Virginia Elena Carta showed she was one of the best amateur golfers in the world when she blitzed the NCAA championship field for a record-setting eight shot win in late May.
But the then-freshman's win was the first of her collegiate career, begging the question: How would Carta handle the success?
We got an answer this week at the U.S. Women's Amateur.
The Udine, Italy, native pulled off a series of upsets to advance to the final of the event, nearly becoming just the second player ever to win the NCAA championship as an individual and U.S. Women's Amateur in the same year. Carta, who was seeded 32nd after 36 holes of stroke play, won five matches before falling to 14th-seeded Eun Jeong Seong in a dramatic 36-hole final Sunday.
Carta trailed by two shots for most of the final nine holes Sunday afternoon and even had to take a 15-minute break as she battled dehydration and heat exhaustion. Trailing by two on the par-5 17th, Carta needed a birdie to extend the match, but her third shot from a greenside bunker trailed off toward the edge of the green about 30 feet away from the hole.
The All-American showed her NCAA championship mettle, however, draining the long putt and giving an enormous fist pump. Seong's birdie putt lipped out, sending the match to a 36th hole.
But the 16-year old from South Korea had the last laugh.
After both Carta and Seong hit the green on Rolling Green Golf Club's 18th hole, the 36th of their match, Seong made a 40-foot birdie putt to clinch the victory. With the win, Seong became the first player ever to win the U.S. Women's Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior championship in the same year.
Although Carta came up shy of becoming the third Blue Devil ever to win the U.S. Women's Amateur—she would have joined Virada Nirapathpongporn (2003) and Amanda Blumenherst (2008)—she had a productive week in Springfield, Pa. Her path to the championship match included three wins against higher-seeded opponents.
After winning her first two matches to advance to the Round of 16, Carta upset 17th-seeded Jessica Porvasnik to make it to the quarterfinals. The sophomore then knocked off ninth-seeded Maria Torres in the quarterfinals despite trailing by two shots after nine holes.
In the semifinals, Carta took down fourth-seeded Yuka Saso in 17 holes after a birdie on the par-5 17th to punch her ticket to Sunday's final.
The U.S. Women's Amateur effort is part of a busy summer for Carta, who finished 69th at the LPGA's Marathon Classic event in mid-July after struggling in the final two rounds. She was also supposed to compete in the European Ladies Amateur Championship, but was unable to make it to the event in time after the Marathon Classic because of flight delays.
Carta and junior Leona Maguire—who recently earned low amateur honors at the Women's British Open by tying for 25th and is competing for Ireland in the Olympics—will lead the Blue Devils in 2016-17. Maguire's performance helped her climb two spots to the No. 1 position in the World Amateur Rankings.
Head coach Dan Brooks' squad has fallen in the national semifinals at the NCAA championship in each of the past two seasons but returns four players from last year's five-woman lineup.
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