“It was just an incredible week,” junior Emma Talley said. “I had been playing well up to this point, and everything kind of came together and clicked just at the right time. God’s blessed me with so much, and I just took it and ran with it.”
Talley entered the final round with a one-stroke lead. She started on the back nine, and played the first nine at even-par, making pars on all nine holes. When her birdie putt on the par-4 18th lipped out and Duke’s Leona Maguire took the lead at 1-under, Talley would answer right back with a birdie on the par-4 first.
Continuing her bogey-free round, the junior golfer from Princeton, Ky., would par No. 2, before making birdie on the par-5 third, once again countering Maguire’s birdie, and moving to 2-under.
Clutch putting on the par-3 fourth, the par-3 sixth, and the par-4 eighth preserved Talley’s 2-under, and she would walk to her final hole with a one-stroke lead.
On the par-4 ninth, Talley’s tee shot would find the fairway bunker. She would hit seven-iron from the sand 148 yards from the hole, and would land it on the green, within eight feet of the hole.
“It was as good [a shot] as I’ve seen,” Alabama Coach Mic Potter said. “Up-hill, and into the wind, and to be able to hit it that solid, it never left the flagstick. It was pretty impressive.”
Lining up her birdie putt, the horns sounded and play was suspended for 52 minutes for lightning in the area. After the delay, Talley would sink the putt, to close the first, and one of only two, bogey-free rounds of the championships at 3-under 69.
“I came back out [from the clubhouse], and all the nerves hit me again,” Talley said. “It was really nerve-racking, but I think my past experiences really helped me be able to take care of that pressure.”
On a course that averaged 77.82 strokes per round and penalized golfers with 685 double bogeys and higher, Talley did not have a score over bogey. She played the par-4s best in the field at 1-under, 3.98 shots per hole. Talley was the only player to average an under-par score on par-4s.
“This golf course is so pure,” Talley said. “It’s really difficult, but it tests you, and I love that. I love the challenge. I had boxes on the fairways and boxes on the greens, and I just put [my ball] in place, and tried to put it in position every time.”
The round goes down as Talley’s lowest at the NCAA Championships in her career and her second round of under-par of the weekend. The 69 marks the junior’s 16th round of par or lower of the season, and it is her fourth round in the 60s. For Talley’s career, she now has 43 rounds of par or lower, with nine of those in the 60s. The victory is Talley’s second of her collegiate career, and first since her freshman year at the PING/ASU Invitational in April 2013.
Talley’s 3-under 285 (70-73-73-69) is the second-best under-par and second-lowest score for any Alabama golfer in a 72-hole event, trailing only Jennifer Kirby’s 4-under 284 in 2010. Previously, the best finish at the NCAA Championships by a UA player was Brooke Pancake in 2012, as she finished second. It is just the 13th round in the 60s by a UA player in NCAA Championships history.
With the title, Talley adds to a long list of accomplishments. She becomes the fifth player in history to win a U.S. Amateur and an NCAA Championships individual crown, and the first since Virada Nirapathpongporn (2002/2003). Talley was also a part of the 2014 U.S. Curtis Cup win, and was the low amateur at the 2014 British Open.
As a team, Alabama finished 14th at 74-over 1,226. The Crimson Tide shot an 11-over 299, the team’s best round of the tournament.
Junior Janie Jackson put together her best round of the championships, with a 3-over 75, while sophomore Mia Landegren equaled her best round of the tournament with a 6-over 78. Lakareber Abe fired a final round 5-over 77, while Cammie Gray finished out with an 81.