July 13, 2017
Lorton, Va. - When Caroline Curtis’ birdie putt on No. 16 missed by inches on Thursday at Laurel Hill Golf Club, she could only hug Lauren Greenlief and say, “Congratulations, that was really fun to watch.”
The title match of the 92nd Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship had an air of “she won’t be denied this time,” to it. She, of course, being Greenlief, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion who had one true hole on her impressive golf resume.
On the hottest day of the year, Greenlief was completely dialed in. She answered every charge Curtis mounted, and finally, she can call herself a VSGA Women’s Amateur champion. On her fourth try in the title match, Greenlief (International CC) beat the 15-year-old Curtis (Hermitage CC) 3 and 2 to claim the Kohler Trophy for the first time.
“It’s surreal, it feels really good,” Greenlief said. “It’s a goal that I’ve been working toward for, I guess, a decade now. To kind of check it off the bucket list of my golf resume, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted. To go to the finals three times and came out of it without the trophy three times, it kind of beats up on you a little bit. “To go out today and play a great round of golf and win that trophy, it felt really good.” Make that two great rounds of golf. She defeated Abby Portyrata (First Tee of Greater Richmond) 5 and 4 in the semifinals. In her two matches, she made 10 birdies against one bogey, leaving her opponents scrambling to keep up all day.
Curtis, who defeated Khushboo Thiagaraj (Dominion Valley CC) 3 and 1 in the semifinals, did her best to make Greenlief work, even when she fell behind. With Greenlief 2 up at the turn, Curtis sank a long birdie putt on No. 10 to cut into the lead. Greenlief had a quick answer, though, hitting her tee shot on the par-3 11th to within six feet and sinking the putt for birdie to go 2 up again.
Greenlief went 3 up when Curtis bogeyed 12. Undaunted, Curtis bombed home a 30-foot birdie putt from the fringe on 13 to pressure Greenlief, who missed her birdie putt, cutting the lead again. On 14, Greenlief again hit it close on a par 3 and made the birdie putt to go 3 up with four holes to play. “All of her approach shots, her chipping, her putting, her driving, it was really great,” Curtis said. “It was a lot of fun to watch, and a lot of fun to play with her.”
Greenlief can sympathize with Curtis. In her first appearance in the championship match, in 2009 at Danville Golf Club, Greenlief made seven birdies but lost in 20 holes to Whitney Neuhauser.
“I remember that one, playing really well but just not getting it done,” Greenlief said. “I played pretty similar to today. It was just that my opponent was similarly on fire that day.”
Curtis, the stroke-play qualifying medalist the last two years, has made steady progress in the Women’s Amateur since first making the quarterfinals at Hidden Valley in Salem as a 12 year old in 2014. She reached the semifinals in 2015 and 2016 and finally broke through to reach the title match this week.
“I think I can definitely take a lot of positives away from this week,” she said. “I think I was really in control of my game the whole week, with my full swing, my chipping and my putting. I haven’t necessarily had the best start to my summer. I took the week off last week and got some good practice in. I definitely saw it pay off this week.”
For Greenlief, the victory provides a great start to her summer of golf. Her employer once again allowed her to take a lengthy leave of absence to concentrate on her game, and upcoming events include next week’s Women’s Virginias-Carolinas Matches, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Canadian Women’s Amateur and Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
“I felt like I was really dialed in today,” Greenlief said. “I don’t know if I missed a single green. I felt like I had a birdie putt on every hole. To go out and play that consistent, I feel like I really won the tournament.”
Note: Recap by Chris Long from Virginia State Golf Association.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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