Jane Park, 17, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., won the United States Women's Amateur Championship with a 2-up victory Sunday over Amanda McCurdy, 20, of El Dorado, Ark., in the 36-hole final at the 6,365-yard, par-72 course at The Kahkwa Club.
On a brilliant summer day the Park-McCurdy contest lured more than 4,000 spectators to a match that went the distance. It was Park's first national title after having reached the final in three USGA championships; this championship, the 2003 Women's Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Girls' Junior.
Park became the first USA Curtis Cupper – she played on the 2004 team – to win the Women's Amateur since Kelli Kuehne in 1996. She also is the fourth player in Women's Amateur history to win after losing in the previous year's final match and the first since Cathy Sherk in 1978.
“Coming in second twice, that's pretty awesome, I think,” said Park. “Coming in first is a whole new thing … and to be able to finally break through. I can't even put into words how happy I am. I'm just not an emotional girl; it's all inside of me.”
McCurdy was three holes down with four holes to play and made a valiant attempt to square the match. She captured two of the next three holes and was one hole down going into the 36th green. Then, with Park facing a birdie putt of 12 feet, McCurdy took three putts from 45 feet, made bogey, and saw her dream come to an end.
“Of course I wish I could have won,” said McCurdy. “I'm a competitor and I hate to come this far and not come out on top, but second place isn't always that bad … She's a great champion.”
McCurdy enjoyed the encouragement of a partisan crowd that cheered her shots. Park said she didn't really care about that kind of thing. “I'm really good at blocking it out,” she said.
She first noticed McCurdy's support from the crowd on the 22nd hole. “I felt like it was a really tough crowd,” Park said. “Even though I hit a good shot [to within four feet of the hole] it was nothing.”
Park took a 2-up lead at the 15th hole but McCurdy won the 16th and the 18th to enter lunch all square.
During the lunch break Park analyzed her swing and made an adjustment that would carry her through the afternoon.
“I was pulling my shots this whole week,” she said. “And it's the championship match and I've got to get it going. So I took [the club] outside. I just took it a little more upright and my shots were going much straighter…I hit a lot of good shots.”
In the afternoon's play, Park needed only seven putts (conceded ones included) on four of the first five holes, making three birdies and taking a 3-up lead that she would maintain through the 28th hole.
From holes 19 through 27, Park missed just one fairway and demonstrated great distance control on her approach shots. McCurdy missed four fairways in that stretch and was unable to hit her approach shots close to the hole.
But McCurdy won the 164-yard, par-3 29th hole with a birdie after she hit her 6-iron three feet from the hole and Park made a par.
Park went 3 up on the very next hole. With McCurdy's third shot to the par-5 hole nestling some 10 feet from the hole, Park chipped in from the high fringe 30 feet from the hole for a winning birdie four and raised her first.
“It was a pretty easy chip,” said Park. “It was up the hill. I just needed to get it rolling and it went in perfectly, center cut.”
McCurdy cut the margin to two holes with a conceded birdie on the par-3 33rd hole when Park missed the green and bogeyed. At the 376-yard 35th hole, McCurdy hit a wonderful iron shot from the rough to just a few feet from the hole after Park's approach from the fairway flew the green.
From 150 yards, Park had chosen a 7 iron. “My adrenaline was rushing so much … and I absolutely pured that shot,” she said. “It was the best shot I hit all week and it went 20 yards over the green.”
McCurdy had drawn to within one hole with one to play.
Both players hit the fairway with their tee shots on the par-4 36th hole. “My cousin [her caddie] kept saying, ‘Four, four, four, four,' ” said Park. “He just kept telling me to make par, make par, make par.”
Park hit her second shot to within 12 feet of the hole. McCurdy was 45 feet to the left of the flagstick. When McCurdy three-putted, she conceded Park's birdie and the match ended with the young Californian winning, 2 up.
“It just wasn't my day,” McCurdy said. “It was her day to win and at least I pushed her to the 36th hole. That's what I'll take away.”
“I know the tradition is there and I respect it very much,” Park said of the championship that began in 1895. “I'm just glad that I can be a part of it now. My name's always going to be on that trophy.”
The Women's Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.