Shipley ship-shape in Women's Western Final

Writing from Long Grove, Illinois

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A big-time championship isn’t usually decided on the eighth hole of the final match, but it felt that way Saturday afternoon when Sarah Shipley rolled in a 21-foot uphill birdie putt for a 3-up lead on Antonio Matte at Royal Melbourne Country Club with the Women’s Western Amateur title on the line.

Shipley, the fifth seed, hammered the putt home after third-seeded Matte had missed from about 35 feet on the par-3.

She increased the margin to 4-up by winning the ninth hole with a par, and kept the pressure on by halving the 12th and 13th with par-saving putts of 12 and 15 feet.

“There were a couple breaks I got,” said Shipley, who thought the putts were closer to 30 feet. Pressure creates odd visions at times, but she saw the center of the cup clearly all the way.

“Those were a little stressful, but I got the job done,” Shipley said. “I was feeling really confident, just trying to get out ahead early.”

The 119th championship match ended on the green of the par-5 15th hole. Shipley hit her third shot to four feet below the hole, and after Matte missed her birdie opportunity from about 12 feet, conceded the birdie to Shipley and shook her hand, setting the margin at 5 and 3.

Shipley adds her name to a glittering century-plus list of champions, including Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and Nancy Lopez. After the award ceremony, Shipley studied the trophy and the names on it carefully.

“It means a lot,” Shipley said. “It was a really tough competition. It was never easy at all. I had to grind the whole time. It tested my mental and physical game with all the heat.

“It makes me feel good about my game but also shows I can improve it more.”

Shipley hit most of the fairways and greens she looked at in the final two matches and made the requisite par-saving putts, along with the birdies. If there’s room for improvement, only a perfectionist could find it.

Entering her senior year at Kentucky, 21-year-old Shipley didn’t give Matte, a 16-year-old from Santiago, Chile, a chance, winning the first two holes with birdies to take command. From then on, the heat was on Matte even more than the heat index of 108 beating down on the players and the gallery.

“She played very well this afternoon with me,” Matte said. “She’s a nice champion.”

Shipley advanced via a 2 and 1 semifinal victory over Maria Bohorquez of Colombia, going 2-up on the 13th hole with a par and halving the next four holes, while Matte beat Brooke Tyree of Sulphur, La., 4 and 3 in the other semifinal.

“I made a few important putts in the morning,” Matte said. “This afternoon, I missed a few birdies.”

Next year’s Women’s Western Am is slated for Prestwick Country Club on the south edge of south suburban Frankfort.

Tim Cronin


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