Lunke Finding Balance One Year Later

By Associated PressJune 29, 2004, 4:00 pm
2004 U.S. WomenSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- Success didn't spoil Hilary Lunke, but it nearly ruined her game.
 
The biggest tournament in women's golf remains the only victory in her professional career. A year ago, Lunke coolly sank a 15-foot putt on the 90th hole of the U.S. Women's Open to win a three-way playoff and become the first qualifier to capture the trophy.

The dramatic victory catapulted Lunke's name among golf's elite. But she nearly got swallowed up in the whirlwind of attention that followed.
 
'I said 'yes' to everything that was asked of me in the first week and was completely worn out,' she said. 'I just didn't really know how to balance that with the other things that are going on in my life. I just needed a big break.'
 
The off-season gave her time to work on that balance. Slowly, Lunke said she has learned how to handle it just in time to defend a title she never expected to win.
 
Despite not having any top 10 finishes this season, Lunke, 25, said the part of her game that suffered the most -- putting -- is starting to come around.
 
'I struggled with my putting absolutely horribly,' she said. 'I feel like my game is better than it was last year and I'm hopeful to defend my title. I didn't go into the U.S. Open last year with the aim to win it. I went in hoping to have a good week.'
 
What a week it turned out to be.
 
Lunke is among the shortest hitters on the LPGA Tour, yet her game proved to be a good fit on the longest U.S. Women's Open course ever at Pumpkin Ridge, where the fairways were hard and fast.
 
She was the only one who thought she could win, and even after her dramatic birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Monday playoff, it still didn't sink in for everyone involved.
 
'I honestly thought I had won,' said Angela Stanford, who finished second along with Kelly Robbins. 'It wasn't until we started playing the end-of-the-year events and Hilary was always there with me. She was always introduced as 'U.S. Women's Open champion,' and I thought, 'OK, wait a minute. That's not me.'
 
'I know I did finish second,' Stanford said. 'But for a while there -- a good six months -- I thought I won.'
 
It didn't take Lunke that long to realize what had happened.
 
'The whole week my cell phone was clogged up with messages, night and day,' Lunke said.
 
She showed up for her next event in Vancouver to register, thinking it was just another day.
 
Not a chance.
 
'There were reporters everywhere, writing down everything about me, what I was wearing,' she recalled. 'I hadn't showered. It was pretty much nonstop press conferences.'
 
But the U.S. Open title also opened doors and provided some security for Lunke and husband and caddie, Tylar, who married 11 months before the Open. The newlyweds put her $560,000 winner's paycheck to good use. Weary of paying rent, they bought a home a week before the Open even though they knew that making the mortgage was going to be a stretch each month.
 
'It couldn't have come at a better time. It made a nice place for us to go home to,' she said.
 
Tylar Lunke will caddie for his wife through this year's British Open before returning home to Texas to attend business school.
 
Lunke defends her title this week at the historic Orchards Golf Club, a course originally made for a woman.
 
Donald Ross designed the course in 1922 for Holyoke industrialist Joseph Skinner, who had it built for his daughter, Elisabeth, a talented golfer. The course drew its name from the rows of apple trees Skinner planted on the 80-hectare (200-acre) site. It later was purchased by Mount Holyoke College and is set among the rolling hills of the quintessential New England town.
 
A friend gave Lunke a yardage book to The Orchards the day after she won the Open, and the champ liked what she saw during a recent visit to the course.
 
'It looks like an old-fashioned style golf course with small greens and emphasis on ball-striking,' she said. 'I like old style courses. My plan is to go into it hoping to have (all) of my skills and hoping they'll all show up with me.'
 
Lunke acknowledges there's more pressure on her now than ever before and she's been trying to separate herself from it by keeping her attitude light.
 
'I am the same person and the same player that I was at this time one year ago. I wasn't a person who was expected to go out and win major championships,' she said. 'But I respect the position I'm in and making sure I'm working as hard as I can to defend my title.'
 
And if she doesn't, Lunke figures she's already ahead of the game.
 
Her only goal when she joined the tour in 2002 was to win one tournament, to have one week that would always be special no matter what happened the rest of her career.
 
'And to have that week be the U.S. Women's Open and in the fashion that it happened, I would be absolutely content,' she said.
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
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    Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

    Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

    Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

    “The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

    Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

    It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

    “I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

    “What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

    Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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    1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

    Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

    Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

    Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

    Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

    The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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    Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

    The swing loaded with speed.

    The on-course charisma.

    The big shot in the big moment.

    The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

    Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

    Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

    And did he?

    “I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

    Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

    One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

    “Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

    “It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

    On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

    It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

    “He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

    The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

    “It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

    That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

    “I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

    The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

    “He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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    Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

    The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

    Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

    According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

    "My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

    Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

    Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.