To come down to Lea and I … she’s always been the older one, the No. 1 player on the team … so to squeeze it out there at the end is an awesome feeling. —Kendra Dalton
FRANCIS — For Kendra Dalton and Lea Garner, Friday’s Women’s State Amateur finals match was one the most enjoyable rounds of golf of their young lives. It was one of the toughest.
You see, Dalton and Garner are teammates on the BYU golf team, and not only are they teammates, they are very good friends, having been roommates for the past two-and-a-half years.
“Obviously you don’t want to beat your best friend, but that’s a great part of golf, match play,” said Dalton
“We’re both competitors; we both wanted to win,” said Garner. “We’re good enough friends we can put that aside. Even towards the end we were still joking around.”
Alas, only one could win; in the end, it was the younger Dalton, who defeated the teammate she had always looked up to, winning 1 up at Victory Ranch Golf Club.
“To come down to Lea and I she’s always been the older one, the No. 1 player on the team so to squeeze it out there at the end is an awesome feeling,” said the 20-year-old Dalton, who came to BYU from North Carolina. “We both played great and gave a good fight.”
For the 22-year-old Garner, it was a disappointing finish in what has been a series of close calls at the State Amateur. She has been the medalist the last three years and made it to the semifinal for four straight years before getting to the finals this year.
“It’s kind of sad,” she said. “It’s golf; it happens. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad player or anything. I’m super happy for her.”
Dalton and Garner had advanced to the finals with victories Friday morning, Dalton 5 and 4 over Dixie State golfer Cobair Collinsworth and Garner 1 up over another BYU teammate Brooklyn Hocker.
Garner broke away by winning holes 8 and 9 to go 2 up, but Dalton sank long putts at 10 and 11 to even the match. Then Garner took a 1-up lead at 14 when Dalton bogeyed, missing a 5-footer.
The matched turned at No. 15 after Dalton hit her drive into the fescue on the right side of the fairway. It looked like a lost ball, but just before the five-minute time limit, a member of the media found her ball some 20 yards ahead of where everyone else was looking.
From there Dalton chipped onto the green, just 15 feet from the pin and after Garner missed her putt from a couple of feet further on a similar line, Dalton stroked hers into the hole.
“I was trying not to let her get away with that hole just wanted to get a par out of there,” Dalton said. “After I saw her putt, I just felt it and got up there and hit it and it was good.”
That was a two-hole swing, because if the ball had been lost, Garner would have won the hole with a par and gone 2-up. Instead the match was all square with three holes left.
At 16, Dalton had a chance to take the lead back, but missed a 3-footer. Then at 17, Garner three-putted from 25 feet, missing a five-footer.
“The greens were a little tricky for me today – I had a lot of three-putts,” said Garner.Comment on this story
So Dalton went into 18 with a 1-up lead and after a poor approach shot, chipped up within 3 feet. Garner had a chance to win, but her 25-footer ended up on the lip of the cup, and Dalton sank her putt to close out the match.
“I expected her to make it, that’s just Lea, she’s clutch,” said Dalton.
Garner thought her putt was in also, saying, “It was barely on the edge -- it was close.”
For Garner, this may be the end of her amateur career. She plans to try LPGA Q School and says she’s likely to turn professional before next year’s tourney.