WAPL Champion Memories: Kelli Antolock (1983)

Kelli Antolock avenged a 1982 semifinal defeat to Nancy Taylor by beating Taylor, 1 up, in the 1983 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship match. (USGA Museum) 
By David Shefter, USGa
July 13, 2014

From 1982-84, Kelli Antolock, of Port Angeles, Wash., enjoyed remarkable success at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, posting a 10-2 match-play record, which included a 1-up victory over 1982 champion Nancy Taylor in 1983 at Ala Wai Golf Course in Honolulu, Hawaii. The win for the then-21-year-old Brigham Young University rising senior avenged a tough 19-hole semifinal loss to Taylor a year earlier at Alvamar Golf Course in Lawrence, Kan. In 1984 at Meadowbrook Golf Course in Rapid City, S.D., Antolock advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual winner Heather Farr. Antolock turned pro that summer and played four years on the mini-tour circuit – she did qualify for the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open during that time – until eventually deciding to take her career in another direction. For the past 18 years, she has driven a delivery truck for FedEx and only plays in rare scrambles with friends.

What are your memories of the 1983 WAPL?

I have good memories, because we had the tournament in Hawaii. That was my first trip [to Hawaii] … and it was a lot of fun. It was sad to see my friends lose and they would fly home, and I was there by myself.

What about avenging the 1982 defeat to Taylor?

Nancy was always interesting to play. She was a very slow player and she could wear you down mentally. She was very deliberate. She had it timed out to the full 45 seconds. She could play mind games with you if you weren’t careful. We went down to the last hole. I had a little under a foot left [to win the match] and I backhanded [my ball] into the hole. The first thing people kept asking me is, “I can’t believe you backhanded that in.” I just hit it in and I barely remember doing it. I didn’t realize it [at the time].

Was there a sense of relief that you had finally won a USGA championship?

Oh yeah. I felt like I was a really good match-play player. It’s always great to win a national championship because all of a sudden you’re a lot better player than maybe you thought you were.

Back then, winning the WAPL earned you a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open, which was played that year at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Was that an overwhelming experience for you?

I kind of felt that the regular [LPGA] Tour players weren’t always glad to see you there. But I was on the putting green with my good friend Susan Sanders from Oregon. I heard a voice. Somebody was calling my name and Susan finally told me it was JoAnne [Gunderson] Carner, but I didn’t know her. Sure enough, it was her and she congratulated me for winning [the WAPL]. We’re both from Seattle … so that was a huge thrill. She just told me to play well.

How were you nerves?

I had a caddie who didn’t know a lot about golf. At that time, they picked the caddies for you [at the U.S. Women’s Open]. So we go out to the tee box for the first round. The first tee was by the [practice] putting green and a lot of people were walking by. I don’t remember who I played with and I didn’t recognize their names. All of a sudden they start announcing me and saying I had won the [1983] Public Links. I just stopped and my caddie said to me, “Are you nervous?” I told him not really. And he answered, “Oh good, because I am.” So I had to back away after I teed my ball up because my hands were just shaking. I hit this low, straight drive down the middle. I was just so glad to get off the tee box.”

Are you disappointed that you never advanced to the LPGA Tour?

I was really devastated when I didn’t make it out on the Tour. It started messing with my confidence. I really started struggling with my mental game. It was really difficult because you are practically living out of your car [on the mini-tours]. I loved it, but when you aren’t playing well, it’s difficult.

What kind of golf course did you grow up on?

My parents lived across the street from Peninsula Golf Course in Port Angeles. Then we moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. My dad was in the Coast Guard, so we all played at the military base, which was really cheap. I had a twin brother and two older brothers and we’d go out there and play. When my mom was working down there, she would just drop us four kids off at this little par-3 course at 8 in the morning and pick us up at 5 at night. I tell that story now and people go, “Oh my gosh, you would never get away with that these days.” We just went around and around. We would play left-handed … and with one club. We did all these silly games.

You regained your amateur status last year. Have you had any thoughts of trying to play in a USGA championship again?

A lot of people want me to, but I don’t want to take the time [to practice]. I’d rather go out and hit range balls than play. I still love the game and follow it, but I am not very active in it. I play in local scrambles with my boyfriend and his friends. I’m just so busy with this job. It’s a lot of hours.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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