U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Lee and Shuman Make Most of First USGA Championship May 31, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. By Tom Cunneff

Little went their way in the final match, but Mary Ellen Shuman and Sammi Lee treasured their time in the Women's Four-Ball. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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In their first match on Monday in the 3rd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship that just concluded at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, this year’s runners-up, Sammi Lee and Mary Ellen Shuman were in trouble. Three down after 11 to last year’s runners-ups, Southern California 14-year-olds Angelina Kim and Brianna Navarrosa, the former University of Georgia teammates stormed back with birdies on the next three holes to even the match before winning it on the 19th hole with a birdie.

“It really gave us some momentum,” said Shuman after losing in the finals to Alice Chen and Taylor Totland in Wednesday’s championship match. “We were like, ‘Oh, wow, we can do this!’”

Forgive them if they had some doubts early on, but that’s only normal when you’re playing in your first USGA championship.

“I don't think it really hit us until we got here,” said Shuman, 22, of St. Simons Island, Ga. “When we arrived, we were like, ‘Whoa, this is like a real tournament!’ It was run so well and the golf course was so nice. It was a great setup.”

Added Lee, 22, of Athens, Ga.: “It was the best tournament I’ve ever played in. We were sort of expecting it to be another college event and then you got here and we said, ‘Wow, this is something really special.’ This is a really cool thing to be a part of and to make it this far.”

What made it even more special was having their dads on their bags, something they haven’t done for a while.

“Both of us grew up with our dads being there every step of the way with our golf,” said Lee, who won three AJGA events during her junior career. “To end my golf career and having him being able to caddie for me is awesome, especially because they were only spectators in college.”

As CEO of Darden Restaurants, which includes Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and six other chains, Lee’s dad, Gene, oversees 170,000 employees and $8 billion in sales, but nothing can top this week.

“It’s the greatest thrill you could ever have,” he said. “We've spent the last 15 years playing the game. To be out here and see her play at this level with a game that I love is just fantastic. This is a great way to culminate her amateur career before she goes off to work.”

Having both just graduated from Georgia, Lee will begin a career in equities sales and trading at Barclays in Manhattan on July 8, while Shuman plans to attend the University of Georgia School of Law either this year or next.

Golf-wise, they’re looking forward to casual rounds with family for the time being.

“I've been playing tournament golf for so long. That's so intense,” said Lee. “I just want to go play a casual round that doesn't mean anything.”

And even though they lost in the finals, they had a great week and plan to play in next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., schedules permitting.

“Hopefully we'll play next year,” said Lee. “It just depends on whether we can get off for that, but I'd like to do it again. We played a college tournament at El Caballero, so it would be cool to get back.”

Tom Cunneff is a South Carolina-based freelance writer.

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