“I’m very competitive,” says McDonald, who finished 10th in the NCAA Championship this year. “Ask girls on my team, ask anyone who knows me, I am super competitive. I always, always want to win, no matter what it is.”
Now she’s in position to win the 111th North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst Resort. And perhaps as an added bonus for McDonald, now the tournament shifts not only to famed Pinehurst No. 2, host of the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, it goes from stroke play to match play.
“I’ve always enjoyed match play,” McDonald said. “It’s just the different competitiveness of it. In stroke play, you’re really just playing against the golf course. Now you’re going to be battling against the other person. Match play’s always been good for me because I can be more aggressive.”
VILLAGE OF Pinehurst, N.C. – Katherine Perry couldn’t get to the scorer’s table fast enough.
Arriving a few steps ahead of her playing partners, Perry sat down, wiped the July perspiration from her brow and pushed her North Carolina Tar Heels cap up her forehead. The smile creasing her lips goes without saying.
“I had a good day,” said Perry, in breathless appreciation.
N.C. State’s Caroline Ellington, finally reaching her spot at the table, seconded Perry’s emotion.
“Yeah, no kidding,” Ellington deadpanned, breaking into a wide smile as the two players laughed.
Playing in her fourth North & South Women’s Amateur, Perry finally put together the round she has desperately been seeking both at North Carolina and in the prestigious amateur championship, carding the low round of the day with a 5-under 67 that moved her all the way to a tie for second following the second round of stroke play Wednesday.
Reigning NCAA Champion Annie Park came into the 111th North & South Women’s Amateur off one of the best debut seasons in the history of collegiate golf, so it wasn’t surprising she continued her incredible play, cruising to a 5-under 67 to take two-shot lead following the first round of the historic amateur tournament on Tuesday.
But, of course, that was to be expected. After all, Park won four times in her freshman season while also leading Southern Cal to the team NCAA Championship.
So, no, the 67 and the lead were not surprising in the least.
The surprises came when Park commented on her round.
“Honestly, I don’t really know how I did it,” Park said after dicing up the 6,422-yard, par-72 Pinehurst No. 4 with an eagle, four birdies and a bogey. “I struggled.”
That’s hard to believe – until you look at all Park has accomplished in golf over the last few months.
The 18-year-old from Levittown, N.Y., had as dominant of a debut as possible in collegiate golf as a freshman, leading top-ranked USC to its third NCAA team title while winning four individual events en route to 2013 WGCA and Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year honors.
(*NOTE: It’s loaded EVERY year. SEVEN of the last 10 champions are on the LPGA Tour, including Yani Tseng, who beat Morgan Pressel (the 2004 champion) in 2005 before going on to win six LPGA majors – and counting. Even just last season, Moriya Jutanugarn advanced into match play before running into Ernst. All Mo has done since? Won the LPGA qualifying tournament and so far has banked more than $203,000 in her rookie season. So, yeah, maybe you’ll want to come out and watch this week.)
The tournament begins on Tuesday with three rounds of stroke play on Pinehurst No. 4. The championship then shifts to Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst No. 2, the host of back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014, as the Top 16 players vie for the championship in match play.
Here’s a look at just a few of the contenders in this year’s championship:
Will Grimmer, 16, of Cincinnati, came into the North & South Junior Championship having won the Ohio Junior Amateur in late June.
On July 10, 2013, he made history at Pinehurst.
Grimmer made 1 bogey – and 10 birdies and an eagle – to fire the only known recorded 59 at Pinehurst, hitting golf’s magic number on the par-70, 6,089-yard Pinehurst No. 1 during the second round of the 35th North and South Junior Championship.
He opened his day with a pedestrian 1 under through five holes, but caught fire from there, finishing his front 9 with three birdies and an eagle on the par-4 17th, holing a pitch from 90 yards.
Grimmer proceeded to shoot 29 on the front side – his back 9 after starting on 10 – sinking a 20-foot downhill putt to record the 59, the new course record at Pinehurst No. 1.
Unbelievably, Grimmer isn’t even leading the tournament. He’s currently third after a 3-over 74 in the first round of Pinehurst No. 6. He trails Gastonia’s Will Blalock by two strokes. The tournament concludes on Pinehurst No. 5 on Thursday.
Here are a few links to mainstream media stories about Grimmer’s special round:
Gastonia’s Will Blalock wins the 35th North & South Junior Boys Championship.
WILL BLALOCK WINS 35TH NORTH & SOUTH JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
Pinehurst’s Mr. 59, Will Grimmer, fires final-round 71 to finish 4th
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Will Blalock wasn’t about to be threatened by playing in the final group as Will Grimmer, who a day earlier had set a Pinehurst record with a 59 on Pinehurst No. 1.
No, not Will Blalock. Not the Gastonia native whose former teacher, Mike Taylor, won the fourth North & South Junior Championship in 1982.
No, not Will Blalock. Not the N.C. State recruit who finished second in the 2011 North & South Junior, and who came back with an 11th-place finish last year.
No, not Will Blalock. Not the 17-year-old who on Thursday capped his North & South Junior career without – get this – ever shooting a round over par in the prestigious junior championship. Eight rounds, all par or better.
And so it seems fitting that Will Blalock, even with a player throwing a 59 at him, would find some way to not only win the 35th North & South Junior Championship, but do it with a three-day total of 15-under-par 198, four shots better than runner-up Cole Berman, five shots better than defending champion Kendrick Vinar – and six shots better than Grimmer, who turned the golf world upside down Wednesday when news spread of his 59.
“I’m the guy who beat the guy who shot 59,” Blalock said, clutching the iconic Putter Boy trophy to his chest. “Will played great – I mean, he shot 59 – but he still wasn’t leading, and he never had the lead. It is kind of funny.”
Blalock, who did not have a 3-putt all week and had just two bogeys total for the week, opened his championship with an 8-under 63 on Pinehurst No. 6, a round consisting of eight birdies and 10 pars. He made his two bogeys on No. 1 on Wednesday – the course Grimmer shot 59 — but still managed a 2-under 68, taking a two-shot lead into the final round. He led Grimmer by three through 36 holes as the tournament shifted to Pinehurst No. 5.
And while Grimmer was swept through a whirlwind of media attention over the next 24 hours, the 16-year-old from Cincinnati still managed to card a 1-under 71 to finish at 9-under 204. He was no match for Blalock, who closed with a 5-under 67 for the remarkable three-day total.
“I didn’t think about (the 59),” Blalock said. “I was just playing my own game.”
So, too, was Grimmer – as best he could.
“You know, I didn’t shoot 78 or 76,” he said. “I came back with a round under par on a tight golf course with tough pins at Pinehurst. I played really well and don’t feel like I really made a lot of mistakes. Will just played phenomenally.”
Still, it was a day Grimmer will never forget.
“I’ve never gotten more texts, e-mails and Facebook messages in my life,” he quipped. “And then I click on The Golf Channel (Wednesday) night and I see the interview I did with (Pinehurst Resort). I couldn’t believe that. I was like, “Oh my gosh. That’s me on TV.’
“It’s still cool to have gotten the attention of shooting 59. No one can ever take that away from me.”
Concord’s Anna Redding wins the 35th North & South Junior Girls Championship.
Concord’s Anna Redding, 16, won the 35th North & South Junior Girls Championship, finishing as the lone player under par with a 1-under 212 following a third-round 73 on Pinehurst No. 1.
“This is the best win I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it right now.”
Kayla Katterhenry and Rei Nakatani were second with 1-over 214.