Olympia Fields, Ill. – They were two decorated players taking on each other. One played in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open and the other was the runner-up in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur last year. Such are the vagaries of match play.
Katelyn Dambaugh and Mariel Galdiano went head to head Wednesday in the first round of match play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, which is being conducted at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Neither player knew much about the other.
I found out this morning she was the runner-up last year, said Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, who played in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Dambaugh of Goose Creek, S.C., said she entered the match knowing little about Galdiano.
But this was a heavyweight match. Both players were expected to go a long way in this championship. However, Dambaugh got the upper hand, winning 5 and 4 after jumping out to a modest margin.
Galdiano, 13, never owned a lead at any point. Dambaugh grabbed the advantage on the 169-yard par-3 third hole when Galdiano couldn’t get up and down. She won the next hole, too, with a 16-foot birdie putt that Galdiano couldn’t answer.
Galdiano was able to slice the deficit in half on the 158-yard par-3 fifth hole. She knocked her tee shot to 70 feet below the hole and was able to two-putt for par. In the meantime, Dambaugh couldn’t convert a 4-foot putt that burned the edge of the hole.
The 16-year-old Dambaugh, who has committed to play at the University of South Carolina, continued to battle despite suffering from blisters on her feet. She increased her lead to 2 up on the par-5 seventh hole after sending her approach to within 2 feet of the flagstick, which led to a birdie. Galdiano, a four-time Hawaii State Junior champion, two-putted from 24 feet for par.
Dambaugh’s lead vacillated between being one and two holes up through nine holes. What also helped was that she had zero three-putts.
On No. 8, Dambaugh pulled a 5-foot putt that would have halved the hole. Her dad, Eric, wouldn’t let her get down, though, yelling, Come on, Kate, stay aggressive.
On the 451-yard par-5 10th hole, holding a 2-up advantage, Dambaugh jumped to 3 up. Galdiano had a tough time reading the greens.
My putts were really off, said Galdiano.
Dambaugh won the 13th hole with a par. Galdiano’s flatstick betrayed her on a makeable 3-foot putt that she pushed. Suddenly Dambaugh was 4 up.
The match ended on the par-3 14th hole when Dambaugh sunk a 12-foot birdie putt. Galdiano’s tee shot landed short of the green, forcing her to chip on. She did, but the chip stopped 20 feet short of the hole. Soon the two were shaking hands.
My clubbing was off, said Galdiano.
For Dambaugh, it was a case of getting the match done early so she can rest her weary feet.
Asked what she thought about when she built a 4-up lead, she said, I get so much adrenaline that I want to keep it going.
Dambaugh also unveiled a new putter after she damaged her old one in stroke play. She had smacked it against her foot after missing a short putt. Now it’s as though she has a new lease on life. It may take her far.
I’m having fun and not getting angry anymore, said Dambaugh.