BY ALEX PODLOGAR
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – She is the reigning Pac-12 Conference Champion. She’s played in three U.S. Women’s Opens and made the cut there when she was just 14. In 2013, she made the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. And this season, she won the inaugural Annika Award, given to the top women’s college golfer in the country.
But it was her triumph over Lori Beth Adams in 19 holes in the 112th Women’s North & South Amateur on Saturday at Pinehurst No. 8 that makes Alison Lee believe.
Believe in herself.
“To have my name next to all of those legends, it’s not even an emotion I can describe because it’s so cool,” said Lee, clutching the coveted Putter Boy trophy close to her chest. “It just shows I have the ability to be able to make it out there on Tour as well, and to play well. That’s what I eventually want to do.”
Nine of the last 12 North & South Champions before Lee, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at UCLA, have earned their LPGA Tour cards, and the founders of the LPGA Tour have won the Women’s North & South. The 111th champion, Ally McDonald, is a close friend of Lee’s, was a Curtis Cup teammate, and on Saturday, a semifinal opponent whose dream of becoming the first back-to-back North & South winner in 15 years died at the hands of Lee.
“To have my name next to all of those legends, it’s not even an emotion I can describe because it’s so cool. It just shows I have the ability to be able to make it out there on Tour as well, and to play well. That’s what I eventually want to do.” – Alison Lee
But as much of a thrill that 2&1 victory over McDonald on Saturday morning was, it was the fight given by Adams, a North Carolina native and graduate of nearby UNC Wilmington, that elevated Lee’s performance.
Through 13 holes, Lee was 4 under, and nearly had a one-in-hole on the par-3 5th. Yet though 13, the match remained all square. Adams, who defeated 2013 North & South semifinalist Michelle Piyapattra 1 up in the morning, made six putts of 9 feet or longer to either win or halve holes to stay in the match, never allowing Lee to move ahead by more than two holes.
“It was a dogfight,” said Adams, who was making her fifth appearance in a North & South event. “(Lee) played great; she was making putts left and right, but so was I.”
Adams eventually began to break Lee, moving from 1 down on 12 to 1 up through 14. Adams got up and down on 13 to square the match – making a 7-footer for par – then went 1 up when Lee’s approach buried in a greenside bunker, leading to a double bogey.
“It was a dogfight. (Lee) played great; she was making putts left and right, but so was I.” -Lori Beth Adams
Adams kept that lead until 17 – when Lee drilled a long iron to 15 feet and made the slippery downhill putt for birdie to square the match again.
“I thought I had her on 17, but she made the putt,” Adams said.
Lee had a chance to win the championship with a 12-foot birdie putt on 18, but left it short. (“I babied it,” Lee said afterward.) Adams then coolly drained a 5-footer for par to extend the match.
Adams split the fairway on the first hole while Lee missed right and found herself in the rough. But Adams left her approach short in the bunker fronting the green, and was met with a buried lie.
“I didn’t want to be long, Adams said. “It looked great in the air.”
Lee had a difficult angle to the green, but flushed her short iron. Midflight, Lee’s caddie, Mark Tinnin, asked, “Did you get it?” Lee answered quickly, the ball still in the air, “Yeah.”
The ball landed on the left fringe of the green, just 10 feet from the cup. Adams’ bunker shot flew the green, forcing her to settle for double bogey. She conceded the match to Lee.
“I hate that it had to end that way,” Lee said. “Lori Beth played an incredible match.”
“If I had to describe the match in one word, it would be ‘intense.'” -Alison Lee
As did Lee, who made five birdies in the match – six you count the conceded one on the 19th.
She needed every one of them.
“If I had to describe the match in one word, it would be ‘intense,’” Lee said. “From beginning to end, we both played really well and were making birdies on top of each other. It was just a great, solid championship match. It’s what a championship match should be all about – both players at the tops of their games.”
Two years after the men’s North and South Amateur Championship began in 1900, the women’s championship was born and now celebrates its 111th year. It has become one of the most sought after women’s amateur titles and routinely displays the talents of the top amateurs in the game.
North & South champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey, Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
112TH WOMEN’S NORTH & SOUTH AMATEUR
PINEHURST NO. 8
ROUND OF 16
No. 1 Casey Danielson d. No. 16 Gabriella Wahl 19 Holes
No. 8 Lori Beth Adams d. No. 9 Lauren Stephenson 2&1
No. 4 Janie Jackson d. No. 13 Ana Menendez 3&2
No. 12 Michelle Piyapattra d. No. 5 Lauren Kim 4&3
No. 2 Alison Lee d. No. 15 Ashley Holder 4&3
No. 10 Maria Torres d. No. 7 Aliea Clark 2&1
No. 14 Jillian Hollis d. No. 3 Gaby Lopez 4&2
No. 6 All McDonald d. No. 11 Regina Plasencia 5&4
No. 8 Lori Beth Adams d. No. 1 Casey Danielson 1up
No. 12 Michelle Piyapattra d. No. 4 Janie Jackson 1up
No. 2 Alison Lee d. No. 10 Maria Torres 1up
No. 6 Ally McDonald d. No. 14 Jillian Hollis 2&1
PINEHURST NO. 8
No. 8 Lori Beth Adams d. No. 12 Michelle Piyapattra 1up
No. 2 Alison Lee d. No. 6 Ally McDonald 2&1
No. 2 Alison Lee d. No. 8 Lori Beth Adams 19 Holes