After nine weeks of physical and mental challenges, it was finally down to only Pam Crikelair and Danielle Amiee to battle it out on the final episode of The Big Break III. The two rivals had butted heads throughout the series and it was only fitting that they faced each other for the title.
And although the ultimate prize of the LPGA Tour exemptions was enough to get the competitive juices flowing, their disdain for each other was only adding to the drama. It was time to settle it over 18 holes of match play.
I knew I had my work cut out for me today, noted Amiee on the much-anticipated showdown. It was not going to be an easy day.
With that, both players striped their opening drives down the middle and the match was on. Crikelair then seemed to take immediate control of the match as her approach shot nestled up to within 9 feet of the cup. She missed the birdie putt however and they moved to the second hole all square.
At the second, both hit solid tee shots, and yet again Crikelair put the pressure on Danielle with another beautiful approach, this time coming to rest just 4 feet from the hole. Amiees lag putt came up woefully short and she couldnt convert the par putt, leaving Pam an easy two putt to win the hole and move to 1-up.
When she stepped up to the plate and hit that shot and stuck it from that far back, I said to my caddie, Youve got to be kidding me! said Amiee about Crikelairs 4-iron approach.
Perhaps feeling the early pressure from Crikelairs strong iron play, Danielle preceded to block her drive right and into a water hazard guarding the right side on the third hole. She was able to scramble to save bogey but Crikelair nailed a tough 4-footer to save putt and go 2-up through 3 holes.
After a relatively calm first three holes, the fireworks between Pam and Danielle finally rose to the surface at No. 4. Both had reached the green in regulation and Pams long birdie chance stopped a good 6 feet short, leaving Danielle a 10-footer to win the hole. Her stab at birdie missed on the amateur side and she walked up and tapped it in for par.
Pam, however, knew that in match play a player has to mark his or her ball unless the putt is conceded. She informed a somewhat bewildered Amiee to go back and mark her ball where it originally came to rest, perhaps a bit of gamesmanship at play. Crikelair then rolled in her testy par putt and picked up Danielles marker, conceding her par putt to stay 2-up through four.
I was really surprised that Pam would make me replay that putt. She didnt have any consideration or feelings for me or for the situation, said Amiee on the pairs first flare-up of the day. But hey, its the rules of the game and you gotta live by them. It was my mistake and Ill accept it.
It seriously ticked her off, recalled Pam about the sticky situation. I dont know what got her more mad ' that I called her on a rule or that I knocked in that putt. But she was not happy.
At the par-5 fifth, both players chose to lay up due to the wet, soggy conditions and it paid off for Crikelair as her wedge finished within 10 feet of the pin while Danielles ball came to rest just over the green on the lip of a bunker. Trying to get up and down in hopes of halving the hole, her chip barely reached the green leaving her with a lengthy par putt.
I knew that I needed that putt. My tunnel vision came back and I was digging, said Amiee on her clutch putt. I picked my line, saddled up to it and rolled it right in. I pulled it together and knew that karma and fate were on my side and that it was leading me in the right direction.
With the momentum finally starting to swing in the other direction, Crikelairs tee shot on the par-3 sixth was snap hooked into the woods on the left side while Amiees effort found the front bunker. Lucky to even to locate her ball in the junk, Crikelair was then able to advance it out toward the green. From there, she hit another good wedge to about 17 feet.
Meanwhile, it was another rollercoaster ride for Danielle in the bunker. With thoughts possibly drifting back to her skulled sand attempt in last weeks show, she again hit it thin, sending the ball over the green and into the back bunker. Showing her steely resolve, she blasted out to within 3 feet and made the putt to win her first hole of the match and get it back to just 1-down.
After both made routine pars on the par-4 seventh, the eighth proved to be yet another tough par-3 for Crikelair. Her monster birdie putt didnt quite get over a ridge in the middle of the green and it sent her ball rolling almost as far away as was her original putt. Amiee capitalized on the mistake with an easy two-putt to get the match back to all square through 8 holes.
With the match squared for the first time since the first hole, both players settled in to a comfort zone as they halved the next six holes with pars. The difference in the match seemed to be on the greens, as neither could capitalize on their birdie putts. To this point, Crikelair had struggled on her lag putts but at the same time she was very effective with her par-saving putts in the 4 to 6 foot range.
At the par-5 13th hole, both players were in the fairway after their second shots. Amiees approach safely found the dance floor, but Crikelair wasnt as fortunate. A tough, sidehill lie caused her wedge to fly the green, setting up an almost impossible fourth shot from a gnarly, downhill lie in back of the green.
Ive gotten myself into some pretty unusual lies on the golf course, said Crikelair in somewhat of an understatement. Im new at this. I find myself every once in awhile in a position where I dont have a clue.
Her inexperience showed, as she was unable to even advance the ball onto the putting surface. Danielle lagged her birdie attempt to within inches and Pams subsequent chip to halve the hole missed the mark, giving Danielle her first lead in the match.
After missing a great chance to extend her lead at the 14th by missing a very makeable par putt, Danielle looked again to be in the drivers seat following their tee shots on the par-4 15th hole. As Danielle watched from the fairway, Crikelair escaped disaster by hitting a beautiful cut shot from behind a tree on the right side that found the green.
It was about as close to the tree as it could have been and then it cut onto the green, said an obviously delighted Crikelair. It was one of my best executed shots of the match.
She hit a miraculous shot like you couldnt believe, responded Amiee to what she was witnessing. So I knew she was feeling good.
As Amiee was in the midst of her tee shot, Crikelair ' inadvertently or not ' bent down, which Danielle caught in the corner of her eye as she swung through the ball.
Thank God I held on to my drive or that would have been out of bounds, said the visibly upset Amiee. I couldnt even believe it. For her to do that, not even waiting for my ball to be hit, was pretty rude!
I anticipated that Danielle was going to come after me today with both barrels loaded because she wants to win so badly, remarked Crikelair about the fireworks.
Each player shook off the incident quickly, but Pam was unable to take advantage of her length on the par-5 and settled for par to halve the hole. Danielle was 1-up with just two holes left to play.
Having honors off the tee at the par-3 17th, Amiee rose to the occasion and put the pressure on big time by stuffing her tee shot to 9 feet. Crikelair responded by pushing her approach just right of the green and now was faced with needing to get up and down for par and hoping that Danielle couldnt convert.
After Pam hit a lackluster chip up to 7 feet of the pin, Amiee was poised to close out the match. With just 9 feet between her and the Big Break III title, Danielle calmly stepped up and rolled home the winning putt to claim the match, and more importantly, the LPGA Tour exemptions.
My life just changed completely from that moment because I was never going to stop until I reached my goal, said Amiee. And now that Ive reached my goal Im going to let it take its own course and I can now move on to the next stage of my life.
I didnt think that I would play nearly this well today in this last challenge of 18 holes of match play, said a proud Crikelair, who became the surprise runner-up on the show. And I can guarantee you that Danielle did not expect for me to give her a little run for her money.
And Danielle, let me tell you, that girl can play.