Lori Warren Wins Women's State Amateur Championship 4&2
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—Though she grew up the daughter of a teaching professional and tagged along with her older brother as he played the game, Lorie Warren was slow to catch the golf bug.
Warren tried all the usual sports, and though her father Johnny, who operates a teaching academy at Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tenn., would have dearly loved for her to pick up golf at an early age, he was adamant about not pushing her into it.
Suffice it to say the day Lorie announced that, as a ninth grader, she was finally going to take up golf was a great one in the Warren household.
“You could say I was pumped,” Johnny said.
He was excited because, knowing his daughter, he realized this wouldn’t be a half-hearted dalliance with the game.
“Once I decided to play golf, I was going to give it my all,” Lorie Warren said. “I wanted to be the best player in the state.”
A little more than six years later, Warren’s goal has been met. After winning the Tennessee Women’s Amateur with a 4 and 2 victory over Kendall Martindale at The Honors Course on Friday, Warren can lay claim to being the best female amateur in the state.
The match between Warren, who will be a senior at Belmont this year, and the 15-year-old Martindale, who’s already received several college scholarship offers though she’s just a sophomore at Jefferson County High School, was a classic, for 10 holes at least. Warren took an early lead with a birdie at No. 1, but she was never able to shake the tenacious Martindale, whose par at the par-3 eighth hole squared the match.
Warren quickly regained a 1-up lead with a par at the par-4 9th, but Martindale came right back to win No. 10. At that point it seemed certain the match would go the distance. It wasn’t to be.
Warren won holes 11 through 13 with pars as Martindale’s normally reliable swing began producing loose shots. “I started missing greens,” Martindale said, “and I was missing them on the wrong side, where I couldn’t get up and down for par.”
Trailing 3-up standing on the tee of the par-3 14th, Martindale knew she had to get busy. She took aim at the flag and knocked her approach to five feet. Warren, who had hit first, was 30 feet behind the pin.
Warren’s brother Paul carried her bag all week, and he offered a succinct, if not specific, assessment of the putt she faced.
“It’s going to break a mile,” he said.
Warren wasn’t about to be aggressive with the putt.
“I just wanted to cozy it down there, two putt, and get out of there,” she said. “But I might have hit it a little too hard.”
The speed didn’t matter so much, though, because the putt was dead on line. When it dropped into the cup, Martindale began to think her impressive run through this tournament was over.
“I just thought, ‘It’s her day,’ ” said Martindale, who also made her birdie putt at 14. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
If that wasn’t apparent after the 14th hole, it was after the 16th when Warren, again just trying to two-putt, rammed in a 12-foot birdie putt for the match.
Warren’s game has been building to this point. Within a year of taking up golf, she shot in the low 70s and won Nashville’s School Days tournament. Two years after that, in 2004, she won the Tennessee Girls Junior with rounds of 77-69-71.
How did she get so good so quickly? Having a teaching pro for a father didn’t hurt, but there’s more to the story than that.
“I’d have to say there’s some natural talent there,” Johnny Warren said. “But in addition to being a hard worker, she’s got a great mind. She stays on an even keel; she never gets too high and she never gets too low. And whenever I gave her something to work on, she always listened to what I said and practiced until she got it.”
The hard work paid off in the form of a scholarship to nearby Belmont. Bigger schools had pursued her, but the fit at Belmont seemed right. By her sophomore season, Warren had already won a tournament. This past season, Warren elevated her game to yet another level, winning a tournament, posting seven top-five finishes and winning Atlantic Sun Conference Player-of-the-Year honors.
“She’s been a dream to coach,” said Belmont coach Lissa Bradford, who also runs the TGA’s junior golf program. “She’s great to have on the team, because she’s an inspiration to the other players because of her work ethic and dedication to the team.”