All the rams have been driven out of Tarzana, California. The once mighty and prominent species have dwindled in number and slunk away, east to the hills, bowing to progress, to the new way of life in the West. Except for Wednesday. That’s when two Rams – Colorado State Rams, teammates on Annie Young’s women’s golf team – refused to cede ground to the young and fresh.
Ellen Secor, a 20-year-old sophomore from Portland, Ore., and her teammate and friend Katrina Prendergast, also 20 and a junior from Sparks, Nev., capped a full day of golf at El Caballero Country Club with one of the most dramatic comebacks of the week in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
After the duo dispensed of semifinal opponents and Duke University commits Megan Furtney (17, from Chicago) and Erica Shepherd (17, from Greenwood, Ind.) – Shepherd is the reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion – the Rams appeared listless during much of the championship match against another couple of high schoolers: Yachun Chang and Lei Ye, both students at the IMG Academy. The morning might have taken a lot out of the 20-year-olds. They had shot the equivalent of 5-under par through 16 holes in dispatching the future Blue Devils.
Chang and Ye are proof positive that golf builds bridges stronger than politics as Ye, who is 16, hails from mainland China and Chang is a 17-year-old from Taiwan. The friends appeared to have the upper hand as the match entered the back nine. Neither duo had held more than a 1-up lead and the match was all square after 12 holes. But matches have momentum. This one seemed to be on a steady trajectory toward Ye and Chang. Then Ye, who has committed to play for Anne Walker at Stanford, took temporary command of the proceedings. The junior holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole to go 1 up and a 6-foot par putt on 14 to give her and Chang what looked to be an comfortable 2-up lead with four holes to play.
But walking from the 14th green to the 15th tee, the inner ram in Secor raised high onto hind hooves for one final charge. The sophomore sensed that the gallery thought it was over, that the celebration for the youngsters had already begun. That was unacceptable. As long as there was a shot left to be played, the CSU teammates knew they had a fighting chance.
“That’s how she plays,” Prendergast said. “She gets fired up. That really helps her. And I think it actually helped me, too.”
Pendergast won the 15th hole with a par after Ye and Chang hit wayward tee shots. Then, on the par-3 16th, Secor hit her tee shot 12 feet behind the hole. When that putt went in to square the match again, the Rams roared. Just like that the momentum shifted.
Fired up, Prendergast bombed a tee shot on the par-5 17th, hitting it so jarringly long that she only had 7-iron from 160 yards into the green. Her long eagle putt drifted five feet below the hole. When Prendergast rolled that putt in for a 1-up lead, Secor clenched her fists and yelled “Catch Ram Fever!”
Prendergast and Secor both missed birdie chances at 18, which left one final chance for Ye to send the match to extra holes. But the downhill 7-footer slid low. And Secor fell to her knees and covered her face with her hands.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Secor said. “So many people to thank, so many thoughts running through my mind. I think what keeps recurring is that hard work finally paid off.”
Prendergast jumped in at that point and said, “Especially so many people backing us up and pulling for us really helped, especially back home. They couldn’t be here, but they’re still pulling for us no matter what.”
College golf is a wonderful experience. To be able to connect and compete with another group of athletes who travel with you, eat with you, dress in the same uniform as you, root for you, hold you accountable and help you when you are in need: it creates a bond that lasts a lifetime. For Secor and Prendergast, the Rallying Rams of Colorado State, that connection will be forever magnified. For the remainder of their lives and beyond, they now share the title of USGA champions.