Jill McGill, of Denver, defeated college teammate Heidi Voorhees, of Studio City, Calif., 6 and 4, to win the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Canton, Ohio. With that victory, McGill joined Pearl Sinn and Amy Fruhwirth as the only players to simultaneously hold the U.S. Women’s Amateur and WAPL titles. McGill, a member of the 1994 USA Curtis Cup Team who starred at the University of Southern California, turned pro in December 1994 and joined LPGA Tour for the 1996 season. McGill, 42, has 24 career top 10s and is currently on hiatus from the Tour, raising her 2-year-old daughter in San Diego.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
It’s an important event in my life. It’s a USGA title and any time you can hold a USGA title, I think it’s a great marker for your success in golf. It’s an honor to be known as a Women’s Public Links champion.
You did one better than that. You actually held two USGA titles simultaneously with your win at the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1994 WAPL. How do you compare those two titles?
At the time when I played the Women’s Amateur Public Links, obviously the difference was having playing privileges or being a member at a private course versus a public course. However, there were a lot of the same participants in both events. I think that in a match-play format, you’re always going to run into a couple of buzz saws, so in order to win, you’re going to have to defeat some great opponents. Both championships are very close to my heart. One was played on a public course and one was played on a private course (San Diego Country Club), but in terms of the level of competition, I think they both were tremendous.
What is your most vivid memory from the WAPL championship week?
The Women’s Amateur Public Links in Canton, Ohio, was the first place where I recorded a whiff in competition. That’s one thing I remember for sure. I gladly held up my finger when I was trying to hit a ball from under a tree and said, That’s one. And I played in the finals against Heidi Voorhees, who was actually my college teammate at the University of Southern California, which was sweet sorrow. I wanted to see her do well, but I wanted to beat her like a drum at the same time. It’s always an interesting situation when you’re competing against a friend and teammate.
Was it hard to go against a teammate in a national championship?Ultimately, it’s like any other sporting event. When you tee it up on the first tee, she becomes an opponent. She’s no longer a friend or a teammate. You’re there to do one thing, and that’s to win. After the match, you feel badly that somebody has to lose, and fortunately for me, it was Heidi. You never like to see somebody you’re friends with not have a positive outcome, but on the flip side of that, it was awesome to have two USC Trojans in the final.
In the championship match, you took a 5-up lead after 13. Do you remember sinking that last putt for birdie on the 14th hole to secure the championship?
I would like to say that I do remember it. I don’t, but I definitely remember making the last putt in the Women’s Amateur, because I was only up by one on the 36th hole and I remember shaking like a leaf. I think it’s a lot easier when you have a 5-up lead and a birdie putt to win. The nerves aren’t quite there, but I remember being very excited. Who’s not excited when they win a golf tournament? As far as playing a teammate, it’s exactly at that point when the putt drops that you realize you’ve won and she’s lost. So maybe the celebration wasn’t quite as grand as it may have been had it not been against a friend and teammate.
To start the week, you carded a 66 in qualifying and were the stroke-play medalist at 137, which at the time was a 36-hole record. Did you feel any added pressure?
Sometimes in these tournaments, you think, Oh, you don’t want to be the medalist. There’s a feeling that the medalist never wins, but yeah, any time you can shoot in the 60s and be the medalist, it’s a great honor. It just goes to the overall feel of the week; being able to go home with two medals – as the medalist and as the champion – and it’s a great feat.
You’ve enjoyed a lot of great moments in your career. Where does the WAPL title fit in?
It’s definitely up there. I’ve never had an LPGA Tour victory. Some people would consider a U.S. Women’s Amateur as a major and the Women’s Public Links is right up there with it. It’s in the top five. Definitely having won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and then the Public Links, it was a springboard to my professional career. I’m not sure I would have thought about being a professional golfer without those championships. I played golf because I loved golf. I loved being an athlete and I think it was a great way to go through school. I ended up leaving a semester before I finished my degree because those championships … spring-boarded me onto the professional circuit.
How do you feel about the WAPL being retired after this year?
I have very mixed emotions. I believe in recent years, the U.S. Women’s Amateur has really come to the forefront and has emerged as the premier USGA event for female amateurs, but at the same time … public golf is such an important part of the sport of golf in general. There’s also the historical element of it. Winning the WAPL is a great feat and a lot of those champions have gone on to tremendous careers professionally. Anyone who has won an event would be sad to see it go. It’s fun to relive the memory of the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.