Saturday, August 10, 2013

Emma Talley Advances to the Final of the U.S. Women's Amateur

Another day, another round of drama for Emma Talley of Princeton, Ky., who continued her march through the U.S. Women's Amateur with a dramatic 1-up victory over 18-year-old Alison Lee of Valencia, Calif., the top high school recruit in the country last year.

After close matches in the Sweet 16 and the quarter-finals, Ms. Talley got off to a red-hot start in today's semi-final match, which began at 10:15 Eastern Time at the Country Club of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.  Ms. Talley birdied the 2d hole to take the lead, and won the 3d hole with a par.  At this point the match was delayed for 15 minutes while Ms. Lee dealt with a nosebleed.  She was fine to continue, but Ms. Talley was still playing great.  She won the 4th hole with a birdie, and won the 5th hole with another birdie.  At that point she was 4 up with 14 to play, and appeared to be well on her way to the final.

But then Ms. Talley bogeyed the 7th and 8th holes, and suddenly her lead was only two holes.  She stayed calm, however, and banged in another birdie at the 9th hole to take a 3-up lead at the turn.  After both players parred each of the next four holes, Ms. Talley had a 3-hole lead with only five holes left.

At this point, however, Ms. Talley's game -- which has been rock-steady throughout most of the week -- inexplicably deserted her.  She bogeyed the 14th hole.  She bogeyed the 15th hole.  And she bogeyed the 16th hole.  She lost all three of those holes, and suddenly the match was tied with only two holes to play.  The players moved to the 17th hole, where Ms. Talley finally made a par -- but where Ms. Lee had a birdie putt to take the lead.  She missed.  In fact, she ran the putt past the hole, and then missed her par putt coming back.  Suddenly, Ms. Talley had a 1-hole lead with only one hole to play.

So for the third round in a row, Ms. Talley found herself coming to the 18th hole under a world of pressure.  As they have done all week, she and her dad (who is caddying for her) dealt with the pressure by singing "Cruise," by Florida Georgia Line.  It's been their lucky song, and it worked again. After both players missed the green with their second shot, Ms. Talley ensure her par by hitting her chip shot to within a foot of the hole.  That put Ms. Lee in a position where she had to hole out in order to stay alive.  She couldn't do it, and Ms. Talley had a 1-up victory.

After the match, Ms. Talley sent out another blizzard of thank-you tweets to her many well-wishers in Kentucky and Alabama.  (Reports from yesterday's match indicate that there were shouts of "Roll Tide!" after Ms. Talley's key par save on the 18th hole.)  She also had this to say:

Another blessed day!  Today's play will be televised this afternoon!  So excited for tomorrow!  Prayers please! #blessed

Meanwhile, Ms. Talley's success is leading to more reports about her personality.  Golfweek reports that "Emma is subtle yet very obvious about her Christian faith, drawing crosses on her white tees and writing the word 'Jesus.'  She's been doing that for years as a way to spark conversation with her peers."  Golfweek also reports that "{t}here's no better accent in college golf than Talley's thick, Southern drawl.  Even the club's members were talking about the way she described a putt on Friday as being a 'nice-un.'"

Tomorrow, Ms. Talley will play for the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship -- the highest honor in women's amateur golf -- against Yueer Cindy Feng.  Ms. Feng and her family left Shen-Zhen, China when she was 9 years old.  That was eight years ago.  Now they live in Orlando, Fla., and the 17-year-old Ms. Feng is one of the best young golfers in the world.  Already in this tournament she has beaten two members of the USC team that won the national title just a few months ago.

This will be a 36-hole match, and it will start at 7 A.M. Central Time.  It should be another great battle. But whatever happens, Ms. Talley's run to the finals is already one of the great moments in the history of sports in Western Kentucky.


  1. By the way, one of the joys of watching Amateur golf is that you get to see great courses that aren't necessarily well-suited to hosting a PGA event. The Country Club of Charleston is a beautiful old golf course, with wide fairways that allow players to be aggressive off the tee -- but a whole series of very interesting green complexes that require the golfers to be both precise and clever with their short games. These are the same qualities -- broad fairways and tricky green complexes -- that make Augusta National one of the greatest courses in the world. The Country Club of Charleston is obviously not in that same class as Augusta National -- almost no course is. But it is a great course for match play, and I'm glad to have seen it.

  2. On the Golf Channel, they are now showing the conclusion of the Talley/Lee match. Lee has just won 14, 15, and 16 to even the match. At this point, the Golf Channel announcers were worried about how Ms. Talley would react. But while Ms. Lee's tee shot on the 17th hole landed about 40 feet from the hole, Ms. Talley whacked her shot to within about 10 feet. That put pressure on Ms. Lee, who then ran her birdie putt about 8 feet past the hole. Ms. Talley missed her birdie putt (she didn't putt well on the back nine). But Ms. Lee missed her par putt, and that turned out to be the difference in the match.

  3. Oh, wow. Ms. Talley didn't just miss her birdie putt on 17 -- she ran it about four feet past the hole. So even after Ms. Lee missed her par putt, Ms. Talley still had to make a pressure putt to win the hole. It's very impressive that she could make that putt after missing so many others on the back nine.

  4. On the 18th hole, the flag is at the front of the green, just behind a steep slope. Ms. Talley hit an almost perfect approach shot, but it was just short, hitting the slope, and rolling off the front of the green. Ms. Lee then hit almost the exact same shot.

  5. That was a great chip by Ms. Talley to save par on 18, by the way. The folks on the Golf Channel were very impressed. They also told us that when she played in the U.S. Women's Open a few years ago, Ms. Talley used Kenny Perry's caddy. I love the notion of all the Western Kentucky golfers supporting each other.

  6. In the post-match interview, Ms. Talley said that she took two weeks off at the beginning of the summer and did nothing but work on putting. That obviously paid off. She also got a question about the "small town in Kentucky" that is her home town, to which she responded with a "shout out to Princeton." She then thanked all the folks in Princeton for their support, and said that she wouldn't be where she is without them.

  7. Emma Talley's putting on the front nine was phenomenal, and then her steadying herself to play so well on Nos. 17 and 18 was, as she might put it, "awesome."

    Thirty-six holes tomorrow for the championship. Thirty-six holes!

  8. Incidentally, in Madisonville last night, my father-in-law and I were celebrating Ms. Talley's success. "Princeton has always had good golfers," he said.