GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Behind the first tee at Nassau Country Club on Thursday morning, Sharon Stackhouse embraced Alex Kim and then uttered the words, “I hate this.”
Stanford University teammates and friends Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim were about to begin their round-of-32 match at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and their parents would have preferred a different opponent.
“She’s my best friend at school,” said Stackhouse after suffering a 4-and-3 defeat.
“It’s always tough playing a teammate and one of my best friends,” added Kim.
Manipulating the draw wasn’t an option, so the two Stanford juniors focused on the task at hand. Neither chatted much throughout the round. No talk of upcoming class schedules, home football games, team functions or social gatherings.
Stackhouse, 20, of Riverdale, Ga., might be engaging and gregarious off the course, but on it, the 2014 USA Curtis Cup competitor is all business. She also carried the bigger resume into the match. A two-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, Stackhouse was also a first-team All-America selection for the 2013-14 college season and No. 36 in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking™.
“It’s always competitive,” said Kim, 19, of Los Altos, Calif., who is No. 49 in the WAGR. “We’re always competing with each other on and off the course. It’s nice to be able to play one on one and see how games match up. I know she didn’t play the way she wanted to, and that’s kind of a bummer. But overall it was really fun.”
Kim immediately set the tone for the match by holing out for birdie from a greenside bunker at the first hole. Another winning birdie at the second put her 2 up. With her 20-foot birdie at the ninth, she owned a 5-up advantage at the turn.
Stackhouse trimmed the lead to three holes with winning pars at 10 and 11, the latter coming courtesy of a Rules infraction. As Kim went to address her ball in the rough, it moved ever so slightly. She quickly called the penalty (Rule 18-2b, Ball Moving at Address) on herself.
“Eleven was disappointing,” said Kim. “I felt my club hit the ball. I said, OK, well, I have to call that on myself.”
But Kim kept the momentum from turning further. Up-and-down pars on 12 and 13 were crucial and she closed out the match by holing a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th hole.
“Lauren wasn’t messing up today,” said Stackhouse, “and I knew I was going to have to bring it, and I didn’t. I had to have some birdies. I hit greens today, but didn’t make any putts. I didn’t come close to the hole.”
Three weeks ago, Kim was on the outside looking in for the Women’s Amateur. A first alternate from her sectional qualifier, she received a mulligan when Eun Jeong Seong became fully exempt by being a U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links finalist. Having already qualified for the Women’s Amateur at Palos Verdes (Calif.) Golf Club, Seong’s qualifying spot was returned to her sectional, where Kim had lost a playoff with Kaley In for the last spot.
Kim was in Wisconsin visiting Stanford teammate Casey Danielson when the phone call came from the USGA.
“We were on the lake … and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I just got into the [Women’s] Am,’” said Kim. “That was exciting news to have the opportunity to play.”
Next month, Stackhouse and Kim will be back on The Farm for the fall quarter, where they’ll return as teammates instead of foes.
Talley Wins Battle Of Reigning USGA Champions
Defending U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Emma Talley, of Princeton, Ky., has been pushed to the limit on her quest to retain her throne, and she received a stern test again in Thursday’s round of 32 at Nassau C.C. before prevailing, 3 and 1.
Talley faced Princess Mary Superal, who understands the pressures of championship golf. It was only two weeks ago that Superal, 17, of the Philippines, rallied to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 37 holes at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz.
The matchup pitting reigning USGA champions against each other was set on Wednesday when Talley, 19, of Princeton, Ky., rallied to beat Jiyoon Jang in 19 holes.
Talley trailed Superal by a one-hole margin after eight holes and neither player led by more than a one-hole margin until Talley went 2 up at 13. Talley’s experience as the defending champion, as well as her match-play performance at the 2014 Curtis Cup, where she secured the winning point for the USA at St. Louis Country Club, no doubt gave her an edge.
“Playing a lot of match play definitely gives you the experience to know that it’s never over until it’s over,” said Talley, a University of Alabama junior. “You have to keep grinding and know that if you’re still on the course, you can still win.”
That experience showed up on the 14th and 16th greens. Talley made a crucial 20-foot putt from the fringe on 14 to earn a big halve, then rolled one in from 12 feet on 16 for another to retain her 2-up lead.
Talley’s clutch play down the stretch earned the admiration of her fellow USGA champion.
“It was an honor to play against Emma, she is a really good player and very consistent,” said Superal, the first Filipino-born player to win a USGA championship. “The experience has been awesome. I know I still have many more years of amateur golf ahead of me.”
Although she had never seen Superal play, Talley left impressed.
“She’s a great player,” said Talley. “She’s going to do great in the future and she has a big career ahead of her.”
Perhaps that career includes more USGA championships. Talley is four wins away from another.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com. Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.