Ft. Myers, Fla. - Alexandra Frazier walked off the ninth green after draining a long, downhill birdie putt at the par-4 hole to square her morning quarterfinal match on Wednesday against Sherry Herman, and couldn’t help but smile.
’Why not?, she said, grinning and shrugging her shoulders, briefly reminiscing about the putt that erased her opponent’s 1-up lead.
Frazier, the last qualifier for the match play field, can’t be blamed if there was a large dose of sincerity and pride accompanying her Why-not-me feeling. Nine holes later, with the match still all square, Herman pulled her second shot into the water at the par-4 finishing hole. A whole new sensation suddenly rushed through Frazier’s body.
I didn’t get nervous at all because I didn’t have any expectations – until she hit the ball in the water at [No.] 18, said Frazier, a Haverford, Pa., resident. Then, my knees started shaking and my hands started shaking. I just wanted to get it on the green and rely on my putter, which has been my strength in all these matches.
But this week has undoubtedly taught Frazier to rely on more than a stellar short game. By now she knows that sometimes success means throwing caution into the southeastern Florida sunset, hitting your least favorite club onto the green, and perhaps most important, accepting the results and moving on to the next hole.
At No. 18, Frazier pulled her third shot into the fringe and ultimately drained a nerve-rattling 5-footer for par to win the match from Herman. She continued her memorable run Wednesday afternoon by grinding out a 2-and-1 semifinal victory over Patty Moore of Charlotte, N.C. Frazier will face Mina Hardin of Fort Worth, Texas, in Thursday’s scheduled 18-hole final, set to begin at 8 a.m.
Both of her opponents were more of the aggressors off the tee, but Frazier picked and prodded, positioning her ball to set up pars on Fiddlesticks’ Long Mean Course that rewards consistency, a steely nerve and a strong short game. Frazier has only had three three-putts in nine rounds, but lists her scrappiness as her strongest asset.
The pressure is on all the rest of those people, not on me, so I can just go out there and have fun with it, Frazier said. I am having fun. I’m having a lot of fun – until those last couple of shots [against Herman], but it all worked out, she said.
It’s been a sometimes uncertain but intensely-enjoyable ride this week for Frazier. She shot 82-83 in stroke-play qualifying and survived a 6-for-4 playoff that went into Monday morning.
Frazier has admittedly embraced the underdog role in winning five matches leading up to the finals. Now, she is a victory away from becoming the first player in USGA history to win a national championship as a No. 64 seed. Clay Ogden claimed the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links title as a No. 63 seed.
I’m the underdog, so I have nothing to lose, Frazier said. I feel like I’m the underdog every time. I’d obviously be delighted to win. I’m delighted to be in the finals. I’m shocked.
This week, Philadelphia’s hopeful upstart wears Bermuda shorts and simply hits fairways and greens in taking down opponents. Granted, Frazier is not quite ready to run up the steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and raise her arms in the air like Rocky when she returns home (maybe give it one more victory), but this week has surpassed even her own expectations.
Frazier ousted medalist Leigh Klasse in Monday’s opening round of match play, before besting Connie Shorb and Lea Ann Brown on Tuesday. She then recorded two more victories in the round of eight. Altogether, she’s toppled half of the four low qualifiers in Klasse and the fourth-seeded Moore.
I still feel I’m outclassed, but I am happy to be here, said Frazier, who admitted that she feels a sense of pride in the blue ‘64’ (her seeding number) moving through the match-play brackets on the scoreboard. The pressure is off. The pressure hasn’t been on me – at all – starting from when I had to play the medalist. All the pressure was on [Herman], and I felt that way the whole time. That has allowed me to feel relaxed.
Frazier is making her second Senior Women’s Amateur start, and has played in a handful of U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs. She won the 2009 Pennsylvania Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, but nothing comes close to what’s happened the past five days.
I keep changing my flight time, laughed Frazier, whose husband, Tom, returned to their home on Tuesday. She had Senior Women’s Amateur local committee co-chairperson Keith Pflieger on the bag on Wednesday. I was supposed to go home Tuesday. I’m really surprised, but obviously delighted to be here. I barely made match play – barely. This certainly suits my game. I have plenty of match-play experience. I feel like I’m a pretty smart player when it comes to [match play].
A strong mental attitude has also been a major ally; she seems to have a ‘Well, since I’m here, I might as well win attitude.’ She admittedly hasn’t had to look far for inspiration. Family friend Amory Davis, a suburban Philadelphia-area resident, was a 64-seed at this summer’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay (Wash.), and knocked off medalist Jeff Wilson when match play opened.
Frazier is also heavily-involved in a Philadelphia-area charity called Women’s Golfers Give Back, helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for junior golf initiatives, including LPGA-USGA Junior Golf programs.
Noted sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella has been a guest-speaker at their events and Frazier has become an interested reader of mental-golf books. Frazier has shown an uncanny willingness to move on to the next shot, no matter the result of the previous play.
The last few years I’ve worked a lot on my mental game, Frazier said. Now, I feel like I’m a little bit on auto-pilot. It’s all about finding my target and committing to it, and it helps. The fact that there’s no pressure on me makes it easier to swing, easier to stroke the putt and easier to chip.
And, apparently, it’s all come together.
Andrew Blair is the Director of Communications for the Virginia State Golf Association.