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Armstrong Wins Even Even When She Doesn’t

KOHLER, WISCONSIN | Ashley Armstrong is ahead of schedule.
There’s nothing new there. Armstrong has been ahead of schedule, especially when it comes to golf, seemingly forever.
And she’s only 19.
The most recent destination on her schedule was last week’s U.S. Women’s Open, a lofty location for someone who will start sophomore studies at Notre Dame next month.
Sure, there was a 13-year-old in the Women’s Open, and a 14-year-old as well. For that matter, Armstrong played with 16-year-old Shannon Aubert, a prodigy from the Annika Academy in Florida who hails from France and has a tempo to die for. Youth continues to abound in women’s golf well beyond Lexi Thompson.
But Armstrong in the Open, right here, right now? That was a bit of a surprise.
Maybe going into her senior year, when she’d have a little more length to go with her solid short game and putting prowess.
Instead, she made the big show at Blackwolf Run by finishing as first alternate in her sectional qualifier at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis, then waited for others to drop out and for the results of the previous week’s LPGA tournament in Arkansas.
It was early Sunday evening, Armstrong working on the putting green, when a USGA official gave her the good news. She was in.
Early Thursday morning, nearly six hours before her first-round tee time, Armstrong again was working on the putting green, looking for that last tweak for perfection.
That lofty designation was not to be in her first Open outing. While a triple-bogey 8 on her seventh hole Thursday was damaging to her cause, Armstrong picked on her putting as the real reason behind her 8-over-par 80 in the first round. She developed a case of the pulls, and they continued on Friday, when a 10-over 82 guaranteed that she’d miss the cut.
No matter, in the grand scheme of things. It was an occasion that generated good karma. Blackwolf Run might have been tougher than calculus, something most every Notre Dame student has to tackle, but Armstrong has faced tougher challenges in golf.
Imagine, for instance, finding out you hadn’t won a tournament the day after you’d won it. That happened to Armstrong three years ago, between her sophomore and junior years at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. She and all the world, including American Junior Golf Association officials, thought she’d won an AJGA tournament at the Warren Course at Notre Dame, beating Banchalee Theinthong of Thailand by a stroke after trailing by nine at one stage.
Armstrong had the trophy, posed for the pictures, and went on vacation with her family. The next morning, checking her statistics, something didn’t add up. Her score, to be specific. She remembered scoring 1-over-par 72. The AJGA had her for a 71. She double-checked. Her 72 was a 72, but she signed for a 71, recorded by her fellow competitor. The discrepancy was on the 18th hole. She made a bogey 5 but signed for a 4.
She gasped, reached for her cellphone, and dialed the tournament director, telling him she was disqualifying herself for signing an incorrect scorecard.
“For two seconds, you think about it,” Armstrong said shortly thereafter. “Then you call.”
Her father Dean knew that she’d call, but told her she’d have to decide that herself.
“It was tough,” she said of giving up the trophy, “but calling, that was pretty simple.”
Then Armstrong made another call. This one was to Notre Dame golf coach Susan Holt, who, impressed with Armstrong’s tenacity, had offered her a scholarship to the school. Armstrong had accepted.
Armstrong now told Holt, “If you want to withdraw the scholarship, I understand.” Said Holt, “Now we want you more than ever.”
More good karma would follow. Armstrong would lead Homewood-Flossmoor to the Illinois Class AA team title as a junior. She would collect the AJGA’s annual sportsmanship award. And, in her last AJGA tournament, she would win – after a careful check of her scorecard. The following week, she won the Women’s Western Junior, a sentimental journey in that it was her junior finale, and on her home course, Flossmoor Country Club.
The first year at Notre Dame hasn’t been bad either. Big East freshman of the year, Big East first team, and Big East champion, in a three-hole playoff.
“What a year,” said her father.
Ashley? She’s the most level-headed person around, which serves her well in the crucible of high-level golf, especially when the temperature reaches triple-digits, as was the case at Blackwolf Run. Golf is important to her, but not everything. She’s skipping this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifying because she wouldn’t be able to play even if she made it. Friends are coming in to visit the week of the amateur, and friends come before golf.
Ashley Armstrong, ahead of schedule? Seems like she has the perfect schedule.


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