Charlotte, N.C. – Nobody expects a major change in mechanics to take effect overnight. Sometimes it takes a year or longer for the improvements to take shape.
Nine months ago, Sydnee Michaels decided her putting required an overhaul. Everything from stance, grip, swing and even the implement was altered.
She was too far from the ball, her stroke was really loopy [and] she had too much head tilt, said UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth, who helped Michaels work through the changes along with Southern California-based instructor Tony Kewal, a former Bruins assistant coach. Now she’s much more upright, posture-wise, over the ball. She’s a little more straighter back and straighter through [with her swing].
Some might question a switch in your senior season of college, but Michaels felt it was necessary to take her game to another level.
The results are finally starting to show up. Prior to coming to Charlotte Country Club for the 110th U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 22-year-old from Temecula, Calif., claimed the Canadian Women’s Amateur at Kingsville (Ontario) Golf and Country Club by two strokes over Danielle Kang.
Her good play has continued in North Carolina, posting two easy victories before grinding out a 19-hole triumph over Korea’s Jungeun Han Thursday afternoon to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in five Women’s Amateur appearances.
Ironically, her quarterfinal opponent on Friday morning will be fellow Southern Californian Kang, the same player she edged two weeks ago in Canada.
I am feeling good about my game, said Michaels. I definitely took some confidence from that [win].
And she is finally getting comfortable on the greens. Five months ago, Michaels switched out her center-shafted mallet putter for a toe-weighted blade. Just getting the feel took patience.
For my [new] stroke, that [switch in putters] will benefit me more, said Michaels. I spent a lot of time rebuilding [my putting]. It’s been a huge improvement.
Her USGA experience also didn’t hurt in the round-of-16 match against Han. Michaels watched a 2-up advantage evaporate when Han birdied No. 9 and Michaels power-lipped her 4-foot par putt at the 10th.
Han took 13 with a birdie and gave one back with a three-putt bogey at 15. Then Michaels knocked her tee shot to 4 feet for a winning birdie at the par-3 17th and a 1-up lead. But at the dogleg-right closing hole, both players found the gnarly bermudagrass rough off the tee. Michaels’ lie was so poor that all she could was punch out to the fairway. Her pitching wedge approach found a greenside bunker and she missed an 8-foot bogey putt that would have sealed the match.
Obviously that was a big mistake at 18, said Forsyth, who was walking with the match. But in that scenario, you have to let it go, and she did.
Han outdrove Michaels by 40 yards at the par-4 19th hole, but she misjudged the distance on her wedge approach. The ball found a greenside bunker and she missed a downhill 9-foot par putt, allowing Michaels to tap in a 2-footer for the win.
Michaels, a history major, still has to finish two classes in the current semester of summer school to graduate on Sept. 15. In fact, she has a mid-term when she returns to the Westwood campus next week.
It’s two history classes, she said. I’ve got those in the bag. I’m not worried.
Three more victories and Michaels will make her own history in Charlotte.
Junthima Gulyanamitta was just starting to get into golf when big sister, Russy, was advancing to the finals of the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links up the road at Legacy Golf Links in Aberdeen, N.C. Russy, a co-medalist, lost to her fellow medalist, Catherine Cartwright, in a tightly contested championship match, 3 and 1. Russamee has since gone on to play professionally on the Duramed Futures Tour and LPGA Tour.
Ten years later, Junthima is close to getting to another USGA amateur final in the Tar Heel State.
Gulyanamitta, who helped Purdue win the NCAA Division I team title this past spring, knocked off tri-medalist Jaclyn Sweeney (second round) and Callie Nielson (third round) on Thursday to set up a quarterfinal match with Canada’s Stephanie Sherlock.
I knew that, said the 21-year-old Junthima about Russy’s performance in North Carolina in 2000. She keeps telling me. That was a long time ago.
I was still in Thailand. Every time she did something, my dad would tell me.
When asked if her sister’s runner-up showing at the WAPL provided any additional inspiration, Junthima said, Not really. I start to think about it when I get to college when I know a lot about it.
Russy did give Junthima some help at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club, where she missed the cut but gained valuable experience. With their diverse schedules, the two don’t get to play very often, but Junthima said having Russy’s support at the Open was beneficial.
She came to watch and coach me, said Junthima, a senior-to-be at Purdue. Getting through my first round was tough. She pulled me out of it.
At the young age of 17, Jessica Korda is already well versed in international competition. The daughter of professional tennis star Petr Korda and a dual citizen of the United States and the Czech Republic, she represented her father’s home country at the 2006 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship at age 13. She once again has the WWATCs in her sights. However, this time she has a different flag in mind.
It’s my goal. It’s been my goal, said Korda when asked about being named to the USA WWATC squad. I’m just really trying hard to perform the best as I can, just so I can try and put myself out there to be chosen.
Korda, who is among nine players 13 and younger to have played in the WWATCs, has already successfully represented the USA twice this year, at the Copa de las Americas and the Curtis Cup Match. But representing the USA has an extra bit of glamour that appeals to the teenager’s fancies.
I’ve played for the Czech Republic, but playing for the U.S., they literally have a force field around them, said Korda with a big smile on her face. You would be just ‘Oh, look, there they are!’ It would mean so much.
The USA WWATC Team consists of three players who are selected by the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee. The team is expected to be named sometime after the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Odds And Ends
All eight of the third-round matches went at least to the 17th hole, and three went extra holes. That was a far cry from the morning second-round matches, where just three of the 16 matches went the distance, with two going extra holes…Gail Rogers of the USGA Women’s Committee is working her final U.S. Women’s Amateur after 17 years of USGA service. The Santa Cruz, Calif., resident, who recently battled cancer, said she will assist at three more USGA championships: the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Bandon Dunes in southwestern Oregon, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced G.C. in Daly City, Calif., and the 2013 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at CordeValle near San Jose. Rogers began her USGA service on the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Committee…Just how tough has Korda’s draw been? She beat fellow 2010 USA Curtis Cup member Stephanie Kono in round one, former Auburn All-American Candace Schepperle in the round of 32 and 2010 WAPL runner-up Lisa McCloskey in the third round. McCloskey also made the cut at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open and was runner-up at last month’s North and South Women’s Amateur. Next up for Korda: tri-medalist Erynne Lee.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. Christina Lance is the coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. E-mail them with questions or comments at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.