ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Blue Devils made their run, and though the four-peat eluded them, Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst made history of her own by capturing her third consecutive National Player of the Year award.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “It was my goal. I did it two years in a row and no one’s done it three, probably because everyone goes pro. But it was my goal to do it three times in a row….It was great that I was able to capitalize on it.”
Nevertheless, it looked like Blumenherst might have lost to Arkansas’ Stacy Lewis early on. The Blue Devil struggled early, finishing 1-over after her front nine, including a double bogey on her ninth hole, number 18, that put her four strokes back of Lewis heading into the turn.
But from then on, Blumenherst caught fire.
Starting with a birdie on hole one, she put together a ridiculous final stretch that included two more birdies and an eagle on the second-to-last hole. On that hole, she hit a gap wedge 103 yards and the ball rolled back about eight feet into the hole. The eagle on her scorecard put her at 4-under for the day.
“That double [bogey] is most probably the best thing that happened,” Blumenherst said. “It got me angry and I was just ready to tear up the backside….On number one, I knew I was going to make birdie before I even teed up.”
The back nine vaulted Blumenherst from a tie for fourteenth to a tie for fifth, extending her streak of top-10 finishes to 32. She also finished within the top-5 in every tournament this season and her score average of 71.0 ties the Duke record she set last year.
Although Blumenherst was understandably disappointed with the team result, her excitement over her third straight player of the year crown helped to temper the letdown. And the three-time champion is already looking ahead so she can make it four in a row next year.
“It’s great that I set one record but I’m going to try to make it really hard to beat.”
–by Sabreena Merchant