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First time's the charm

DANIELS, W.Va. - A couple of mistakes with the driver by Sydney Snodgrass opened a back door for Kimberly Eaton.

A couple of mistakes with the putter by Eaton closed that door before she could step through.

Eaton three-putted both the No. 17 and No. 18 greens, and a 4-foot par putt from Snodgrass on the final hole broke a tie and gave the 17-year-old a one-stroke win Thursday in the West Virginia Women's Amateur championship.

Snodgrass, playing in the event for the first time, carded a three-day 5-over 221 at the Resort at Glade Springs.

Eaton rallied from five shots back after the 12th hole to take a one-stroke lead after both Snodgrass (double bogey) and Nicolle Flood-Sawczyszyn (triple bogey) made a mess of the 16th.

But Snodgrass recovered and finished par-par to pick up West Virginia's top women's golf prize.

"I was playing well, I was 3 under, then I had two doubles in three or four holes and it kind of got away from me," said Snodgrass, who'll be a senior at Ritchie County High School this fall. "But I knew where I was at all day so I felt comfortable. I knew I was right there, I just had to rely on all the practice I've done and just trust it."

For most of the day, Snodgrass was enjoying a two- or three-stroke cushion over Flood-Sawczyszyn, a three-time winner of the State Women's Am.

That changed on the 349-yard par-4 14th when Snodgrass' drive went well right into the woods. She was unable to find the ball and was forced to retee. The result was a double bogey, and after Flood-Sawczyszyn made par, the two were tied.

Eaton, meanwhile, remained solid despite spending most of the day a handful of shots behind. Her consistency started paying off as she closed to within one after a birdie on 15.

That set up the calamity that was the 445-yard par-5 No. 16 as Eaton found the middle of the fairway while Snodgrass went in the woods left and Flood-Sawczyszyn into the woods right.

Flood-Sawczyszyn's ball was under a tree and she swung and missed once trying to get it out. She connected with her third shot, only to have it hit a tree and bounce right, further into the woods. From there she was forced to take an unplayable lie and, after a triple bogey, her quest for a fourth championship was all but done.

"I felt really good about 16 going in, having every one tight," said Flood-Sawczyszyn, who finished two strokes behind Snodgrass and one behind Eaton. "I got on the tee and I don't know what happened.

"I got under a tree and was trying to decide whether I was going to take an unplayable. I said, 'If I can at least advance this 10 feet, I'm going to have a shot.' But that didn't happen."

Snodgrass, meanwhile, was forced to punch out sideways and struggled just to make double bogey. That left Eaton, who suddenly had a one-shot lead on Snodgrass and a two-stroke advantage on Flood-Sawczyszyn after rolling in a par putt.

But that one-shot advantage was lost on Eaton, who didn't want to know anyone else's score.

"I didn't really know where I was," Eaton said. "I knew after [16] that it was going to be close but I didn't really want to find out exactly where I was."

Snodgrass did, and she was able to pull even with a solid par on the par-3 17th.

After Eaton bogeyed, it left Snodgrass staring down the 18th fairway with a driver in her hand and the entire tournament on her shoulders.

Yet she insists she never lost confidence.

"On the 18th tee we're tied, I'm first up, what am I going to do?" Snodgrass said. "I just have confidence that I'm going to hit my driver well. The last time I hit it I almost hit it out of bounds left, so I had to have confidence in it and come back with it, and that's what I did."

As for the putt that won the tournament?

"[Swing coach] Sarah [Yost] has this thing where I have to make 100 putts in a row from 3 or 4 feet and that's how long that par putt was," Snodgrass explained. "I've made thousands of these, hundreds even in a row, I was like 'I've got this. I'm just on the putting green listening to my music practicing again.' Just getting into that mindset and making that putt."

Snodgrass finished tied for seventh at last year's high school state tournament and earned all-state recognition.

She has spent her summer playing at various places around the country and is being courted by several colleges, including Marshall and UAB.

While her future is surely bright and Thursday's win was a big one, Snodgrass says all of her recent success is the result of her hard work.

"I've put in a lot of work and [Thursday's win] just validates that hard work does pay off," Snodgrass said. "When it was 100 degrees out I was out on the range working, and it just validates that."

Eaton's even-par effort was Thursday's low round.

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.

 


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