a lot of fun. But you lose golf muscles so fast. My hands don’t have the calluses on them anymore and my feet still hurt, even if I ride in a cart.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.