Sodus Point, N.Y. – Rene Sobolewski captured the 81st Women’s Amateur Championship in wire-to-wire fashion at Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club Thursday on the strength of a three-day total of 224. Sobolewski, who plays out of Transit Valley Country Club, became the first Women’s Amateur Champion from the Buffalo area since 1978 when Cindy Kessler Miller accomplished the feat.
The Vanderbilt University bound Sobolewski fended off three-time Women’s Amateur Champion and defending Mid-Amateur winner Christy Schultz by three strokes. “It definitely means a lot, especially beating Christy which is a huge accomplishment itself,” says Sobolewski.
Schultz was certainly in familiar territory Thursday as she was staring down her fourth NYSGA Women’s Amateur Championship. But, Sobolewski was no stranger to big matches against Schultz as the two squared off in the final Women’s Amateur Championship conducted in match play two years ago.
A couple years ago, I don’t think I would have handled it so well,” says Sobolewski. “In 2008, Christy beat me and I completely lost it in my final match. So I guess it shows my maturity and how I’ve grown from that tournament so I think I’ll definitely be able to build off this one.”
More specifically, Sobolewski learned how to make clutch shots down the stretch. “I learned how to hold it together and make some pars,” says Sobolewski. “I put myself in some bad positions on those last couple holes so I tried to make some good shots. Obviously, it doesn’t happen every time like when I made a bad double which was a mental mistake. But I definitely got it back making that putt on 17, and then making par on 18.”
Despite the final outcome, the battle between Sobolewski and Schultz seemed reminiscent of the 2008 final match at Wayne Hills, featuring momentum swings back-and-forth.
“Today was basically match play so I didn’t really worry about scores,” says Sobolewski. “It was more keeping myself in line with Christy and just trying to make pars out there because I knew that’s what I had to do. I didn’t have to make birdies. But to be honest, I’d never been in the lead of a bigger tournament, especially to have the lead all three rounds. I didn’t know how I would react the second day, but I held it together pretty good.”
The lead never got any closer than two due in large part to the steady play by Sobolewski. She carded 13 pars and only made one mistake which produced a two-shot swing on the par-3 16th. Sobolewski landed her tee-shot right of the hole and had a terrible lie from the rough. She flubbed her second shot about a foot and had an ever worse lie from that spot. Luckily, she reached the green and two-putted from there for a double. Schultz missed a long birdie attempt from the right fringe but made par to cut the lead from four shots down to two.
However, with a two-shot lead and two holes to play, Sobolewski proved she is a different player from two years ago. She had an identical lie to Schultz in front of the greenside bunker at No. 17 and landed a brilliant chip to four feet above the hole on her third shot. Schultz put the pressure on by knocking down a tough 15-footer from the middle of the green to save par. Sobolewski answered by converting par on a putt that was struck so gently it looked like it would stop before it reached the hole, but the ball slowly trickled into the cup.
The real momentum shift came at the 15th hole, which only saw five pars the entire day. Schultz was coming off a bogey at No. 14 which increased Sobolewski’s advantage to three shots. Therefore, Schultz pulled driver on the 386-yard par-4 and perfectly placed her tee shot over the hill in the only flat landing area before the creek. Meanwhile, Sobolewski played it a little safer and had a downhill lie for her second shot. From there, Sobolewski carried the creek but laid up short of the right greenside bunker, while Schultz hit the shot of the day on No. 15 and reached the green in two with an approach that stuck within 15 feet for a birdie opportunity. Since Sobolewski was farther out, she was next to hit and spun a wedge within a foot, ensuring par and preventing any two-shot swing. Schultz was more devastated when she ended running her birdie putt past the hole and missed the par try coming back for a three-putt bogey. It appeared Schultz’s aggressive play would result in picking up at least one shot, but actually wound up increasing Sobolewski’s grasp on the lead to four shots.
Schultz’s second runner-up performance in the last two years may have been more impressive this year considering she had a baby only a few months ago. In fact, Schultz’s 79 in the opening round was her first competitive round of golf since she had her son, William Christopher Schultz. “The first round was my big screw up this week,” says Schultz. “I didn’t really put myself in contention right off the bat so I’m a little disappointed. But it was my third 18-hole round of the year so I was just starting to get the feel back with my short game.”
It didn’t take the Purdue University graduate long to return to form as she carded 73-75 in the subsequent rounds for a 54-hole total of 227. “Overall, I’m pretty happy with how I played this week, all things considered,” says Schultz.
Schultz brought her aggressive play from Wednesday’s second round to challenge Sobolewski. “I just tried to stay aggressive and keep putting the pressure on her because I’ve played in this tournament so many times I know that if you just hang around and hit some good shots you can put the pressure on,” says Schultz. “She played great though. I’m really happy for her. She played awesome.”
The Rochester resident defended her Mid-Amateur title, which showcased its inaugural playing last season. Schultz beat out fellow New York State Team member Teresa Cleland, of Bellevue Country Club, by four shots.
Cleland, who was last year’s state senior winner, walked away with second-place honors in the Mid-Amateur flight for the second straight year. Morehead State sophomore Marisa Kamelgarn garnered third-place accolades with a 14-over-par 230. Schultz wasn’t the only Brook-Lea CC member in the mix. 15-year-old Jenna Hoecker consistently improved throughout the championship on rounds of 80-78-75 for a fifth-place finish.
By Kevin Solan
NYSGA Communications Intern