15-Year-Old Kendall Martindale Advances to Quarterfinals
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—While defending champion Dawn Woodard was taking no prisoners and the usual array of college players were moving their way through the bracket of the Tennessee Women’s Amateur at The Honors Course on Wednesday, youth was also being served.
Remember the names. Morgan McQuary and Kendall Martindale, the two youngest competitors left in the championship bracket, will be heard from in the future. Scratch that. They’re being heard from right now.
Both McQuary, who’s just 17, and Martindale, all of 15, took out college players to earn their spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals, but they did so in drastically different ways.
For the second day in a row, McQuary, who plays for The Baylor School in Chattanooga, jumped out to a big lead—5-up on Ole Miss red-shirt freshman Ashley Lance—and ended the proceedings early. Her 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th sealed a 5 and 4 decision.
It took Martindale, a sophomore at Jefferson County High School in Dandridge, just a tad longer to defeat Austin Peay junior Staci Lynch. The two battled all day and apparently had so much fun 18 holes just wasn’t enough. The match lasted until the 21st hole, Martindale finally winning with a conceded par after Lynch double-bogeyed.
After Woodard, who defeated Sarah Mathews, 6 and 5 on Wednesday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that McQuary has been the most dominant player in the tournament.
On Tuesday, she worked her way to 6-up on Stacy Springer, before finally taking a 3 and 2 victory. Recalling those anxious moments during Springer’s rally, McQuary wanted no part of it against Lance, a good player who got on a bad streak on the front nine. She made five straight bogeys from holes 4 through 8. McQuary, meanwhile, made all pars to go 5-up.
Lance still had some fight left after that dismal stretch, winning No. 9 and 10 with pars. Fearing another rally, McQuary wasn’t about to give up that cozy lead.
“I just kept thinking about what happened [against Springer],” she said. “I didn’t want that to happen again. I just wanted to go ahead and end it early.”
She got that opportunity on the par-3 14th. After improving her lead to 4-up with a par at No. 12, McQuary hit a pitching wedge to about 10 feet at 14.
“I’d hit a bad shot there [Tuesday], and I decided I wasn’t going to do that again,” McQuary said.
And when it came time to putt, McQuary also decided she’s had enough golf for the day.
“I just wanted to make that and end it,” said McQuary.
She did, and the match was done. But it won’t be the last time McQuary and Lance play one another. McQuary has already committed to Mississippi State.
The strength of McQuary’s game is her driver; she’s long and fairly accurate. But the fortuitous acquisition of a belly putter last fall has helped her overcome a problem on the greens.
McQuary lives and plays at Black Creek, which hosts a Nationwide Tour event. During last year’s tournament, she happened by the SeeMore trailer and found a belly putter she liked. She didn’t care how long it was or what kind of head it had. It just felt good.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s the best club I’ve ever had. I used to have problems with the pressure putts. Now, I’m not only better with those, it’s improved my stroke and I’m better from longer distances, too. I almost feel like now I’ve got an advantage over people.”
If Martindale has an advantage, it’s her cool demeanor on the course. Good shot or bad, the expression on her face never changes. And it doesn’t take her long to figure out what she wants to do with a shot, most of the time just walking up to her ball, taking aim and firing away.
“I don’t usually get nervous,” she said. “I’m usually pumped up; I’ve got plenty of adrenaline. I just like to get it done.”
She got it done against Lynch, who also wields a belly putter, despite heading to the 18th tee 1-down. Lynch made a clutch medium-range par putt to take that slim lead, but when she missed the 18th green and couldn’t save par, the match went to extra holes.
Both players made pars at No. 1 and 2, and then came the par-3 third. Martindale fired right at the flag, her ball coming to rest about 25 feet behind the hole. Lynch once again missed a green right. Her second shot was thinned a bit and drifted 20 feet past the hole, a position from which she three-putted. With Martindale staring down an eight-footer for par, Lynch conceded.
“It’s been fun so far,” said Martindale, who admits to freewheeling it in this tournament because it has no bearing on her status as a junior.
“It doesn’t count against junior golf—it can only help—so I’m just going out there and playing and trying to have fun,” she said. “Anything I do here is just a little extra bonus.”
It’s perhaps fitting that Martindale and McQuary will play one another in today’s quarterfinals.
Other winners on Wednesday included former Kentucky player Beth Felts, who defeated two-time Women’s Amateur runner-up Holly Cantwell, 3 and 2, and Kennie Leigh Eisenhower, who beat Mississippi State signee Hannah Weathersby, 2 and 1. Eisnehower, who plays for East Tennessee State, was seeded 25th after Monday qualifying but so far has beaten No. 8-seeded Lauren Spurlock and No. 9 Weathersby.