Olympia Fields, Ill. – It took some time, but Katelyn Dambaugh finally realized what she accomplished last year.
As she made her way onto the Olympia Fields Country Club premises Monday, it dawned on her that she came close to winning the championship in her first attempt in the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Dambaugh, 16, of Goose Creek, S.C., lost to Doris Chen, 3 and 2, in 2010 at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C., after holding a late lead. She ended up earning runner-up honors.
The match, which took place in searing heat, went back and forth with Dambaugh leading after 28 holes. But she couldn’t hold on as fatigue set in. She simply wasn’t used to playing so much golf in a little less than a week.
That said, it wasn’t bad for someone playing in their first USGA championship.
I didn’t even know there were 36 holes a day last year, she said. Last year I got tired.
She’s back this year to give it another try.
To prepare for this championship, Dambaugh increased her workouts to three times a week. She runs six miles a week, swims and walks.
She didn’t flinch when asked whether the mental or physical side of the game was more challenging. She chose the mental side because of the taxing nature of playing the course and her opponent in match play. It becomes grueling, she said.
Dambaugh, nicknamed the ‘Big Kat,’ has played in a couple of events in preparation for the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She finished sixth in the Women’s Eastern Amateur, held in North Charleston, S.C., after registering a final-round 74. She won a junior championship tournament that was sponsored by the PGA Tour.
In the first round of this Girls’ Junior, she got off to a rocky start, shooting a pedestrian 6-over 78. Dambaugh couldn’t put a finger on what troubled her round other than bad luck. Starting on No. 10, she parred her first five holes but then posted three consecutive bogeys.
On the seventh hole, a 561-yard par 5, Dambaugh had a masterful approach shot that funneled toward the hole and stopped 2 ½ feet away. It looked as though it might be an easy birdie. Instead, she pushed the putt, which sent her into a fit. She smashed the putter against her foot, bending the flat stick.
I had a great shot in and missed the birdie putt, said Dambaugh. I scared myself there. I let out a little scream and bent the face of the club.
Consequently, Dambaugh had to play the rest of the round with her wedge as a putter. On the eighth hole, she two-putted from 20 feet. Then on the eighth, her final hole, she chipped from the back of the green to 4 feet short of the flagstick. She could have used her putter there, because she promptly two-putted.
It was a horrendous 78, she said. I’m definitely not happy with my score.
A lot of things didn’t go my way. I’ve got to keep my head straight. I’m just going to beat myself up.
With that, she sighed and walked away.