Lori Beth Adams (right) is congratulated after winning her first match play round last Wednesday by UNCW coach Cindy Ho.
When Lori Beth Adams won the first round of match play last Wednesday during the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, her UNC Wilmington coach gave her a big hug as she stepped off the 18th green. Her caddie, a UNCW alumnus, also embraced her after the comeback win, in which Adams won two of the final three holes against her playing partner from the Philippines.
Across the Ashley River and on the College of Charleston campus, Jamie Futrell just might have pumped his fist.
On paper, that might seem odd. Adams is a senior standout on the UNCW women's golf team and reigning Colonial Athletic Association player of the year. Futrell is the College of Charleston's women's golf coach, who will spend plenty of time this upcoming season – the first in the CAA for the Cougars – looking up at conference leaderboards and seeing how his players are faring against the best player of their new rival program.
Was he rooting for her at the USGA tournament held at the Country Club of Charleston? “Oh, yeah,” Futrell said. “She's better than a good player. She's the best player in the Colonial.”
He added that he considers her “one of the best players in the country.” Futrell called the College of Charleston's relationship with UNCW a “friendly rivalry.” The Seahawks have won the CAA championship in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012, with a runner-up finish last season.
The Cougars welcome freshman Laura Fuenfstueck, a German native, who moved to No. 33 in the women's amateur world rankings. Futrell said he expects Fuenfstueck (pronounced FUUNF-shh-took) to contend for the CAA player of the year title with Adams.
“I'm glad we have her, because Lori Beth has really been head and shoulders over the other girls (in the previous conference season),” he added. “We definitely needed someone to at least hang with her.”
Adams advanced past the first two qualifying rounds of stroke play in the Women's Amateur Championship and then won two up on her first match play opponent. It was a grueling round which required her to battle back from an early two-hole deficit through the first six holes. She got those holes back with wins on No. 7 and No. 10, took the lead on No. 16 and grabbed No. 18 for good measure. Adams shot even par on the back nine.
“It was tough; I just stayed with it,” Adams said. “I told myself par is good. If I make birdie, that's great. Just stick with it.”
Her expectations for the tournament, which was the first time she competed in a USGA event, was just to qualify for match play competition. “I knew I could do it, but it's just like a dream right now. There's still more work to be done,” she said, Wednesday afternoon. “Really it's just believing in the Lord, and He's on my side. I've played better than I thought.”
Thursday morning, she lost by two holes in the round narrowing the field to 16 players. Adams may have played better than her expectations, but UNCW coach Cindy Ho, who walked every hole of the tournament with her, said she wasn't surprised “at all” that she advanced to the Round of 32. “You're talking about a kid that has eight top 10s in college and five top 5s just in this past year – and conference player of the year,” Ho said. “She has enough experience, but this was a new experience.”
Ho said the addition of the College of Charleston to the CAA will push UNCW. “It's going to be more competitive. They've run the Southern (Conference). Now, we're going to bring in Elon in two years too.”
The CAA Championships, currently in its final contract year at St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C., is subject to a bidding process for future locations. Charleston and Wilmington could both be suitors. “I like Charleston,” Adams said. “I had never been to Charleston. I'm really enjoying it. It reminds me of Wilmington a lot.”
To view a photo gallery from the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, click here.