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Sirene Blair Tops Garner, Cluff to Win Utah Women’s State Am Crown
Sirene Blair reached a new plateau on her ever ascending golf resume —Women’s Utah State Amateur champion. She defeated BYU star and State Am medalist Lea Garner in the semifinals, 3 and 1, and then hung on to down Weber State’s Allie Cluff in the finals, 1-up.
Since she is only 19 years old it seems odd to say that it is a title that has eluded her, but that is the case. She has been one of the favorites to win the title for the past three years but hasn’t been able to close the deal.
This year she closed the deal, but not without being challenged every step of the way by a field of worthy contenders.
In the championship match against surprise finalist Allie Cluff it came down to the last hole before Blair could take a deep breath. Down the stretch Cluff was three down with four to play and won three consecutive holes to square the match going onto Ogden Country Club’s famous par three finishing hole.
Cluff, in her words, ‘fluffed’ her nine-iron tee shot into the right bunker and it plugged. Blair hit safely to the edge of the green, but was farther from the hole. She putted to about two-feet and it looked like she was assured of par, which put considerable pressure on Cluff to make a ‘sandie’ from a plugged lie in the bunker. Her blast didn’t get the ball out of the bunker, and while her second attempt extricated the ball she conceded the hole to Blair’s almost tap in par.
Blair had the match in hand almost the entire round and was four-up with six to play. It seemed like it was just a matter of time until the clock would strike twelve on Cluff, but she birdied the 13th hole to cut it to three down with five to play. The 14th hole was halved to cut it to three down with just four to play, and then the magic began. Cluff birdied 15 and 16 and won 17 with a par to square the match that had been doomed.
Had Cluff managed to win that 18th hole it would have been a Cinderella comeback story, but in the end, the shoe didn’t fit.
Despite losing she was proud of her comeback and satisfied with her effort.
“I had a four-up lead on Emily (Podlesny) in the semifinal match and I learned how hard it is to close the deal,” she said. “ Emily came back and got within one of squaring the match, and I said to my dad, “if Emily can comeback on me I can comeback on Sirene” and she did, but like Podlesny, in the end they couldn’t put the cherry on top of the sundae.
Beginning the final day Blair knew she had her hands full and that the title was anything but assured. She knew she had to be at her best. Her morning semifinal match was against an old nemesis Lea Garner who had become the tournament favorite when she posted remarkable back-to-back qualifying scores of 67-67-134 and blew away the field by nine shots. Blair defeated Garner in the semifinals last year at Wasatch Mountain and the outcome of this match was anything but assured. The match featured the top two players from the stroke play qualifier and it could be said it was a title match on its own.
Garner had developed into BYU’s best player and Blair had a great year at San Diego State.
Blair got off to a birdie start and a one-up lead on the first hole. Garner squared the match several times but she never led in the match. Garner tied it on the fifth hole and they exchanged wins on the sixth and seventh holes, but Blair won the difficult eighth hole with a par and from there on it was almost error free golf for both players. They parried the next eight holes with nothing but pars and birdies and Blair took a 2-up lead with an unmatched birdie on the 16th hole and won the 17th for a 3 and 1 victory.
The other morning semifinal match was between Weber State teammates Emily Podlesny and Allie Cluff. A large crowd of Ogden Country Club members followed the match because Podlesny works in the pro shop and Cluff conducts the junior clinics for the club. It was a wonderful semifinal match with Podlesny winning the first two holes and Cluff winning the fifth and sixth. Beginning on the ninth hole Cluff won four holes in a row, but Podlesny won three straight to cut the lead to just one. Cluff won the 16th to go two-up, but the never-say-quit Podlesny won the 17th to force an 18th hole showdown. They both pared the hole to give Cluff a one-up triumph.
In receiving the coveted trophy Sirene thanked everyone appropriately, especially her dad who caddied for her, and then said with a sigh of relief, “I’m glad to finally get my name on this trophy.”
Cluff also thanked everyone involved in the tournament and was very gracious in defeat. She has just graduated from Weber State where she had a solid golf career and next week she begins a new career—math teacher at Fremont High were she was a student just four years ago.
Scorecard details can be seen at: http://ghintpp.com/uga/TPPOnlineScoring/MatchTree.aspx?id=203
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