Pinehurst Lookback: 1989 U.S. Women's Amateur

A relatively short hitter, Vicki Goetze made up for her modest length with her work around the greens. (USGA/Larry Petrillo)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

By Scott Lipsky, USGA

This is the second in a weekly series of notable championships played on Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. Pinehurst No. 2 is the site of the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played in back-to-back weeks in June on the same course for the first time.

In June, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 will play host to the U.S. Women’s Open, 25 years after Vicki Goetze of Hull, Ga., defeated fellow 16-year-old Brandie Burton, 4 and 3, to capture the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Goetze’s victory made her the first – and only – woman to be crowned a USGA champion at Pinehurst No. 2.

More than two decades before the 2011 restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Donald Ross’ classic design provided a unique challenge to the game’s elite female amateurs in 1989, with daunting rough accompanying its renowned crowned greens.

As the old adage says, it’s not how, it’s how many, and Goetze provided a textbook example with a magical short game.

A short hitter throughout her career, Goetze, less than a month shy of her 17th birthday when the championship began, had grown accustomed to relying on fairway woods instead of irons for approach shots, leaving her a narrow margin for error when it came to shots around the green.

“If golf had a six-club limit, Vicki would be the best player in the world,” Ron Coffman wrote in the recap of the championship in the October 1989 issue of Golf Journal. “She doesn’t hit the driver much more than 200 yards, but plays fairway woods with the accuracy of medium irons, and her work around the greens is uncanny.”

As Coffman also pointed out, Pinehurst No. 2 suited Goetze’s game, since it required few forced carries, allowing her to run her approach shots onto the green. Goetze had already seen plenty of success in match play, having reached the championship match in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 1986 and the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior twice. Her modest length served as an asset, in her opinion.

“I never really thought of my lack of length as a disadvantage, especially in match play. I always thought it was good to be hitting my approach shot first, so I could hit it close and put pressure on my opponent,” said Goetze, who now goes by Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, in a recent phone interview. “More length definitely could have helped on Pinehurst No. 2 because of all the doglegs, but it wasn’t until I was playing professionally that I really saw how hitting it farther would be beneficial to me.”

In the championship match against Burton, the newly minted U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, Goetze quickly fell 3 down through four holes, but the strengths of her game ultimately gave her the lift she needed. An impressive up and down from a bunker short of the green on the par-5 fifth hole gave her a much-needed birdie and the momentum she was seeking.

Goetze  finished the first 18 holes 2 up, and bogey-free golf on her first nine holes of the afternoon left her 3 up with nine to play. It was only fitting that a 5-wood approach shot to 3 feet on the 32nd hole, and a 30-foot birdie putt on the 33rd would clinch the win. Goetze would go on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur again in 1992, defeating future three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam, 1 up, in the championship match at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Long Grove, Ill.

Goetze prevented Burton from becoming the first player to win both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same year (a feat still yet to be accomplished). Her motivation as she prepared for the final, though, was not the prestige of becoming a national champion, or trying to avoid becoming a historical footnote. It was much simpler.

“It wasn’t winning the [U.S. Women’s Amateur] that motivated me so much as it was to be able to beat Brandie, since she had just beaten me the week before in the Girls’ Junior,” said Goetze-Ackerman, who plans to attend the U.S. Women’s Open this June. “We had known each other for years and had played each other many times.”

Indeed, the longtime rivals had squared off in the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior just days before at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, 5 miles down the road from Pinehurst. In a tightly contested match, Burton had prevailed, 1 up, after Goetze had needed just 13 holes to defeat three of her first four opponents that week.

Burton, for her part, knew what Goetze was capable of when she was on her game, and was quick to credit her opponent after falling in the championship match of the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“Today was the best I’ve played in two weeks,” said Burton, who defeated 1984 Girls’ Junior champion and future U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Cathy Mockett in the semifinals to set up her shot at history. “I didn’t lose to bogeys, I lost to birdies, and that’s the way you should lose.”

Despite making quick work of most of her opponents during her run at the Girls’ Junior, Goetze remembered being so mentally tired after being eliminated that she started to play a practice round on Pinehurst No. 2 later that week, only to stop after four holes. She wasn’t a complete stranger to the layout when it came time to compete, though, having been a semifinalist in the North & South Women’s Amateur there earlier in the summer.

The predictably hot and humid August weather in the Sandhills may have increased the chances that two teenagers would be left standing for the championship match, but that wasn’t indicative of the overall mix of the match-play bracket.

Among the established veterans to advance to match play were 1973 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Carol Semple Thompson, who would go on to win six more USGA championships. Thompson advanced to the semifinals before falling to Goetze, 5 and 3. Three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Anne Sander, who had already won her first of four USGA Senior Women’s Amateur titles, advanced to the Round of 16, while Phyllis Preuss, a runner-up to Sander in the 1961 U.S. Women’s Amateur and future U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion, advanced to the Round of 32. All three had the added clout of having won a North & South Women’s Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2.

One of the more convincing upsets at Pinehurst No. 2 that week involved the early exit of a young  star. After finishing as the stroke-play medalist with a 36-hole total of 3-under-par 143, Pat Hurst, the 1986 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion and reigning NCAA individual champion, fell in the Round of 64, 4 and 3, to Jodi Figley. Hurst would redeem herself the following year, winning the 1990 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., defeating Goetze in the quarterfinals.

Goetze soon found that her success provided accompanying exposure and recognition.

“I didn’t know how big of a deal it was to win the [U.S. Women’s Amateur]. All of a sudden, everyone was asking me what colleges I was thinking of going to. I was more focused on homecoming and things of that nature,” said Goetze-Ackerman. “I was getting a lot of attention, not that it was a bad experience, but it was there.”

Goetze ultimately chose the University of Georgia, where she earned National Player of the Year recognition twice, and also claimed the 1992 NCAA individual title. Goetze followed her decorated collegiate days with a 15-year career as an LPGA Tour player, amassing 21 top-10 finishes before retiring in 2009. She currently serves as the LPGA player-president, a position she has held since 2012, and lives in Riverview, Fla., outside of Tampa with her husband, Jim, and son, Jake.

Prior to turning pro, Goetze was a two-time USA Curtis Cup competitor, counting Burton, Thompson and Sander among her teammates.

Less than a year after her defeat in the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur, Burton got redemption at Pinehurst No. 2, claiming the 1990 North & South Women’s Amateur title. After just one year at Arizona State University, Burton embarked on her professional golf career, winning five times on the LPGA Tour and playing on five USA Solheim Cup teams.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org

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