Local favorite and University of Mississippi women’s golf coach Meghan Bolger, 28, of Oxford, Miss., defeated Thuhashini Selvaratnam, 30, of Sri Lanka, 5 and 4, to win the 2006 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship Thursday at the 6,151-yard, par-72 Old Waverly Golf Club.
“It’s going to hit me a little bit later,” said Bolger. “It’s still very exciting right now. It’s new.”
In cold, rainy conditions, Bolger dominated the match. The harsh weather forced her to use longer clubs than normal for her approach shots but she hit 11 of 14 greens in regulations figures. With the usual match-play concessions, Bolger was one over par for the match.
“I’ve played in a whole lot worse, condition-wise,” Bolger said. “My goal was to have as many pars as possible and not be stuck in the rough. I just tried to be in the fairway and hit as many greens as possible.”
Selvaratnam, a former honorable-mention All-American at Arizona State who played on three NCAA Division I national-championship teams, played superb golf all week but struggled in the final, winning just two holes, the first with a par (after Bolger three-putted from 12 feet) and the 450-yard, par-5 ninth with a birdie.
Bolger squared the match with a winning par on the second hole, and then won three straight holes. Her par on the 382-yard par-4 fourth beat Selvaratnam’s bogey. Another par won the 337-yard par-4 fifth. At the 331-yard, par 4 sixth, she hit a pitching wedge from 95 yards to within 12 feet of the hole and made the birdie putt to go 3 up.
“After making that good putt on six, I think definitely that helped me get going,” Bolger said.
She went 4 up with a conceded birdie at the eighth when Selvaratnam needed five shots to reach the putting surface.
Selvaratnam’s winning birdie on ninth reduced Bolger’s advantage to three holes at the turn. Bolger regained her 4-up lead at the par-5 10th hole but said the rain and cold meant that victory at that point was not assured.
“(Selvaratnam) is a great player, so you have to keep making good shots,” Bolger said.
Selvaratnam, the shorter hitter of the two competitors, said she was just trying to persevere, despite having to hit longer clubs for approach shots because of the adverse conditions.
“I didn’t have my hot putter like I did yesterday,” said Selvaratnam. “It was miserable…It was raining and both Meghan and I had to deal with it and she played great. I told myself, ‘Don’t let it get to you,’ and I did the best I could.”
Bolger won the 11th hole with another par to go 5 up, and the match ended two holes later when both players bogeyed the 354-yard par 4 14th.
Bolger now travels to Auburn University with her Ole Miss women’s golf team to take part in the Derby Invitational, which is named for 1998 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Virginia Derby Grimes, a former standout and assistant coach at Auburn. Bolger said she will play in several amateur events next winter and a full schedule of amateur tournaments in the summer.
Selvaratnam, who was bidding to become the second consecutive foreign-born U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, grew up in Sri Lanka, and captured that country’s Women’s Open Amateur Championship in 1989 at the age of 12. With that victory, she became the youngest national champion in history, which landed her in the Guiness Book of World Records.
Selvaratnam has held eight national titles, including the 2000 Chinese Amateur, the 2000 Thailand Amateur, the 2000 Philippine Amateur and the 2000 All-Indian Amateur. Four of her wins were in the Sri Lanka Amateur and she was crowned Sri Lanka’s Sportswoman of the Year in 1997.
She came to this country in the mid-1990s to play college golf at Arizona State. After graduation, Selvaratnam remained in Arizona and was the state’s Player of the Year five consecutive times, from 2001-2005.
In 2005, Selvaratnam reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Mid-Amateur, in 2004 she made the semifinals and this year advanced to the final. In 2007, the championship will be played at Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Ariz., which is Selvaratnam’s home course.
The Women’s Mid-Amateur, for women amateurs age 25 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.