PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. – A playoff is not the time to test yardages. This thought occurred to Emily Mahar as she lobbed 7-iron after 7-iron over the marsh fronting No. 18 green at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club. With a tailwind figuring in, Mahar kept hitting the back of the green.
“I should have hit one less, because I was long every single time, but I knew that if I was long of the pin, at least I wasn’t short in the water,” she said.
When the wind picked up at Caledonia on Tuesday, the closing hole over water factored in in a big way. Ultimately, Alabama sophomore Caroline Curtis and Mahar made three additional trips down that hole before Mahar came out on top with one final par. Curtis, who had a final-round 68, left the door open when she missed the green short and right to finish at 8 under total, a number Mahar had reached with her final-round 67.
Scores: Golfweek Caledonia Amateur
“I played a lot of good holes, I just happened to have one bad one at the wrong time,” said Curtis.
Curtis had the opportunity to win outright when she faced a 20-footer for birdie on the final hole. When she barely missed, sudden death kicked in. Curtis, too, was also questioning club choice. She found herself hitting a three-quarter 9-iron over and over again but didn’t want to move down to pitching wedge.
Emily Mahar with the Golfweek Caledonia Amateur trophy. (Golfweek photo)
All day in the final round, players were aware of the challenge the 18th would present.
“Gotta be under par heading into 18,” said Erica Shepherd, the Duke sophomore who finished third at 7 under.
Her teammate Megan Furtney, who finished T-7, had a similar thought.
“Just hit and prayed,” joked Furtney. Both players made par there Tuesday for the first time all week.
As for Mahar and Curtis, the two head home to decidedly different fall college golf seasons. Curtis and her four Alabama teammates who entered the Golfweek Caledonia Amateur were headed back to Tuscaloosa – a 10-hour drive – to ready for team qualifying. The first of six rounds will begin next weekend. The SEC will play a three-event fall season.
In the ACC, where Mahar competes with the Hokies, there won’t be team golf. The lack of playing opportunities, and ongoing uncertainty amid a pandemic, has taught Mahar to cherish the tournaments she can compete in. Until the night before the final round, Mahar didn’t even know when her next tournament would be. She signed up for the Griffin Amateur, however, on Monday night. That will take place mid-October.
It feels particularly good to win, given those limited starts. Mahar, a native Australian ranked No. 108 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, isn’t totally sure, but she thinks Tuesday marked the third time she’s been in a playoff. Earlier this summer, she lost the VSGA Stroke Play Championship to teammate Becca DeNunzio – who stood beside the 18th hole Tuesday along with another Tech teammate, Jessica Spicer – in extra holes.
Asked what this victory meant, Mahar pointed to the work she’s done on her game. Recently, that work has taken place on the putting green, and it paid off at Caledonia. Mahar says she finally has her stroke where she wants it.
“It obviously means that I’m working hard enough,” Mahar said of the win. “Sometimes I may feel like I’m taking too much time off, but it just proves that I have a good balance right now. I can take the time off to focus on school and the other things that I need to and then when it’s time to golf, it’s time to focus on golf.
“I think it just really reassure me that what I’m doing is working.”
Local product Smith Knaffle looking to go the distance at Golfweek Caledonia Amateur
Brynn Walker writes her way through a fifth year at UNC, pulling back the curtain on a COVID detour
Lauren Hartlage, Golfweek Caledonia Amateur leader, finds perks in the new normal