The USGA Year In Review
There was a first time for almost everyone in a year that was replete with new USGA champions
Just inside the entrance to Golf House, the USGA’s headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., is a wall decorated with photographs of the winners of the USGA championships from the current year. A lot of new faces will grace the wall next year because almost all of 2009’s champions prevailed in a USGA event for the first time.
In a Saucon Valley surprise, Eun-Hee Ji absorbed a champagne shower at the hands of supporter Paul Park shortly after Ji drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Women's Open. (John Mummert/USGA)
The run of first-time winners began in June at the U.S. Open Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, in Farmingdale, N.Y. Lucas Glover, a 29-year-old from Greenville, S.C., won with a four-under-par 276 on a course that endured so much rain that the championship didn’t conclude until Monday. Glover finished two strokes ahead of three past USGA champions: Ricky Barnes, David Duval and Phil Mickelson.
One week later, another first-time winner emerged. Jennifer Song, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Southern California, took the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Red Tail Golf Club, in Devens, Mass., with a 7-and-6 victory over 17-year-old Kimberly Kim. Two months later, Song became just the second woman to win two USGA titles in one year with her victory at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club, in St. Louis, Mo. (Pearl Sinn won the WAPL and Women’s Amateur in 1988.) In the championship match, Song defeated 18-year-old Jennifer Johnson, 3 and 1.
Trying to buck the trend of first-time champions was 50-year-old Tim Jackson of Germantown, Tenn. The 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur championled the U.S. Senior Open after 36 holes with a record-setting 11-under-par 133 at Crooked Stick Golf Club, near Indianapolis. But the weekend, especially Sunday, belonged to Fred Funk, who shot a final-round 65 en route to a record 20-under-par finish. (Yes, it was Funk’s first USGA title.) Jackson finished as the low amateur in a tie for 11th place.
A few weeks later, Jackson was in record form at the U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills Country Club, in Tulsa, Okla. He shot an even-par 140 to become the oldest medalist in the history of the USGA’s oldest championship. But Jackson’s effort to become the Amateur’s oldest winner was ended by 23-year-old Charlie Holland, who defeated Jackson, 1 up, in the second round. The Amateur would be won by Byeong-Hun An, a 17-year-old Korean. In claiming his first USGA title, An also became the event’s youngest champion, with a 7-and-5 win over 22-year-old Ben Martin.
Still, one of the most significant stories of the year belonged to someone who was not a first-time USGA winner: 31-year-old Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa. Smith, who won the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur, took this year’s Mid-Am with a 7-and-6 victory over Tim Spitz of Rochester, N.Y. Smith already had been a member of the victorious USA Walker Cup Team and played on the Pennsylvania team that won the USGA Men’s State Team Championship.
Here's a rundown of the rest of the USGA championship season:
U.S. Women’s Open: Eun-Hee Ji, a 23-year-old Korean, sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win by one over Candie Kung at Saucon Valley Country Club, in Bethlehem, Pa.
U.S. Amateur Public Links: In the final at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, in Norman, Okla., Brad Benjamin, 22, of Rockford, Ill., defeated Nick Taylor, a 21-year-old Canadian, 7 and 6.
U.S. Junior Amateur: Jordan Spieth, a 15-year-old from Dallas, Texas, beat 16-year-old Jay Hwang, 4 and 3, in the championship match at Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminster, N.J.
U.S. Girls’ Junior: Amy Anderson, 17, of Oxbow, N.D., beat Kimberly Kim, 6 and 5, in the final, also at Trump National.
Walker Cup Match: The USA Team defeated a 10-man squad from Great Britain and Ireland by a score of 16½–9½ at Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore, Pa.
USGA Senior Women’s Amateur: At The Homestead’s Cascades Course, in Hot Springs, Va., Sherry Herman, 51, of Farmingdale, N.J., prevailed with a 4-and-3 victory over Carolyn Creekmore.
USGA Senior Amateur: Marvin (Vinny) Giles III, 66, of Richmond, Va., drained a birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat John Grace, 61, 1 up, at Beverly Country Club, in Chicago. Giles set the record for most years between USGA titles, having won the 1972 U.S. Amateur.
USGA Men’s State Team: Pittsburgh-area amateurs Nathan Smith and Sean Knapp talked another “local” into remaining amateur long enough to compete and were rewarded when collegiate standout Mike Van Sickle carded a four-under 67 in the final round to help give the Keystone State its first team title.
USGA Women’s State Team: Led by medalist Dori Carter, Georgia became the first state to win a second title since the event began in 1995. Georgia first won in 2005.
U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur: Martha Leach, 47, of Hebron, Ky., became part of just the second pair of sisters (after Margaret and Harriot Curtis) to have won USGA titles. Hollis Stacy, her older sister, won six USGA titles. In the Women’s Mid-Am final, Leach beat Laura Coble, 3 and 2, at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club, in Ocala, Fla.