Annie Thurman Wins 26th United States Women's Amateur Public Links Championship June 23, 2002 | Sunriver, Ore. By Rhonda Glenn

(USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Annie Thurman, 19, of Highland, Utah, defeated Hwanhee Lee, 19, of Cerritos, Calif., 6 and 5, to win the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at the 6,189-yard, par 71 Meadows Course of the Sunriver Resort Sunday.

With consistent tee shots and a deft touch around the greens, Thurman took an early lead over a tiring Lee and was never headed in the first scheduled 36-hole match in the championship’s history.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said Thurman after her victory. “I’m tired but the thought of it is awesome. You watch so many United States Golf Association championships or read about them, but going from event to event, you want that trophy in the end.”

Thurman, the first woman from Utah to win a USGA championship, took a 5-up lead after the morning 18-hole round. As the players approached the 24th tee, her lead had shrunk to four holes.

Lee, meanwhile, drove safely into the fairway and hit her approach on the 366-yard, par-4 to within 35 feet of the hole. Thurman’s second shot from thick rough barely made it to the fairway, but she then hit her approach shot to within 8 feet of the flagstick. If Lee could birdie or par the hole, and Thurman missed her par putt, the lead would shrink to a manageable margin with 12 holes remaining.

“If I made the putt, I would be three down,” said Lee. “I said to myself, ‘Alright, I can do it.’ But I knew Annie would make her putt.”

Instead, Lee sailed her first putt some 5 feet past the hole. Thurman indeed made the 8-footer for a par, then Lee missed her comeback putt, lost the hole, and was five holes down in the match.

“It was a huge turning point of the match,” said Thurman.

Thurman won the 27th hole with a routine par to go 6 up. The next three holes were halved. When Thurman and Lee made threes on the 165-yard 31st hole, Thurman with a four-foot putt, the match was over. Thurman and Lee shook hands, hugged, and a grueling week of golf came to an end with the two finalists having played nine rounds in six days.

Lee and her father, Michael Lee, her caddie throughout the week, planned an all-night, 15-hour drive back to Cerritos. Thurman, her mother Kay Thurman and her caddie, Lana Sitterud, a friend since both were in 9th grade, begin their 650-mile return journey with the championship trophy crammed in their 1998 white Volkswagen.

First, there’s a stop in Boise, Idaho, where the new U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Champion will fulfill a promise Monday – to caddie for Natalie Stone, 15, in a sectional qualifying round for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, another of the USGA’s 13 national championships.

Lee’s caddie rates, she said, won’t go up just because she’s a national champion.

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