Sherry Herman, 51, of Farmingdale, N.J., used a second-nine surge to score a 4-and-3 victory over Carolyn Creekmore, 57, of Dallas, Texas, to claim the 2009 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which concluded Thursday at The Homestead’s 5,515-yard, par-70 Cascades Course.
Herman took home the most significant title of her golf career.
“It’s surreal right now – it’s just surreal,” said Herman, who also won the North & South Senior Women’s Amateur earlier this year. “I wanted this so much. I stayed calm and wasn’t nervous. I was calm. I just think that helped a lot.
“It’s a dream come true and I don’t know how to react when a dream comes true. It’s just so hard and so I’m very grateful. I’m thrilled beyond words and I’m very proud of myself. I’m proud of my family for just hanging in there with me.”
In claiming the title, Herman showed nerves of steel on the second nine, blowing open an all-square encounter by winning four of the first five holes to gain a 4-up lead and take command of the deciding match.
Using a powerful, efficient swing, Herman exacted revenge on the par-4 10th by making a 5-foot birdie putt to go 1-up and take her first lead of the deciding encounter.
Creekmore, who showed calm around the rolling greens all week long, had a great opportunity for a halve at the par-3 11th, but her 7-footer came up a rotation short of falling.
Despite driving it in the second cut at Nos. 12-14, Herman muscled her approaches onto the greens for three consecutive victories at those holes. At the par-4 12th she dislodged her second shot from a tangly lie and won the hole with a par after her Creekmore’s second from the middle of the fairway found a tough spot in the right greenside bunker and she was unable to get up and down.
At the par-4 13th, Herman’s tee shot hugged the water hazard lining the left side of the hole, but she lofted her second shot onto the putting surface and won the hole and went to 3-up after Creekmore’s left-to-right breaking par putt for a halve went sliding by the hole.
After driving it left at the par-4 14th, Herman moved to dormie-4 by again escaping the thick second cut, finding the green with her approach. Creekmore’s approach came to rest in a greenside bunker for the second time in three holes and her 6-foot slider for par and a halve narrowly missed.
“I just started hitting it bad,” Creekmore said. “She made pars and I hit it poorly and she didn’t. And my putting was less than exceptional today.”
Herman, meanwhile, said she elected to play aggressively on holes that would allow ambitious tee shots to set up her approaches.
“My mindset is to hit greens, always,” Herman said. “Even if my opponent is in the bunker or wherever, when I play safe, it usually doesn’t work out.”
Herman played a smart shot at the demanding par-3 15th, leaving herself a straightforward chip shot at the narrow chute of a hole that she played to 5 feet right of the flagstick. Creekmore drained her 10-footer for par, but it was too late as Herman sank the winning putt for a halve before embracing her husband, Ben, who was with her every step of the way.
The third-seeded Creekmore played steadily the entire week and came out like a blaze of Texas fire, enjoying a terrific ball-striking day on the first nine, taking a 1-up lead at the par-4 sixth.
Her first major hiccup came at the par-3 eighth, where her tee shot found the right greenside bunker and came to rest in a buried lie. She did well to scoot her blast over the green, but her chip went well past the cup and she lost the hole, returning the match to all-square.
The turn of events was significant to the outcome of the match, according to Herman.
“Because she was very solid until then, that was the first sign that maybe she could miss a shot and miss a green,” Herman said. “That was the first sign to me that maybe I have a chance, that I can do this.”
Creekmore, the 2004 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion, joined other Dallas-area players in wearing a blue ribbon on her cap in memory of their late friend Toni Wiesner, a finalist last year, who died in late July of cancer.
Despite falling in the championship final, she gained a measure of satisfaction in reaching the last match of the national championship.
“I played great all week until the eighth hole today, so I feel good about the week,” Creekmore said. “Anytime you get to the finals, it’s an honor and it’s a privilege. You work hard and you hate to lose, but you’re there. You’re the only other person that has a chance, so that’s rewarding. I had a blast, until just about the last two hours.”
Herman, who was one over par with the usual match-play concessions, noted the significance of winning the national championship at the classic Cascades Course.
“I loved to win at this venue,” she said. “It’s a phenomenal golf course. I am really thrilled and honored and will never forget this moment.”
The Senior Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which 10 are strictly for amateurs.