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Pine to Palm: Patience is a virtue for Anderson

Amy Anderson rolls in a birdie putt to win the par four fourth hole Thursday. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

In what started as a modest goal of topping her 2008 quarterfinal finish in the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur golf tournament, quickly spawned into a whirlwind of success for 17-year-old Oxbow, N.D., golfer Amy Anderson.

The Anderson Whirlwind Tour now has landed smack dab on the 77th Pine to Palm Golf Tournament, as the 100-plus person gallery following her first Championship match Thursday can attest to.

Anderson started the month of July as a little-known home-schooled golfer, who had qualified for her second consecutive U.S. Girls Junior Amateur tournament.

Even in her mind, winning the entire thing was almost out of the question.

"I looked at all those good players in my bracket and I thought I would never make it," Anderson said of her U.S. Junior Am bracket. "People told me at the end, that it was the toughest path of all the brackets."

By the time the little known golfer from a small North Dakota town was done, there was a trail of beaten down nationally-ranked opponents in her wake.

First, Anderson's name was put into the limelight when she won medalist laurels after shooting a three-under 141.

But then after victories over AJGA veterans and U.S. Women Open qualifiers Alison Lee and Victoria Tanco, people started noticing Anderson.

She defeated the 2008 top-rated Junior golfer Tanco of Argentina 2 and 1, despite falling three down early by the seventh hole.

"It was kind of funny that I was always down after the seventh hole, it never failed," Anderson laughed.

In the semifinals, Anderson faced Columbia's Luz Alejandra Cangrejo, where she probably faced her biggest adversity of her career in the form of a three-hole deficit with four to go.

After chipping away at Cangrejo's lead, finally getting it down to a one hole deficit, she made her "one-in-100 shot" on hole 18 to force an extra hole.

Both golfers hit the fairway on the 18th, while Cangrejo put her approach shot on the green for a downhill putt.

Anderson flopped her approach on the fringe, 15-feet away.

Cangrejo putted her ball within five feet of the hole, making it look like dire straits for Anderson.

"I knew I had to chip in to win the hole," Anderson said. "I ended up chipping it in from 10-12 feet away, a shot that came straight from the Lord."

That was more than enough to push the match into a playoff hole, where Cangrejo shanked her drive into a hazard, thus giving Anderson a berth in the finals.

"I just kept playing my game and just stayed patient with it," Anderson described her amazing comeback.

The finals were not as intense, as Anderson blew away Kimberly Kim, the 2006 U.S. Women's Amateur champion and who was playing in her fourth USGA final.

Kim couldn't keep up with Anderson's accurate fairway shooting and her darts on the green which resulted in six to 10 foot birdie putts -- which resulted in a going-away 6 and 5 win for the Oxbow golfer.

"Mentally, I was prepared to lose in the finals," Anderson included. "It wasn't that I was hoping to lose, it was just that I didn't want to get my hopes too high.

"After winning it, I didn't feel like I won an event like that. It really still hasn't sunk in yet."

But Anderson started to realize winning a prestigious tournament like the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, changed things up in her life a bit.

"I've had a lot of interviews and a lot more media attention," she added. "It's weird playing in tournaments and some people recognize you."

The Pine to Palm Tournament has felt the touch of Anderson, as well.

She became the first female to qualify for Championship match play and a day later, the first to win a match after she beat Peter Krier 2 and 1 Thursday.

A gallery which is usually seen on Sunday for the championship match, was following Anderson Thursday.

"It's amazing," said two-time Pine to Palm champion Rick Kuhn. "She can make it in match play. She hits the ball well and she has a great short game. She'll be tough to beat."

Her brother, Nathan, has been a big part of her success.

Both were winners for four years in the Ironman Junior Tournament, which runs parallel to the Pine to Palm the same week.

"Nathan is one of the reasons I started playing golf," Amy said. "I saw how hard he worked at it to be good. He is such a perfectionist and he still says he can be better than me.

"So that drives me to be better, because I know I can get better."

One challenge Anderson has to take on during the Pine to Palm week, is she has to tee off from the same tee box as her male counterparts.

Although her length isn't as long, Anderson can make up for it with her deadly accuracy in her short game, as well as her putting.

Her consistent fairway golf can allow her to be patient and wait for opponent to slip up, then capitalize on it -- which is an effective method in match play.

"I can drive the ball about 260-270 yards average, but what I try for is hitting it straight," she said. "Length isn't all too important, but being straight is really important."

Of course, she can also draw from her U.S. Girls Junior Amateur experience as she delves into Pine to Palm match play history.

"First, I just want to win a match, then take it one match at a time," she included. "I was down so many times at the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur, that I learned how to be patient. I just learn never to give up."

She will be attending NDSU this fall and play for the women's Bison golf team.

Anderson will also be instructed by her personal coach, Dale Helm, who will be an assistant on the Bison squad.

No matter how far Anderson can play into Championship match play the rest of the week, the Pine to Palm Tournament will have her footprints on it -- and all for the better.