For Oakton’s Lauren Greenlief, the heartbreak of watching U.Va.’s extra innings loss in this week’s College World Series might now be a little easier to take.
Winning a VSGA title while in the process of retooling one’s swing will do that to a young golfer.
The 18-year-old rising redshirt freshman at UVa shot a final round 1-under 70 to register a two-stroke victory as the 32nd Virginias Women’s Stroke Play Championship concluded today at Meadowbrook Country Club. The championship was conducted by the Virginia State Golf Association.
The only competitor in the field to deliver two subpar rounds over the three-day competition, Greenlief concluded the championship at 3-under 210 (72-68-70).
Greenlief’s 54-hole aggregate of 210 equals a championship-record set in 1991 by Vikki Valentine of Virginia Beach.
Apparently neither the nervousness that accompanies owning the lead entering the final day nor staying up all night and into Thursday morning watching UVa’s season-deciding baseball game had much of an impact on Greenlief.
She stormed out early, building on her two-stroke overnight advantage by birdieing three of the first four holes. Greenlief peppered flagsticks right from the start, playing a three-quarter sand wedge to 2 feet at No. 1, then drilled a 7-iron to inches at the par-4 third hole and blistered a 270-plus yard drive at the par-5 fourth hole to set up another birdie to move to five under for the championship.
“I had a lot of confidence after those holes,” Greenlief said.
“I just wanted to attack all the flagsticks that I could and I made some putts. Today, I was looking at the [flagsticks] and knew I was going to be right on it every time.”
UVa graduate school student Kristen Simspon (Norfolk), her college teammate for a year, began the day two strokes back but three-putted the first three holes and fell out of contention.
Despite a strong start, Greenlief had a pair of three-putt bogeys at Nos. 6 and 8, dropped to from five to three under for the championship and owned a two-stroke lead over her next-nearest pursuer.
In addition to altering her swing mechanics, Greenlief says she’s changed her mental approach and she answered the two blemishes by holing a right to left breaking 20-footer at the par-3 11th and her lead then grew to six strokes after draining a 12-footer at the par-4 13th hole.
But at par-4 14th hole, Greenlief’s self-described “uh-oh” hole, she pushed her drive, was forced to chip out, missed the green with her approach shot and wound up making double bogey, resulting in a three-stroke swing.
Reliably and almost systematically able to gather herself when moments of adversity struck throughout the event, the final round was no different for Greenlief who found the fairway with her drives at Nos. 15 and 16 to help quell any chances of a championship-deciding rally from a fellow-competitor.
“I’ve come a long way in learning how to hold rounds together,” Greenlief said. “I tried to stay confident and it worked out well."
At No. 17. Greenlief hit her approach long at the par-4 finishing hole and chipped her third shot short of the flagstick.
She’d fought and fought and fought the mental battle to become a closer, the one who finished her rounds. No way was it ending with a bogey, she thought. Her 7-footer for par tumbled right down the throat of the cup.
“I just thought, OK, get this up and down and it’s your trophy,’ ” Greenlief smiled. “I knew it was going to go in. I wanted to finish the day under par.”
And a much-needed happy ending for a person with allegiance to all things Cavalier-related.
“I guess we brought something home for UVa today,” Greenlief laughed.
She’ll bring home the Sydney Elliott Trophy and her first VSGA title. A walk-on as a first-year member of the golf team at UVa, in the spring Greenlief began the undertaking of rebuilding her swing with the help of Cavaliers head women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen and her progress showed throughout the three-day event.
“I’ve been working really hard and it’s nice to start seeing it all pay off,” Greenlief said. A double-major in economics and math at UVa, Greenlief plans on pursuing dual masters degrees in commerce and finance.
Recap courtsey Virginia State Golf Association
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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