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It's not easy to be a Californian with the name Patty Hurst. But with her 37th-hole match play victory in last week's U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, Hurst the golfer may finally have made a name for herself.
The 21-year-old Hurst, from San Leandro, Calif., carried some bulky emotional baggage into the tournament. First, she had lost in the opening round of last year's Amateur after being the medalist in the qualifying rounds. And second, despite winning the 1989 NCAA championship, she was relegated to third alternate on the U.S. Curtis Cup team, which two weeks ago beat a team from Great Britain and Ireland. Well, all 16 Curtis Cup players entered last week's Amateur, and look who won the hardware.
"This was the biggest win of my career for lots of reasons," said Hurst, who is not one to gloat. She even took time during the week to marvel at the accomplishments of her final opponent, Davis, who made one of the most unlikely runs in the 95-year history of the tournament. Before the Amateur the biggest tournament final Davis had ever played in was the Pacific Northwest Ladies Amateur in 1988. In her two previous U.S. Amateurs she hadn't survived the qualifying rounds, and she didn't even merit a full golf scholarship at Stanford until last spring. When she was asked what her chances were going into the Amateur, the Bainbridge Island, Wash., native answered, "About as good as the Seattle Mariners' winning the World Series."
Davis, 20, was this year's Cinderella, although she began referring to herself as the Bag Lady when she was so dubbed in a headline in Friday's Morris County ( N.J.) Daily Record. She earned the nickname because she prefers to carry her own bag. She sees no need for a caddie, and therefore she happily toted her own clubs during medal play, accepting a caddie during match play only as a matter of form. Actually, she split the chores among three caddies—Catherine Mack, a fellow competitor who failed to qualify for match play; Mike Myers, a friend from Stanford who had never been on a golf course before; and Brandon Golm, the 15-year son of the family in whose house she was staying. Davis read her own putts.
Davis's laid-back attitude was a breath of fresh air throughout the muggy week. She exchanged jokes with her caddies, wore Batman socks in the semifinals on Saturday and fretted over whether she could change her original flight reservations, which had her leaving after the quarterfinals. "I'm as astonished as anybody that I'm still here," Davis said, almost daily. "I've played most of my golf on a course with no driving range, no back nine and no irrigation system. The only thing that got watered were the greens, so I putted a lot."
In the early rounds of the Amateur, Davis's heritage with the putter proved especially helpful when she stood over par putts. She won her first four matches with just three birdies; Hurst had 16. Hurst needed all of them to survive one of the toughest draws of the tournament, one that included a one-up win in the fourth round over the 17-year-old defending champion, Vicki Goetze, the tournament favorite and medalist. In the semifinals, Hurst dispatched French Ladies champion Delphine Bourson, while Davis defeated the local heroine, Karen Noble, who lives in Brookside, a solid eight-iron from Canoe Brook. "It was Stephanie versus New Jersey out there," Davis said.
That set up Sunday's 36-hole final: the Bag Lady versus the lady everybody thought had it in the bag. The two dueled to a standoff for the first 33 holes. Then on the the 34th, the par-3 16th, Davis's tee shot caromed off a tree limb, causing her to go one down with two holes to play. She evened the match again on the 17th with a five-foot birdie putt, her only birdie of the day. The winner was finally decided on the first extra hole, when Davis pushed her second shot into the deep rough, chipped her third shot 20 feet past the cup and missed her putt for par. Hurst, meanwhile, hit her approach to within eight feet of the pin, then lagged her third shot an inch from the hole. At that point, Davis conceded.
"It was incredibly nerve-racking out there," Hurst said afterward. "But it was still a fun match, because playing with Stephanie really keeps you loose."
Davis's kid-in-a-candy-store grin loosened up everybody, even Golm, her ordinarily tight-lipped teenage caddie. When Davis won her semifinal match, Golm squealed, "I'm going to Disney World!"