No wonder butterflies fluttered like crazy in her stomach. There she was, golfing in a sudden-death playoff against her old high school rival for the very last qualifying spot in the 2009 U.S. Women's Amateur.
UI senior golfer Alison Cavanaugh and her rival—playing for Notre Dame—had tied for the final coveted place in the tournament. Now, they faced a showdown and Cavanaugh steeled herself for the challenge ahead.
At the Green Gables Country Club in Denver, Colorado, they each made par on the first three holes, matching stroke for stroke. On the fourth hole, Cavanaugh managed a tough shot from the sand to make par. Her nemesis bogeyed. With that, Cavanaugh earned the right to play in the Amateur.
"I think qualifying was the best part itself," says Cavanaugh, recalling the drama of the day. "The rest was icing on the cake."
The U.S. Women's Amateur is one of the U.S. Golf Association's original three championships, first held in 1895. This year, 160 women from all ages and walks of life—including Cavanaugh—competed in the historical event at the Old Warson Country Club in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Sporting a tour card on her belt and enjoying access to VIP areas, Cavanaugh felt like a pro and enjoyed the rock-star treatment. She found the tournament superbly organized and the course in excellent shape. Although she didn't make the cut to play the third and final day of competition, Cavanaugh considers the experience the best of her golfing career— and a great confidence-booster coming into a new season at Iowa.
A native of Littleton, Colorado, Cavanaugh grew up next to a golf course, but pursued other sports until a knee injury forced her to consider a lowerimpact game. She quickly took to the physical and mental challenge of golf. "You never have the same shot twice," she says. "I love the preparation that goes into each shot and the integrity of the game. You can play it all over the world and it's a sport you can enjoy with your family."
As the only senior on the UI women's golf team, Cavanaugh is prepared to serve as a leader. She aims to build upon the success of last season, when she competed in an impressive total of nine tournaments and recorded career-low scores at the Hawkeye Invitational. She also hopes to qualify for the Amateur again.
"I know I'll always play competitively," Cavanaugh says. "Because I love the game."