Mozo Reaches U.S. Amateur Championships Semifinals

Aug. 12, 2008

EUGENE, Ore. - 'I call it the magic,' said USC's Belen Mozo on Friday (Aug. 5) of her spectacular putting. Although she claims that the magic in her golf game comes and goes, advancing to the semifinals of the grueling U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, shows that this rising junior's play has been spellbinding.

Saturday's semifinal round showcased the rivalry between two elite golfers as Mozo was defeated by her good friend and reigning NCAA Division I individual champion, Azahara Munoz on the 15th hole. In addition to playing for their respective Pac-10 golf teams (USC and ASU), both Mozo and Munoz have represented the Spanish Golf Federation in international venues.

Shooting a 147 to make the cut and place 21st in the 36-hole stroke play qualifying rounds, Mozo successfully vanquished her first match-play opponent in 19 holes, on Thursday morning. During the Round of 16 in the afternoon, Mozo defeated her opponent by three holes with two to play.

Friday's quarterfinal, against Virginia's Whitney Neuhauser was relatively even until the 8th hole. 'The 8th was the key point of the match,' says Mozo. 'It's a par 5, so I almost reached it in two. But she hit into the trees, and then didn't have a chance to hit (the green) in three... so she gave me the hole.'

On the 9th hole, Mozo, now two up, knew she 'had to go for it.' Hitting her drive into a fairway bunker 180 yards from the pin, Mozo was forced to carry the ball between two more large bunkers guarding either side of the green, and then let it 'release and roll. It was a really tough bunker shot, with the (location of the) pin.' Fairway wood in hand, she stepped into the bunker and tried a shot she'd never hit before. 'Who taught you that?' asked USC Head Coach Andrea Gaston, following in the gallery. 'I don't know,' Mozo said later, 'It was a miracle.'

The magic, or the miracle, left her with a 40 foot birdie putt, which she subsequently made, fist pump and all, to increase her lead. She never looked back, consecutively winning holes 11, 12 and 13 to clinch her seat in the semifinals.

Her bid for Sunday's final round was thwarted after losing 4 of the first 6 holes during Saturday's semifinal match. She came back, winning holes 7 and 8 with a par and a birdie respectively, but her putter lacked the magic of the past week. 'I knew it was going to be a really hard match because Azahara is playing awesome,' Mozo said. 'She missed on a few holes, and I missed after her, which is really bad.'

In spite of impressive and inventive shot making, including using a putter on the 15th hole to chip from under a tree, Mozo's bid for Sunday's final pairing was denied.

Gaston describes the accomplished golfer as the 'total package. She has a great personality. She is so vivacious, and loquacious... she is everything.' Particularly important for creating the team concept within an individual sport is Mozo's ability to stay positive and bring laughter to her teammates. 'She looks forward to every day,' says Gaston.

Mozo doesn't know where the magic comes from, and she doesn't know how long it will last, but for now, the rising junior will chase her dreams of championships and making putts. 'The sky is the limit' says Gaston of Mozo's future, 'She certainly possesses the talent.

Other Trojans who played in the Amateur were sophomore Lizette Salas (who lost to eventual champion Amanda Blumenherst in the first round of match play), incoming freshman Jennifer Song, junior Caroline Kim, outgoing senior Paola Moreno. All advanced out of stroke play to play in the match play portion of the championship.

One of sixteen national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, the US Women's Amateur is open to any female amateur who holds a 5.4 or lower USGA handicap. The talented field of 156 players was filled with USGA Champions, National team members, collegiate veterans, and junior prodigies from 960 competitors.

-- by E.J. Claire

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