ANN ARBOR – Jennifer Elsholz of Grand Rapids kept telling herself she could win it right up to a birdie on hole 17 that secured it.
“With the amount of work I’ve put in and the way I’ve played this summer, I knew that I have worked hard enough and played well enough to do this, to earn it, to deserve it,” she said after turning back Lindsey McPherson of Flushing 2 and 1 in the final match of the 98th Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship presented by Miles of Golf/Kendall Academy/Titleist at the University of Michigan Golf Course Friday.
Elsholz, a senior-to-be at the University of Toledo, became just the fifth golfer to win the GAM Championship and the Michigan Women’s Amateur in the same summer, and she admitted she surprised even herself.
“I’ve gone from thinking I should win to knowing I can win,” she said. “I went to see my teacher (Charley Vandenberg) after winning the GAM Championship and he was happy for me, but he also told me I should be on top, should be beating great players because I’m a great player, too.”
McPherson, who will be a senior at Michigan State, said after Elsholz got the lead on the front nine she was tough to catch.
“She left no room for error because she was so solid,” McPherson said. “I had to birdie to win the hole or that was it. She is a great golfer and she took advantage of me giving her some holes on the front nine.”
Elsholz won the third hole with a conceded birdie and the fourth and fifth holes with pars. After she birdied the 140-yard par 3 No. 8 hole with a four-foot putt she had a 3-up lead. McPherson won No. 9 with a 15-foot birdie putt to turn just 2-down.
It stayed that way until the 13th when Elsholz missed the green long and conceded a birdie. The two players then traded pars for two holes, and both made bogey at the difficult par 4 16th. That brought it to 17.
“I told my dad (and caddie, Mike) walking up 17 let’s stick it close and get out of here,” Elsholz said. “I played No. 18 enough this week. It’s long, and with her length Lindsey would have had the advantage. I just didn’t want to go there.”
Elsholz had to battle from a 2-down and even 3-down deficit in the morning match with Kimberly Dinh of Midland, a University of Wisconsin golfer. She did it with four birdies across the back nine and won 1-up.
McPherson, meanwhile, took an early lead in a 3 and 1 win against Shannon Warner, a 23-year-old nanny from Livonia, in the other semifinal.
Elsholz joined the list of GAM Championship and Women’s Amateur winners in the same year, which includes Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, Kim Benedict, Sarah Martin and Natalie Brehm.
“I just wanted to keep believing in myself because I was playing all these great players like Lindsey,” she said. “I knew it was possible. I knew they would hit great shots. I just had to play and hit the shots, too.”