HOT SPRINGS — Sarah Wright turned a two-shot deficit to begin the final round of the Arkansas State Golf Association Women’s Amateur into a six-stroke lead at the turn, then held off Nora Phillips to win the championship Friday at Hot Springs Country Club.
Wright, 21, runner-up to Peyton Weaver in last year’s championship, erased Phillips’ lead three holes into the round. With Phillips struggling with her putter, Wright reeled off three birdies in five holes to finish the front nine with a 3-under 33 to lead by six.
Three consecutive bogeys early in the back nine cut Wright’s advantage in half. The lead shrank to two when Phillips birdied the par-4 16th, but Wright sealed the victory with a two-putt par from 30 feet on the par-5 18th.
Phillips had a chance to possibly tie Wright but missed a 4-footer for birdie on 18 before Wright made a knee-knocking 3-footer for par to keep the final margin at two.
“I was there thinking on the back nine, ‘Let’s get off the bogey train, keep it simple, hit fairways and greens, and it will be fine,’ ” said Wright, a senior at Henderson State University. “I was thinking I was going to have to make birdie to win it and left myself a hard 3-footer for par. After she missed, I knew if I made that putt, I was probably going be OK.”
Wright’s 1-over 73 was the low round of the tournament. She started the tournament with a 10-over 82 on Wednesday before getting into the final group with Phillips and Henderson State teammate Taylor Reed after a 4-over 76 on Thursday.
“After finishing runner-up last year, my mindset going in was to be aggressive and go out and win it,” Wright said. “I came out the first day a little too aggressive. Even after bogeying number one today, I knew I had plenty of holes left and that there was no need to press.”
Phillips, 45, trailed by one shot after the first round before a 5-over 77 on Thursday put her in front of Wright and Reed by two strokes. A member of Hot Springs Country Club, Phillips took it as a challenge to take down two women less than half her age.
“I worked really hard these whole three days just doing what I could to be in contention, so I’m pretty happy,” said Phillips, who won the ASGA Women’s Eclectic tournament May 23 at Centennial Valley Country Club in Conway. “I just couldn’t make a putt on the front. It seemed like I three-putted every hole the first nine. My putting just did not help me.”
Weaver, who was tied for the lead (78) with Gracen Blount after the first round, shot an 81 on Thursday before shooting another 6-over 78 on Friday to finish third (237), six strokes behind Wright. Weaver, of Benton, defeated Wright by four strokes for last year’s championship at Big Creek Golf and Country Club in Mountain Home.
Great American Conference Freshman of the Year Taylor Loeb of Maumelle was seven strokes behind her teammate, Wright, in fourth, while 2016 ASGA Hall of Fame inductee Julie Oxendine of Dover finished nine strokes (240) behind the champion in fifth.
Reed slumped to an 11-over 83 Friday. Her 25-over 241 left her in sixth place, followed by Hot Springs’ Blount (245) and Sherwood’s Felisha Lee (275).
Pat Elliott of Hot Springs won the first flight of the senior division with a 22-over 238. She held off 2016 champion and senior player of the year Carrie Hall of Bismarck by eight strokes.
Camden’s Linda Carter (259) won the senior division’s second flight with a one-stroke victory over Mattie Seward of Searcy.
Sports on 06/10/2017