(TNS) When Jensen Castle ponders the memories she made last week at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York – the ones that spanned her run for the U.S. women’s amateur title – two moments catch her eye.
The first came when Castle’s final win was still a distant dream, as she stepped up from a 12v2 playoff along with University of Kentucky teammate and aspiring junior Marissa Wenzler to reach the match play portion of the event .
The second came when Castle secured the title.
Brian May, assistant coach for Kentucky Women’s Golf, took a last minute trip to see Castle play Sunday’s 36-hole championship game, and when Castle was on 35th that surprised everyone.
“Everyone (who) knows Brian, he’s not a very emotional guy. It’s like a head down, a nod, ”Castle told the Herald leader on Monday as he drove home to Columbia, South Carolina. “Brian did a fist pump, the most sincere and coolest thing I’ve ever seen him do.”
“I think we all had the same reaction when Brian put the cameras on and he had that huge punch. We said, ‘Whoa, that’s not Brian May,’ ”said Wenzler, who was watching the championship game on television. “Just seeing that big fist pump was really cool. It just shows that we are family. “
The Kentucky athletics family added a new championship over the weekend when Castle became the first British golfer to win the US Women’s Amateur.
The triumph defied not only logic, but partly also medical orders.
Castle, an aspiring junior, helped Kentucky reach the NCAA championship finals in May – the first time Kentucky stood on the stage since 1992 – but her summer was derailed by a rib injury. While playing through the injury to win the Carolinas Four-Ball Championship for the second straight year in June, the injury forced her to retire from several summer tournaments.
A doctor told Castle before the US Women’s Amateur that the injury could be a fatigue fracture to one of her ribs, but only an MRI could confirm it. The doctor said that if Castle had a fatigue fracture, Castle would not participate in the tournament.
“If you don’t get an MRI and you have a stress fracture, we’ll never know and you can play in the Am,” Castle recalled her doctor. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do this then.'”
“I just couldn’t imagine giving this opportunity to a substitute. … I qualified, you know, if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have qualified at all. “
Little expectations turn into a fairy tale run
After resting for a few weeks – the longest castle played without golf in years – she was finally able to swing a club early last week.
Expectations were correspondingly low.
During the tournament, Castle told The Journal News that she hadn’t packed enough clothes or golf balls for how long she’d been in the tournament. Castle’s logistical plans reflected this when she transitioned from a hotel stay to a friend of a friend’s in Greenwich, Connecticut, about 20 minutes from the course, initially sleeping on an air mattress before upgrading to a double bed.
The US Women’s Amateur offers 36 holes in stroke play for 156 participants before the best 64 players advance to match play. After an opening round 79, Castle appeared to be out of competition.
“I’ve made mistakes I’ve never made before, mistakes I’ve only made because I haven’t had a club in my hand in the past few weeks,” said Castle.
A 71 in their final round of stroke play was enough to move Castle in a 12v2 playoff, in which Wenzler was also represented, to determine the final playgrounds.
The other Kentucky golfer on the field, aspiring second grader Laney Frye, made it onto the field without a playoff.
Wenzler watched Castle tee off within 10 feet of the hole and birdie on the par 3 playoff hole. She adjusted that with her own tee shot down to 12 feet, making her birdie putt send all three wildcats to match play.
“Just being able to run up to your teammate and hug him after a 12v2 playoff just to make it into the matchplay segment was one of the special things,” said Castle.