Amber Park Wins 97th WTGA State Amateur Championship
SAN ANTONIO – Texas A&M sophomore Amber Park displayed brilliant ball-striking and unwavering nerves on her way to a 4-and-3 Championship Match victory against Prestonwood Christian Academy-Plano senior Julia Gregg in the 97th WTGA State Amateur on Friday at historic San Antonio Country Club.
(Click here for Final Results.)
As she did all week during her five match play wins, Park was the picture of composure under pressure. The Allen native never trailed in the Championship Match, for example. A nifty par save from a greenside bunker on No. 9 afforded her a 2-up lead at the turn. Gregg fought back and won the par-3 10th hole with a par, but Park pushed her lead back to 2 up with a par on the par-4 11th.
When Park stuck her tee shot on the par-3 12th to 4 feet and rolled in the birdie for yet another win, her lead swelled to 3 up. A par on the next hole got her to 4 up, and she closed Gregg out with a 3-foot par on the 15th hole.
Park, who last summer was a Semifinalist at the 96th playing of the Women’s State Amateur, said the turning point of the match was the sand save on No. 9.
“That was to win the hole,” she said. “Even though I lost No. 10, I still had enough confidence to keep me going all the way up to 4 up.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Park had low expectations coming into the week. She took a 10-day break for summer vacation and wasn’t sure where her game was as she arrived in San Antonio. Turns out her game was in fantastic shape. With timely pars and momentum-building birdies throughout the week, Park proved to be the best player in the talented field.
“It was a really great honor to win this tournament,” she said. “It means a lot to me. There were a lot of supporters out there. Lots of Aggie supporters, and I’m really thankful I got to play.”
Despite the loss in the Finals, Gregg showed poise and skill beyond her years. She won four matches before falling to Park, and after her senior year in high school she’ll head to Arkansas to begin her collegiate career. The mature Gregg was upbeat in defeat and chose to focus on the positives.
“I learned a lot about myself this week, and about my game,” Gregg said. “It was a really good week. I just didn’t putt great today.”
There were four other Championship Matches on Friday, as well. In the First Flight, Denver University junior Maggie Cowart from Austin defeated San Antonio’s Kelley Nittoli, 3 and 2.
“It was an awesome week,” Cowart said. “I played three really solid matches against great players. To win my flight really means a lot to me.”
Nittoli, a member of San Antonio Country Club who won Senior Medalist honors during Tuesday’s Qualifying Round, was gracious in defeat.
“It was fun being here at home and playing against all these great young girls,” said Nittoli, whose daughter Mary advanced to the Round of 32 in the Championship Bracket. “I would’ve liked to have won, but Maggie played great.”
Lexi Read from Bridgeport won the Second Flight with a 3-and-2 victory against Camry Tardy. In the Third Flight, Jennifer Hoyt from Horseshoe Bay won the title after she defeated Krista Newman-Manning, 3 and 2. In the Fourth Flight, Lori Daniel from Athens prevailed with a 3-and-2 victory over Lindsey Mitchell from Montgomery.
Both charismatic and demanding, San Antonio CC proved to be a worthy test during the championship. One of the five founding TGA member clubs in 1906, it’s one of the most historic clubs in Texas. The first nine holes were designed by Scottish professional Alex Findlay and opened for play in 1907. The club added a second nine in 1913, also designed by Findlay.
Not long after that, when architectural icon A.W. Tillinghast was working on nearby Oak Hills Country Club in the 1920s, San Antonio CC members brought Tillinghast over to do some fine-tuning. Other updates over the years were overseen by Joe Finger and Jay Morrish.
This year’s Women’s State Amateur was the seventh to be held at San Antonio CC, and the first since 1964. The list of past champions at the old school club includes Edna C. Lapham (1919, 1923) who was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 1993. Betty Jameson, who entered the TGHOF in 1979, won the State Amateur title at SACC in 1936.
The 6,828-yard, par-72 layout is known statewide as a true shot-maker’s delight. With majestic tree-lined fairways, well-protected green complexes and natural water features, SACC challenges even the best golfers who visit the iconic course.
The Texas Golf Association extends its sincere appreciate to the San Antonio CC members and staff for their generosity and hospitality throughout the championship week. Special thanks are due to General Manager Marvin Jones, the club’s Board of Governors, Director of Golf Jim Nittoli, Head Golf Professional Todd Grassi, Course Superintendent Rob Randel, Club Manager Sylvia Cevallos, Food & Beveridge Manager Wesley Dowdy and his assistant Amy Riggle, and his assistant Jacob Heppell, and Banquets Director Armando Galvan.
We also appreciate all the TGA volunteers for their hard work this week. Many people played a role in ensuring the 97th WTGA State Amateur was a memorable experience, and we thank them all.
For more information on this year’s championship, click here.