BRADENTON, Fla. – Before the NCAA Women's Championship, Emma Talley had a simple request for Alabama coach Mic Potter: Show me how to hit a fairway-bunker shot.
OK, so Talley didn’t capture the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur or ascend to the top 20 in the world without having the basic fundamentals. But during that early-week practice round, Potter simply reinforced them – ball back, weight forward, and locate the bottom of your swing.
“That’s what I was doing,” Talley told Potter, but a little confirmation apparently went a long way.
Monday at the Concession Golf Club, Talley faced a 148-yard, uphill, into-the-wind bunker shot on her final hole of the day. With the individual title on the line, she flew a 7-iron over all of the green's dramatic contouring, about 6 feet from the cup. Climbing out of the bunker, she gave Potter a wide smile and a fist bump.
Thanks for the tip, Coach.
The ensuing birdie putt capped a bogey-free 69 and 3-under 285 total that was good enough for a one-shot win over world No. 1 Leona Maguire (68) of Duke and Gabby Lopez (66) of Arkansas.
“It was meant to be, for sure,” Talley said.
Ranked 12th in the country, the Alabama junior became only the fifth player to win both the Women’s Amateur and NCAA title. She’s the first individual champion in school history.
Even though she’s not a prolific winner in college – this is her first victory this season, and only the second of her career – she has plenty of championship pedigree, having already played in six majors, including four a year ago.
Those experiences helped shape her as a player, and it paid off this week at Concession, which for the better part of three rounds played like a major.
“Once we saw the difficulty of this golf course,” Potter said, “we automatically thought of Emma.”
Talley hits the ball solidly. She limits her mistakes. She avoids big numbers.
And she’s learned patience. That came in handy Monday, as she lined up her 6-foot putt that would give her a two-shot cushion over her pursuers.
Just as she stalked her putt the horn sounded to suspend play because of lightning. The crowd groaned. Potter threw up his hands. But Talley wasn’t too bothered by the delay – she had to go to the bathroom anyway.
During the 52-minute suspension, she avoided the TV coverage, attempted to stay calm and visualized the putt going in the cup.
And so when the horn sounded again, to resume play, she went through her entire routine – put her marker on her right hip, make five slow strokes while looking off into the distance (a drill to keep her head still) and then settle over the ball. She hearted the putt.
“I can’t complain at all,” she said, smiling.