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USA Survives Korea’s Rally to Win The Spirit International

USA Survives Korea’s Rally to Win The Spirit International

Nov. 9, 2009

By Alex Blair

Trinity, Texas – Paula Creamer said that an 11-shot margin for her United States team wasn’t enough. Korea nearly proved her right, but in the end a less-than-stellar outing by the Americans was enough to clinch team gold at The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club.

The United States finished with a team total of 45-under par, only four shots ahead of Korea. The Americans shot 7-under in the final round. They began the day 11 shots clear of England and Denmark and 12 ahead of Korea. The Koreans went 15-under in the final round, picking up an incredible eight birdies on the back nine. But in the end the American team of Jennifer Johnson, Ben Martin of Clemson, Jordan Spieth and Alexis Thompson had put the rest of the field in too much of a hole.

“It was a little close in the end, but the team got the job done,” said Creamer, captain of the United States team. “The flag, the anthem mean so much. I always cry. To represent your country.there’s nothing better.”

Denmark won bronze with a team total of 33-under.

The Spirit is an Olympic-style team best-ball competition. Teams from 20 countries, consisting of four golfers each, two men and two women, come every other year to compete at Whispering Pines. At the end of each round the best-ball score from a country’s men’s and women’s teams are added together for the team total. The golfers are housed on-site in an International Village. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the low men’s and women’s team, low overall team. Medals are also given out to the individual men and women who score the most birdies. Live video from all four rounds was streamed live at www.amgolf.com.

For the first three rounds the US team took their sweet time scoring birdies. They trailed Chinese Taipei by four after the first round but seized control in the second round with a 15-under total.

They stretched their lead to 11 in the third round. But plenty of teams were capable of giving chase. England, for example, had shot 11-under as a team on both the front and back nines at Whispering Pines at different points in the championship. But Korea was the only team that answered the bell among the contenders. England shot a disappointing 4-under and Denmark shot 6-under.

Korea has been a strong team in the past at The Spirit, but sat it sixth place, 12 back after two rounds. They were “only” 13-under for the championship. After the third round was through they had almost doubled their score, and sat at 24-under, in the thick of it. Sure enough, their final day charge was almost enough to knock off the United States. In the end, they were left wondering what might have been after their slow start.

“We should have done better in the first 36,” said Bum-Guen Chae, who won men’s individual gold with 20 birdies. “I don’t think the girls played fully to their skills, I know us boys didn’t. Today we just tried to let the chance come to us and not chase the chance. Overall we’re very happy to get second behind the United States.”

Just like the first three rounds the US has a slow start: only three at the turn. The difference was that this time they never got going. Martin made the men’s first birdie of the day at six, but they would only manage two more birdies. Putt after short birdie putt slid by the hole.

“It’s hard after a day like today to be happy,” Spieth said. “I’m really frustrated about the way I played. Ben and I’s goal was to go out and get the men’s gold for the team, and we didn’t do that. I’m going to stay frustrated until it sinks in that it’s a team event.”

Thompson and Johnson easily won the women’s team gold at 24-under. Thompson became only the second golfer after Lorena Ochoa in 2001 and Creamer in 2003 to take home three golds: team, women’s team and individual. But the pair failed to make a birdie until the 18th hole.when Johnson chipped in for birdie to punctuate the victory.

“That chip-in by Jen was awesome,” Creamer said. “She’ll remember that forever.”

But for all the faults of the USA’s final-round, it was enough to win. When the final putt dropped the theme of the week was best summed up by a song in 14-year-old Thompson’s i-Pod: Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.”

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