By ALEX PODLOGAR
It was the fight that made it special.
Burlington’s Lori Beth Adams finally won her first collegiate tournament this season as a senior at UNC Wilmington. She has made runs at the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship in Pinehurst before — enough to lament she always felt that the championship was close to breaking her way.
But these are star players at the North & South Amateur. Eight of the last 11 North & South Champions have earned their LPGA Tour cards, and the founders of the LPGA Tour have won here.
Alison Lee, the tournament’s No. 2 seed and first- and second-round leader, is one of those heavyweights. She is the reigning Pac-12 Conference Champion. She’s played in three U.S. Women’s Opens and made the cut there when she was just 14. And this season, she won the inaugural Annika Award, given to the top women’s college golfer in the country.
Lee’s place in the North & South Championship match could be expected. Adams, even with her experience year after year after year – this was her fifth appearance in a North & South event – was a mild surprise.
And here they were, locked in a battle so fierce and so well-played, it took only 91 minutes to complete nine holes in the final of the 112th Women’s North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 8.
It was brilliant play. Through 13 holes, Lee was 4 under, and nearly had a hole-and-one on the par-3 5th.
Yet through 13, the match remained all square. Adams made six putts of 9 feet or longer to either win or halve holes to stay in the match, never allowing Lee to move ahead by more than two holes.
“It was a dogfight,” said Adams. “(Lee) played great; she was making putts left and right, but so was I.”
Adams was 1 down after 12 but won the next two holes to go 1 up. She kept that lead until 17 – when Lee drilled a long iron to 15 feet and made the slippery downhill putt for birdie to square the match again.
“I thought I had her on 17, but she made the putt,” Adams said.
Lee had a chance to win the championship with a 12-foot birdie putt on 18, but left it short. Adams then coolly drained a 5-footer for par to extend the match.
In the playoff, Adams split the fairway on the first hole while Lee missed right and found herself in the rough. But Adams left her approach short in the bunker fronting the green, and was met with a buried lie.
“I didn’t want to be long, Adams said. “It looked great in the air.”
But it didn’t look good in the bunker. Adams’ bunker shot flew the green, leading to double bogey. She conceded the match and the championship to Lee after 19 holes.
“I hate that it had to end that way,” Lee said. “Lori Beth played an incredible match.”
As did Lee, who made five birdies in the match – six if you count the conceded one on the 19th.
“If I had to describe the match in one word, it would be ‘intense,’” Lee said. “From beginning to end we both played really well and were making birdies on top of each other. It was just a great, solid championship match. It’s what a championship match should be all about – both players at the tops of their games.”