McCurdy Suddenly in the Spotlight

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Nine days ago, Amanda McCurdy had no idea what life in the spotlight could be like. She had never encountered a media blitz, much less endured the unwavering gazes of thousands of spectators watching her every move.
 
All those days ago, she was still a relatively obscure collegiate golfer, enjoying her summer in Arkansas and practicing sparingly for another season with the Lady Razorbacks.
 
But things changed quickly -- very quickly. On Thursday, McCurdy held a news conference to talk about a hectic week that saw her go from virtual unknown to runner-up at the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship Tournament at Erie, Pa.
 
After qualifying Aug. 10 in the 37th spot, McCurdy won four matches before being defeated 2-up by 17-year old Jane Park Rancho of Cucamonga, Calif., in the final 36-hole duel last Sunday.
 
But she didn't leave empty-handed. McCurdy will now be able to play in the 2005 U.S. Women's Open and will be exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Amateur for the next 10 years.
 
'It's a big event and I don't play against those people very much, unless I see them in college,' said McCurdy, a junior from El Dorado. 'I knew if I got to match play that anything could happen.'
 
In a field that included the likes of Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old who has made headlines this year, it was little-known McCurdy who made it to the final day. Cheered on by supporters who adopted the Arkansan as one of their own, McCurdy surged as she hit consistent drives and kept herself from making any major errors at the Kahkwa Club course.
 
'I got so much support,' she said. 'It was unbelievable. It was a pretty partisan crowd and it was hard not to win for them.'
 
And then she returned to Arkansas to acclaim in her hometown as well as Fayetteville. The attention has died down now, but McCurdy said she barely has had time to relax.
 
She said Thursday, though, that she's not complaining.
 
'On (the 15th hole), on the last day, ... I remember all the crowds, all the cameras, and all the support I got,' she said. 'I was sitting there about to read a putt and was like, 'I could do this for the rest of my life.'
 
'I wasn't nervous at all the entire week,' McCurdy continued. 'That's what made me feel like I might have a chance. It didn't affect me at all. I loved it.'
 
Arkansas women's golf assistant coach Shauna Estes said McCurdy's success would help the Lady Razorback program.
 
'We've been working so hard to gain exposure,' Estes said. 'This is kind of what we needed to kickstart that opportunity, and kudos to Amanda for doing that for us.'
 
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