(RELEASE) - Just call them the rallying Rams.
Colorado State University golfers Katrina Prendergast, 20, of Sparks, Nev., and Ellen Secor, 20, of Portland, Ore., erased a 2-down deficit with five to play to defeat Lei Ye, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, and Yachun Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei, 1 up, in the 18-hole final match on a chilly and breezy Wednesday in the San Fernando Valley.
On the 18th green, Ye had one final chance to force extra holes after Secor and Prendergast both missed their birdie chances. But her downhill 7-foot putt slid past the hole on the low side.
An emotional Secor immediately dropped to her knees. Then after congratulating their opponents, the two teammates enjoyed a long and celebratory embrace before their parents joined in.
“I don't know how to describe it,” said Secor of becoming a USGA champion. “So many people to thank, so many just thoughts running through my mind right now. I think just what keeps recurring is that hard work finally paid off.”
Added Prendergast: “Especially so many people backing us up and pulling for us really helped, especially back home. They couldn't be here, but they're still pulling for us no matter what.”
Chang, who has signed to play at the University of Arizona this fall, and Ye, who has committed to attend Stanford University in 2019, appeared in control of the see-saw match after winning holes 13 and 14 – the former on Ye’s 8-foot birdie and the latter on a 6-foot par putt by Ye – to grab a 2-up advantage.
But walking to the 15th tee, Secor sensed the small gallery pulling for the two international golfers. Secor channeled her emotions and focused even harder.
“That's how she plays,” Pendergast said of her teammate. “She gets fired up, and that really helps her, and I think it actually helped me, too. I got pumped up after I made par on 15, and then we got two good shots in on 16. We had the tee, and I think those two shots really helped put pressure on them.”
Wayward tee shots by Ye and Chang helped Secor and Prendergast win No. 15 with a par. On the par-3 16th, Secor and Prendergast both found the green, and the former drained a 12-foot birdie putt to square the match for a fifth time.
That set the stage for Prendergast, a junior who is No. 208 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™. She ripped a drive and reached the 17th green with a 7-iron from 160 yards. Her long eagle putt trickled 5 feet past the hole before she calmly made the come-backer. Secor then screamed, “Catch Ram Fever.”
Back in Fort Collins, CSU head coach Annie Thurman was excitedly following online, and immediately texted her two players following the match. Thurman knows the feeling of being a USGA champion, having claimed the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort. She also was a member of the victorious 2004 USA Curtis Cup Team. The three will likely celebrate on the way to NCAA Regionals this weekend in Austin, Texas, where Secor, a sophomore, and Prendergast, a junior, are competing as individuals.
The final began at 1 p.m. with temperatures hovering in the upper-50s and winds gusting to as much as 14 mph. Neither team enjoyed more than a 1-up lead on the outward nine, but Secor, No. 489 in the WAGR, delivered the best shot, lacing a 5-iron tee shot on the 193-yard eighth hole to within 18 inches. The tap-in birdie squared the match. Prendergast followed by making a 10-foot birdie on the ninth hole for a 1-up advantage at the turn.
A bogey on No. 10 squared the match before Ye and Le pulled ahead by two holes on Nos. 13 and 14.
In the semifinals earlier on Wednesday, Secor and Predergast shot the equivalent of 5 under par over 16 holes in eliminating reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., and her future Duke University teammate Megan Furtney, 17, of Chicago, Ill., 3 and 2.
Ye, No. 151 in the WAGR, and Chang, No. 136 in the WAGR, ousted 2015 Drive, Chip and Pull national finalist Leila Dizon, 18, of Los Angeles, Calif., and Irene Kim, 17, of La Palma, Calif., 4 and 3. The two registered six birdies against no bogeys – with the usual match-play concessions – over 15 holes.
What Champions Receive:
The winners each receive a gold medal and custody of the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Trophy for one year. They are also exempt from qualifying for the next 10 championships, provided the side remains intact. Their names will also be enscribed on a plaque recognizing all of the 2018 USGA champions that will reside in the Hall of Champions inside the USGA Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J.