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British invasion: Bennett wins Sally

By SEAN MARTIN
Assistant Editor

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Liz Bennett “didn't know anything” about the South Atlantic Ladies Amateur before arriving on Florida’s Atlantic coast. On Saturday, she scrambled her way to one of the most prestigious titles in women’s amateur golf.

The Englishwoman shot a final-round 72 at Oceanside Country Club to finish at 1-under 287 and win “The Sally” by two shots over Florida freshman Jessica Yadloczky, who was runner-up for the second consecutive year. The victory will help Bennett as she tries to earn a spot in another important competition later this year in another seaside town.

Bennett, the 2006 English Stroke Play champion, is a member of the 16-woman practice squad for this year’s Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team. Six squad members made the trip to Florida as prepartion for the Cup, which will be held May 30-June 1 at The Old Course at St. Andrews.

Bennett, who started the final round with a two-shot lead, opened the day by holing a 6-foot par putt. She hit just 12 greens in regulation Saturday, but got up-and-down four times in five opportunities.

“I’m pleased that I held it together going into the day with the lead,” Bennett said. “Even with bad ballstriking I still managed to get it around, which is a good feeling.”

She made three par putts of at least 5 feet in the first five holes, as well as a 15-footer for birdie on No. 3. That stroke maintained Bennett’s two-shot lead over two-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Bolger, who was playing with hopes of making the U.S. Curtis Cup team.

Bolger made a second consecutive birdie on No. 4 to pull within a shot, but then found trouble. She had to take penalties for a lost ball and an unplayable lie on two of the next three holes after hitting shots into palm trees. Despite making four birdies, she shot 74 to finish fourth at 3 over.

Bennett didn’t make a bogey until the par-5 12th, where a botched lay-up found the water. Her only other miscue came on the par-3 16th, when she failed to save par from behind the green.

Yadloczky pumped her fist after hitting 7-iron to 3 feet on the same hole. She sank the birdie putt to pull within a shot with two holes to go, but Bennett made par on the final two holes to hold off Yadloczky, who made bogey on No. 18 after almost holing her chip shot to force a playoff.

Earlier in the round, Yadloczky burned the edge on two eagle attempts – a 25-foot putt on the par-5 7th and a bump-and-run on No. 12 – and watched several birdie putts lip out.

“I was giving myself close calls,” said Yadloczky, No. 32 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “She had a great tournament and made a lot of crucial putts, but I gave her a run for her money.”

Bennett graduated with an economics degree from Iowa in May 2005 after an undistinguished college career. She was never strongly considered for the 2006 Curtis Cup, winning the English Stroke Play while GB&I’s best were at Bandon Dunes.

But Bennett has “put in the difficult hours” to give herself a shot at being on this year's team, including a drastic change to her putting stroke. Bennett is so hunched over at address that she grips well down on her Ping Redwood putter, which is only 31 1/2 inches long.

She raised her fist above her head several times Sunday after holing especially crucial putts, like an 8-footer for par on No. 13 and a 6-foot putt that completed a sand save on No. 15.

Bolger would like to have a rematch with Bennett at St. Andrews. Despite her two Mid-Am titles, Bolger came to the Orange Blossom Circuit in need of a couple strong showings.

She closed 71-69 to finish T-7 at last week’s Harder Hall Invitational before finishing fourth this week. A USGA committee is scheduled to meet next week to determine the U.S. Curtis Cup team.

Bennett only helped her chances with Sunday’s victory.

“The Curtis Cup is at St. Andrews, which is nothing like (Oceanside),” she said. “But it’s a competition, and they wanted us to come play. If you win, it can’t do any harm.”

• • •

Sean Martin is a Golfweek assistant editor. To reach him e-mail smartin@golfweek.com.

Final scores with relation to par from the South Atlantic Ladies Amateur (“The Sally”), played Jan. 9-12 at the par-72 Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla.:

1. Liz Bennett 73-72-70-72–287

-1 2. Jessica Yadloczky 69-76-72-72–289
+ 1 3. Michele Thompson 73-76-69-72–290
+ 2 4. Meghan Bolger 76-69-72-74–291
+ 3 5. Alexandra Bodemann 71-73-74-74–292
+ 4 6. Kristina Wong 72-74-72-75–293
+ 5 7. Lindy Duncan 71-76-72-75–294
+ 6 7. Rachel Jennings 71-70-78-75–294
+ 6 7. Candace Schepperle 72-80-73-69–294
+ 6 10. Virginia Derby Grimes 71-73-75-76–295
+ 7 11. Katie Trotter 78-70-73-75–296
+ 8 12. Kathy Hartwiger 73-72-80-73–298
+ 10 13. Tiffany Chudy 71-74-74-80–299
+ 11 14. Kristy McLaughlin 74-76-72-78–300
+ 12 15. Tara Allen 76-74-74-78–302
+ 14 15. Rachel Carpenter 72-74-74-82–302
+ 14 17. Carlie Yadloczky 78-77-78-70–303
+ 15 18. Naomi Edwards 76-73-74-81–304
+ 16 19. Kerry Smith 77-81-76-71–305
+ 17 19. Sahra Hassan 73-78-74-80–305
+ 17 21. Courtney Harter 79-76-80-71–306
+ 18 22. Kelly Calkin 76-78-77-77–308
+ 20 23. Jenny Schneider 77-78-75-82–312
+ 24 24. Rachel Connor 73-76-85-79–313
+ 25 25. Rachel Cassidy 82-76-83-73–314
+ 26 25. Paige Bromen 81-84-78-71–314
+ 26 27. Carol Semple Thompson 80-76-77-82–315
+ 27 28. Mayule Tomimbang 78-83-79-76–316
+ 28 28. Kristen Wetzel 80-77-79-80–316
+ 28 30. Tonya Choate 77-83-84-73–317
+ 29 31. Stephanie Farrar 77-82-80-80–319
+ 31 31. Laura Murray 84-79-77-79–319
+ 31 31. Taffy Brower 81-82-77-79–319
+ 31 34. Maggie Weder 84-73-85-78–320
+ 32 34. Meredith Taylor 84-78-79-79–320
+ 32 34. Holly Calvert 82-80-82-76–320
+ 32 37. Therese Quinn 83-79-81-78–321
+ 33 38. Carly Truitt 85-82-77-79–323
+ 35 39. Kerri Connolly 82-81-81-81–325
+ 37 40. Sarah Carty 83-78-77-88–326
+ 38 40. Marie-Pierre Bernier 85-82-80-79–326
+ 38 42. Natalie Easterly 81-83-81-82–327
+ 39 43. Janice Roberts Wilson 78-84-81-86–329
+ 41 43. Lauren Blount 85-82-78-84–329
+ 41 45. Teri de Luis 84-85-80-83–332
+ 44 45. Janie Carpenter 80-81-87-84–332
+ 44 47. Tama Caldabaugh 81-83-83-86–333
+ 45 48. Ginny Zanca 87-79-78-90–334
+ 46 49. Meg Hughes 78-87-90-81–336
+ 48 49. Erin Fitzpatrick 82-82-86-86–336
+ 48 49. Angel Sze 83-80-92-81–336
+ 48 49. Suzanne Kenkel 86-85-83-82–336
+ 48 53. Barbara Pagana 80-93-84-81–338
+ 50 54. Andrea Buccilla 90-87-84-78–339
+ 51 55. Melanie Granville 84-81-86-89–340
+ 52 56. Regine H. Parker 84-87-85-85–341
+ 53 57. Dianne Yelovich 88-88-77-89–342
+ 54 58. Kayla DeSuza 87-90-79-87–343
+ 55 58. Debbie Mook Sang 87-87-82-87–343
+ 55 60. Emily Brand 87-87-86-84–344
+ 56 61. Clate Aydlett 87-87-89-82–345
+ 57 61. Maureen Sheehan 84-82-89-90–345
+ 57 63. Mayura Skowronski 87-90-87-82–346
+ 58 64. Carol Turnage 88-88-85-86–347
+ 59 65. May Jacques 87-87-82-93–349
+ 61 66. Joan Roberts 95-86-86-83–350
+ 62 67. Bronwyne Bruwer 82-95-87-87–351
+ 63 67. Penny Lester 89-86-91-85–351
+ 63 69. Kerry Johnson 96-90-79-87–352
+ 64 69. Debe Schwedler 92-86-87-87–352
+ 64 71. Caria Wasienko 90-90-82-91–353
+ 65 72. Mary Kozak 87-90-87-91–355
+ 67 72. Deb Mielke 84-88-90-93–355
+ 67 74. Jan DeMarco 90-90-86-90–356
+ 68 75. Denise Callahan 82-98-98-82–360
+ 72 76. Elizabeth Breza 90-89-97-85–361
+ 73 77. Carol Ann Kulzer 92-87-94-89–362
+ 74 78. Stephanie Crolla 97-94-87-85–363
+ 75 79. Marci Likens 84-93-94-93–364
+ 76 79. Karen L. Smith 88-91-93-92–364
+ 76 79. Sue Joy-Sabota 94-94-88-88–364
+ 76 82. Jean Mowry 92-87-100-88–367
+ 79 83. Marcella Rose 91-103-93-88–375
+ 87 84. Nancy Williams 95-92-96-94–377
+ 89 85. Diane Masterson 98-91-91-98–378
+ 90 86. Jo Glenn 91-96-97-103–387
+ 99

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