LAKE ELMO, Minn. – Amanda Sambach was frustrated.
The sophomore on Virginia’s golf team was coming off an excellent summer where she advanced to the semifinals of the North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 and played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay. Yet she wasn’t getting the results she wanted because of one club.
So, before the start of her sophomore season, Sambach went and got a couple putting lessons. She switched from a mallet-style flat stick to a blade. And the change was incredible during her first round with the new putter Monday at Royal Golf Club in the first round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate.
“It has completely changed everything,” Sambach said. “I have never putted this well. It has been a huge change, but it has been good so far.”
ANNIKA Intercollegiate: Scores
Sambach dominated the field Monday, recording seven birdies and no bogeys, shooting a 7-under 65 to open the tournament. She opened with birdies on two of her first three holes and closed with one on her 18th hole, the par-5 ninth. The 7-under performance tied Virginia’s single-round scoring record.
The ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M is a college golf tournament founded by the ANNIKA Foundation in 2014. The 54-hole stroke play event is held annually at the Royal Golf Club outside of Minneapolis and features 12 of the top Division I women’s programs in the country. This event allows Sorenstam to stay connected with the players through the entirety of their careers, bridging the gap from junior to professional golf. In addition, a gala reception takes place before the event during which Annika presents the ANNIKA Award presented by Stifel to the nation’s best female player in college golf.
“She has really recommitted herself to becoming a great putter,” Virginia coach Ria Scott said. “That has been the difference maker here in the first few weeks we’ve been back. Her ball striking has always been exceptional, but she got the putts to fall today.”
Sambach leads by four strokes heading to the second round over Texas sophomore Bohyun Park, who sits at 3 under. Florida’s Annabell Fuller and Michigan’s Mikaela Schulz are tied for third at 2 under, and a trio of golfers at 1 under make up the only seven women who broke par.
Sambach is one of 25 players on the preseason ANNIKA Award watch list, given to the top college golfer in the country each year. That’s why Monday’s performance meant even more.
“Annika is literally the greatest of all time, so it’s really awesome to be at a site where I know she’ll be,” Sambach said. “She’s such an inspiration, and this tournament is one of the bigger ones, so it is a bit more nerve-wracking, but I’m just excited to be here.”
Virginia also holds the team lead at 4 under and was the only team to finish under par during the first round. Michigan and Texas are tied at even par with Duke and Oregon tied for fourth at 4 over. Jennifer Cleary shot 1 under for the Cavaliers, Megan Propeck was at 1 over and Celeste Valinho tallied a 3 over round as the four counting scores.
Although there’s plenty of golf to be played, Scott couldn’t have asked for a better start from her team.
“This is a really strong field, one of the best in the country,” Scott said. “When you come up and play at the ANNIKA (Intercollegiate), it kind of takes guts to tee it up against such a strong field in the start of the season. We don’t have some of these warm-up weeks like some other sports do. But that’s what we pride ourselves in, is giving these girls a great schedule and great chances to test themselves throughout the year.”
College golf practice facilities
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek