As 15-year old Mariah Stackhouse walked toward the par-3 12th hole at Idle Hour Club for the second time Thursday, she had only one thought: She had to make a birdie.
Stackhouse was at the end of a long day in which she had overcome a five-shot deficit to force a three-hole playoff with Dori Carter. In the playoff, Stackhouse trailed Carter by one shot going to the final hole.
Stackhouse knew a birdie would give her a chance to force another playoff if Carter made a par. And when Carter missed the green off the tee, Stackhouse had her opportunity. She hit her 6-iron to within 8 feet of the hole to put the pressure squarely on Carter.
Carter chipped up to 4 feet and then watched as Stackhouse calmly sank her birdie putt. Carter could not get her tricky putt to fall, and Stackhouse had made up two shots on the final playoff hole to win her second straight Georgia Women’s Amateur Championship.
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“I was hoping for something good to happen,” said Stackhouse, who shot a 69 to force the playoff. “I knew when she missed the green, I had a shot at keeping the match going. I was thinking that I wanted to be inside 10 feet, and thankfully I was able to do that. I knew I would make that putt. I never really even thought about her missing, though,”
Carter felt confident about the entire hole that cost her the match.
“I hit a decent tee shot that just didn’t draw like I needed it to,” said Carter, who shot 74. “I was a little disappointed with my chip. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I felt very confident over the putt, and I hit it clean. It just lipped out. It was pretty much how my entire day went.”
Carter’s five-stroke lead was gone by the 11th hole of regulation, when Stackhouse birdied and Carter bogeyed. The two then went back and forth for the rest of the back nine.
But Carter took the lead again with a birdie on the 14th only to see Stackhouse answer by a making birdie on the 15th while Carter again. Stackhouse, however, could not hold the lead as she three-putted No. 16 for a bogey and Carter had a par to pull even again.
The par-5 17th was important for Stackhouse. She hit perhaps her worst shot of the tournament on her second shot bur came back to hit a decent third shot and then rolled in a 20 foot birdie putt to stay even as Carter had an east birdie putt.
When the playoff started, Stackhouse decided to give up her cart and walk the final three holes, despite the 95 degree temperature.
“I thought it would help get me focused,” Stackhouse said. “I have never rode a cart in a playoff before. I think walking helps keep your blood flowing, and I just really needed to be sharp. It was only three holes, so I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Carter’s day was much different that the first two rounds that saw her shoot 69-68.
“I just couldn’t get anything going,” said Carter, who said she is looking forward to a week off. “I knew early that I just didn’t feel as comfortable as I did the first two days. It was a grind all day long. I figured that Mariah was going to make a run at me, and she basically made every putt when she needed to. I thought I had a chance to put her away on the 17th, but she made a great putt. It just wasn’t my day.”