Anna Schultz, 52, of Rockwall, Texas, withstood a furious comeback by Robyn Puckett, 60, of Irvine, Calif., Thursday and won the 2007 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in 20 holes, at Sunriver Resort’s 5,975-yard Meadows Course.
It was the third extra-hole final since the championship went to a match play format in 1997.
"It’s overwhelming,” said Schultz, who was playing in her third USGA final. “I am so thrilled. I’ve wanted this for so long. This is what we work for and what we dream of. It’s something everybody wants so badly.”
Schultz opened the match strongly as opposed to Puckett and took a 3-up lead after three holes and extended her lead to 4 up through nine holes. That included a winning chip-in for par on the 5th.
"I was a little tired,” said Puckett, who will represent California in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship later this month. “I don’t play this much competitive golf. That’s no excuse. I wasn’t into it early on and I was trying to find myself. I was hacking away and all these nice people are out here and they want to see a good game. I just knuckled down. Those things happen. You don’t know what gets you going.”
With a 4-up lead on the 12th, Schultz, the 2006 runner-up, sank a 25-foot birdie. Australian-born Puckett then holed her 21-foot birdie putt.
That hole-halving birdie putt fueled a run for the former LPGA Tour player who came to the USA in 1970 after playing for Australia in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
In the course of the next five holes, she won four and turned Schultz’s 4-up advantage into an all square match.
"I knew she was going to relax and she was going to start making putts and start chipping,” Schultz said. “As soon as she calmed down a little bit, I knew I would have my hands full. She started playing great on the back (nine).”
Puckett’s turnaround began when she won the par-3 13th with a 19-foot birdie. The players halved the 14th with par and Puckett won the 14th when Schultz could not recover from an iron shot that ran through the green. Puckett’s 35-foot birdie putt won the 16th to close the gap to 1 up.
On the par-5 17th, Schultz erred with a fairway-wood second shot that found a bunker. She then hit the lip with her third and finally found the green with her fourth shot. Puckett, meanwhile, calmly made par and the match was square when Schultz could not convert her par putt.
"The mistake was 17,” said Schultz, a self-employed CPA. “I didn’t put a very good swing on the second shot. I should have bailed more left or taken the bunker out of play and then I got too greedy coming out of the bunker. That was the turning point.”
Pars by both players halved the 18th and the 19th.
With the honor on the par-5 20th tee, Puckett nearly hit her drive into the water on the left side of the hole, her ball crossing the hazard line but she was able to hit it. She punched out and then hit a fairway wood into the water hazard fronting the green. Her fifth shot found the green. Schultz played the hole in regulation and was conceded her par putt for the championship.
"I had 185 (yards) to the front and wanted to get it in the bunker on the right or on the front so I could chip and putt and get a five,” Puckett said of her third shot on the 20th. “I had no intention of laying back because she hit two beautiful shots and she was going to make 4 or 5. It was one of those shots and I didn’t hit it.”
The champion receives a gold medal and custody of the Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Trophy for the ensuing year as well as an exemption to the next 10 Senior Women’s Amateurs. The runner-up receives a silver medal. The other semifinalists and medalist receive bronze medals.
Both finalists receive an exemption from qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur and all quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2008 championship at Tulsa Country Club.