Her instructor, Dale Helm, is an amateur who studies the golf swing. Her competitive golf season consists of three months and she rarely ventures beyond the North Dakota state border to play competitions.
She doesn’t attend a glitzy golf academy or travel the junior golf circuit. Her entourage includes only her parents and brother/caddie Nathan, not a top-50 swing coach or a sports psychologist.
Major colleges certainly weren’t pounding on her door or flooding the voice mail with messages, which is one reason why she’ll play at a small, in-state Division I school or a golf powerhouse.
And prior to this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Trump National Golf Club, her USGA résumé included only last year’s championship at Hartford Golf Club, where she suffered a second-round defeat.
Yet at the end of six grinding days, including 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying where she earned medalist honors with a 3-under-par 141 total, and won six matches in four days, Amy Anderson, 17, of Oxbow, N.D., walked away with the 61st U.S. Girls’ Junior title, defeating past U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim, 17, of Hilo, Hawaii, 6 and 5 in the 36-hole final Saturday on the 6,289-yard, par-72 New Course.
Anderson became the first medalist since 2004 – and 14th overall – to claim the title. Incidentally, Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior Amateur, which was also held on Trump National's New Course Saturday.
Anderson also is the fourth player from North Dakota to win a USGA event, joining Beverly Hanson (1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur), Michael Podolak (1984 U.S. Mid-Amateur) and Shane McMenamy (1996 U.S. Junior Amateur). Incidentally, Podolak is a member at Anderson’s club, Oxbow Country Club.
“I don’t think it’s totally sunk in yet,” said Anderson, who will enroll at North Dakota State University this fall. “I don’t even know what to feel like right now.
“It is difficult. Part of it is you have to get kind of lucky in your matches. I didn’t play totally solid all week. There were a few matches where I choked and didn’t play very well. But I was fortunate to get matched with some other people who weren’t at the top of their game either. That’s a huge factor in winning a match-play tournament is how the bracket lines up and who you play at what time.”
Kim, meanwhile, joined Peggy Conley (1963 U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur) as only the second player in USGA history to lose multiple USGA finals in the same year. Last month at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in Devens, Mass., she fell to Jennifer Song in the final, 7 and 6.
Three years ago, Kim became the youngest U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. She is one of a handful of golfers to have played in three different USGA amateur finals, joining the likes of Hall-of-Famer Carol Semple Thompson and Philadelphia legend Jay Sigel. Playing in her sixth and final Girls' Junior, Kim was denied a chance to become the seventh player to have won the Women's Amateur and Girls' Junior titles.
Kim’s putting somehow dropped off precipitously from Friday afternoon’s semifinal win over Doris Chen, where she was six under par for 14 holes. She shot the equivalent of 5-over-par 77 (with concessions) in the morning 18, but still only faced a two-hole deficit, thanks to 33 putts by Anderson, including back-to-back three-putts at 17 and 18.
But even a session on the practice green couldn’t solve Kim’s woes in the afternoon as the misses continued to mount. She three-putted from 8 feet at the 22nd hole and then missed a 5-foot par putt at No. 24. By the turn, Anderson had built a resounding 6-up advantage.
“A 1-year-old could have putted better,” said a dejected Kim. “It doesn’t matter because if you’re putting is bad, everything is bad. She played good. I just played horrible.”
After a tough morning on the greens, Anderson quickly recognized the problem following lunch. She was guiding the putter back and decelerating on the way through, which in turn led to poor speed control.
“I just tried to let the putter swing,” said Anderson, whose putter had been one of her strongest intangibles this week.
With a 3-up lead – she won the 19th hole with a par – it all came together at the 20th hole when Anderson converted a clutch downhill 8-footer for par to halve the hole. Over the next 11 holes, Anderson made virtually every important putt, while Kim kept missing to the point where her frustration was showing through in her facial expressions.
“I felt good about my swing,” said Anderson. “I felt good about my putting. I wasn’t completely lost, but I felt like I had a really good chance, and I was playing very well.”
Anderson, who was two over par for the 31 holes, certainly showed no let-up. For the match, she found 20 of 24 fairways, hit 23 greens and totaled 54 putts. Kim hit 17 of 24 fairways, 16 greens and had 56 putts.
Now Anderson’s name goes on the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy with names like JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Mickey Wright, Nancy Lopez, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Kelli Kuehne and 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion In-Bee Park.
“I just hope I can be successful as they were,” said a humble Anderson. “I know this won’t change me.
“Golf is such a finicky game. And you know, like [1989 U.S. Junior Amateur champion] David Duval. He was the No. 1 player in the world, and then he couldn’t make a cut. And now he’s coming back again. You just don’t know how it’s going to go. I’m just going to keep trying and pray that God will bless me.”
Anderson still is unsure if she’ll accept the exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, which begins a week from this Monday at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis. She heads to Ohio for next week’s PGA Junior Championship, where she tied for 19th last year. That’s the only other national-caliber junior competition Anderson has played, although she has tried to qualify in the past for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Nevertheless, she won’t forget this week at Trump National, especially the large galleries over the final two days.
“People were rooting for me out there,” said Anderson. “I was really accepted here. I kind of had Amy’s Army.
“I think this is proof that you don’t have to live in Florida to be able to do well in golf.”
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.