It doesn’t matter what the charts show. For University of Alabama women’s golf fans, it was “high tide” at exactly 4:22 p.m. Sunday at the Country Club of Charleston. That’s when Crimson Tide sophomore Emma Talley claimed the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship after Yueer Cindy Feng of China missed a five-foot par putt on the 35th hole of a scheduled 36-hole championship.
Talley was up by three holes after playing 22, but Feng did not fold. Feng won three holes in a row (Nos. 5, 6 and 7 of the second round) with two birdies and a par to square the match after 25 holes. Feng held off Talley for the next two holes, but Talley made a curling 12-foot birdie try on the 26th (No. 10) to take a lead she would not relinquish.
Talley went 2-up after Feng missed a three-foot par putt on the 30th hole (No. 12) but lost the next hole after making bogey. Talley and Feng parred the next three holes and Talley closed the match with her par on the 35th (No. 17) hole.
“At the time, I was just thinking I need a par. Cindy’s a great player. I thought she would make the putt even though it was pretty long. I didn’t even know the match was going to end,” Talley said.
“I can’t tell you how I felt. It’s amazing to know I just won the biggest amateur tournament in the world. It’s a dream come true.”
Talley enjoyed overwhelming support from the crowd estimated at 200, many of them Southeastern Conference fans. Among the supporters was her college coach Mic Potter and his wife Kim who made the trip from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and teammate Stephanie Meadow who drove up from Hilton Head for the final after making a sign she carried throughout the day that said “Go Emma Roll Tide.”
Talley’s father Dan, an optometrist, caddied for her and managed to keep her on an even keel as together they sang songs throughout the match.
“It was great having my dad on the bag. We always have a lot of fun together. I really appreciate it. He was great to me this week,” Talley said.
Talley said neither golfer got off to a good start and they looked at each other after the first 10 holes and wondered what was going on.
“The first part was real rough. I don’t know if it was nerves or adrenaline,” Talley said. “We both kicked in gear about the same time, and from then on it was a match. She would hit some great shots, and then I would hit some great shots. She’s a great player.”
Talley said that when Feng rallied from a 3-hole deficit to square the match that it didn’t bother her because Feng was making birdies.
“I really didn’t do much wrong to lose that lead,” Talley said. “The goal is to play your game and if you get beat, she deserves to win. I just had to keep playing my game. I made two birdies on her at the end of the first round, now it was her turn.”
The 17-year-old Feng, who will head to the first stage of the LPGA qualifying tournament in a couple of weeks, said she was proud to have made it to the final.
“I wasn’t ready right off the bat. Luckily, she wasn’t either,” said Feng, who plays out of Orlando. “The last (18 holes) was where I felt like most of the opportunities slipped away. I had a good run at it, but it just didn’t continue. This morning when she wasn’t playing well, I played worse. I was close, but it was not enough.”