Martindale, Warren Advance to Women's State Amateur Finals
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—Kendall Martindale knew what to do the second time around.
In 2007, the then-14-yeard-old Martindale took a 3-up lead over Dawn Woodward in the semifinals of the Tennessee Women’s Amateur, only to lose, 2 and 1 to the eventual champion. One year later, the wily veteran and the up-and-comer were once again pitted against each other in the Women’s Amateur, and one again Martindale carried a lead late into the match.
This time, she closed it out.
Martindale’s 1-up victory sends her into Friday’s finals against Lori Warren, who needed 19 holes to outlast her long-time friendly rival Mallory Bishop.
Thursday was a brutal endurance test that included two matches and two nuisance rain delays that added another couple of hours to the proceedings. But if any of that bothered Martindale, you couldn’t tell it by the look on her face, not even after the fast-charging Woodard won three straight holes to erase a two-hole deficit and take a 1-up lead heading into the 17th hole.
Martindale could take that expressionless mug of hers and make a fortune on the pro poker circuit, but it also serves her well on the golf course. At such a young age, she’s already learned to channel her emotions and put them to good use. So when she stepped up on the tee at the par-5 17th, Martindale was calm.
She was even more so after Woodard hit her tee shot left. The ball smacked a tree and bounded into tall grass.
“That was a big relief to me,” Martindale said. “I just knew I had to hit a good drive, but after that, it took some pressure off.”
Martindale striped her drive and was left with a 7-wood to reach the green. She fired at the flag, but the ball hooked a bit and wouldn’t hold the green. It ended up on the back slope of a grass bunker, about 20 feet from the hole. To get the ball close, she had to negotiate a downhill lie, never an easy shot with the pin so close.
Woodard was able to bash her second shot onto the fairway, leaving her just a pitching wedge to the green. But the shot was long, leaving her a tricky fourth out of thick grass. She tried a flop shot, but the ball came out too soft, leaving her a 10-foot par putt.
Martindale, meanwhile, had gotten a bit of practice for her third shot at 17—on the par-3 16th when her tee shot flew long and ended up on a downhill lie.
“I didn’t trust it then,” she said. “I was looking at the water on that hole and I didn’t want to go long. So the shot ended up short.”
Not so at 17. Martindale hit her best shot of the match to coax the ball just over the fringe, where it rolled to three feet past the hole. When Woodard missed her par putt, the match was all square heading to the 18th.
Both players hit solid drives, and Martindale hit her approach to about 30 feet left of the pin. Once again, Woodard missed the green, her approach drifting right, into a greenside bunker. She blasted to about 12 feet and couldn’t save par. When Martindale finished off a two-putt by knocking in a three-footer for par, the match was over.
“Kendall played well,” said Woodard, whose family is moving to South Carolina later this summer, meaning this might have been her least Women’s Amateur. “She played well last year. But last year, she had the mentality to hit it at every pin and putt aggressively at every hole. That got her into trouble.
“But today she played really well. She played better than I did.”
That wasn’t the case in a three-hole swing from No. 14 to 16. Martindale made a couple of bogeys, including a three-putt at the par-three 14th, as Woodward mounted her comeback. Even Martindale, who claims not to be nervous on the golf course, was wondering about her chances of winning.
“She was on a roll,” Martindale said. “I wondered how I was going to stop her. I thought I’d have to match birdies with her [at 17] and hope to win 18.”
In the end, Woodard said execution, or the lack thereof, did her in. But fatigue may have been a factor. She was taken to 18 holes in her morning quarterfinal match by East Tennessee State’s Kennie Leigh Eisenhower.
“My morning match took a lot out of me,” Woodard said. “I hit 17 greens and it still went to 18. I think the first six or seven holes [against Martindale] it affected my focus. I missed some putts I should have made and hit a couple of loose shots.”
Unlike her fellow semifinalists, Warren wasn’t overly taxed in her morning round, dispatching Rachel Ingram, 6 and 5. That might have left her with enough petrol in the tank to fight off Bishop, who trailed most of the match but rallied late.
Bishop trailed 2-up heading into the 16th, but she birdied that hole to slice the deficit in half and sent the match into extra holes with another birdie at 18.
The playoff wouldn’t last long, but not for lack of trying. Bishop hooked her drive on No. 1 in between a couple of trees, a position from which she could barely get a club on the ball. She moved it just a few feet, then hit her third shot into the fairway bunker.
Bishop seemed doomed, but she hit a near miracle fourth shot, nearly holing it for par. Her bogey was conceded by Warren, who missed the green and had to chip to three feet and drain the par putt for the win.
“The last few holes, we were physically and mentally drained,” Warren said. “On that last putt, I thought I just had to knock it in. I didn’t want [the playoff] to go on another hole.”