Maria Uribe, 17, of Colombia, survived one of the most hard-fought finals in recent history Sunday to defeat Amanda Blumenherst, 20, of Scottsdale, Ariz., 1 up, and win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at the 6,497-yard, par-72 Crooked Stick Golf Club.
“This is the salary that I get because of all the hard work,” Uribe said. “I haven’t won a tournament in the States, and I win this one. That’s great for me. I’ll take it.”
Uribe and Blumenherst were never separated by more than a one-hole margin in their 36-hole match. They were all square after the morning 18. Blumenherst finally gave Uribe the winning edge on the 193-yard, par-3 35th hole.
With the match all square, Blumenherst hit a 5-iron 18 feet short of the hole. Uribe followed with a towering 5-iron shot to 7 feet. With Uribe so close to the hole, Blumenherst said she believed she had to make her birdie putt. She rammed it six feet past the hole.
“I definitely got out of my game,” Blumenherst said. “I thought she was going to make it. I thought I needed to and I wanted it…I just hit it way too hard.”
Uribe missed the birdie putt. Blumenherst had to make her six-footer or risk going to the 36th tee one hole down. She missed. Uribe knocked in the short putt for a winning par and was 1 up with one hole to play.
Uribe made sure she avoided the water hazard down the right side of the fairway on the par-4 18th, but hooked her drive 35 yards into the left rough, a spot she had visited three times in this championship. She recovered with a 7-iron shot to the front of the green, 55 feet from the hole.
In the desperate position of having to win the 36th, Blumenherst drove into the fairway, then powered an 8-iron 150 yards toward the flagstick. Her ball hit 5 feet from the hole but trickled into the back fringe.
Uribe left her approach putt 5 feet short and Blumenherst then chipped to within a foot of the hole.
Uribe’s 5-footer was for the title. “It was in my hands to finish the tournament,” Uribe said. “I didn’t need her to miss any putt. I just needed to make that one. That is the best part of my game, the five-footers and four-footers.”
Uribe’s putt went in and she won the match, becoming the 12th foreign player to win the Women’s Amateur championship.
The new champion said she felt relief, “because it was over. And, I was just excited. You think that you are going to be so happy but you don’t realize what you have done. I think it’s going to take awhile.”
Blumenherst was philosophical, saying: “This just gives me more confidence in my game, saying, all right, a whole week of solid golf, one round after another…I started off slow, and I ended up being in the final group.”
The pair recorded 17 birdies, one eagle and only six bogeys in the 36-hole match. With the usual match-play concessions, Uribe was 7 under par for 36 holes and Blumenherst was 6 under. Blumenherst led during 13 holes of the match. Uribe led just four times but her most important 1-up lead was at the end.
Blumenherst, who spent much of her childhood in Indiana, enjoyed strong spectator support but the gallery generously applauded the good shots of both players. Hispanic members of Crooked Stick Golf Club’s grounds crew cheered loudly for Uribe.
Both players played for their respective countries at the 2006 Women’s World Amateur Team Championships. Colombia finished third and the USA was ninth.
Uribe is also the third consecutive international player to advance to the final. She follows Katharina Schallenberg of German in 2006 and Maru Martinez of Venezuela in 2005
The winner receives a golf medal and the custody of the Robert Cox Cup for the ensuing year as well as a 10-year exemption for the Women’s Amateur and a two-year exemption for the Women’s Open.