Amanda Samback of Virginia leads the ANNIKA Intercollegiate. A recent putter change is a major reason why:


LAKE ELMO, Minnesota – Amanda Sambach was frustrated.

The sophomore on Virginia’s golf team had an outstanding summer as she advanced to the North & South Women’s Amateur semifinals at Pinehurst No. 2 and played in the US Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay. Still, one club didn’t get her the results she wanted.

Her putter.

So, before the start of her second season, Sambach took a few putting classes. She switched from a flat stick in the shape of a hammer to a knife. And the change was incredible on her first round with the new putter Monday at Royal Golf Club in the first round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate.

“It completely changed everything,” Sambach said. “I’ve never put this down so well. It’s been a huge change, but so far it’s going well.”

ANNIKA Intercollegiate: Scores

Sambach dominated the field on Monday with seven birdies and no bogeys, shooting a 7-under 65 to open the tournament. She opened with birdies on two of her first three holes and closed with one on her 18th hole, the par-5 ninth. The 7-under performance equaled Virginia’s single-round scoring record.

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Presented by 3M, the ANNIKA Intercollegiate is a college golf tournament founded by the ANNIKA Foundation in 2014. The 54-hole stroke play event is held annually at the Royal Golf Club outside of Minneapolis and features 12 of the best Division I women’s programs in the country. This event allows Sorenstam to keep in touch with the players throughout their career and bridge the gap from junior to professional golf. In addition, a gala reception will take place prior to the event where Annika presents the ANNIKA Award presented by Stifel to the country’s best female player in college golf.

“She has really re-dedicated herself to becoming a great putter,” said Virginia coach Ria Scott. “That’s been the difference-maker here in the first few weeks we’ve been back. Her touch has always been exceptional, but she dropped the putts today.”

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Sambach leads by four strokes to the second round over Bohyun Park, Texas sophomore, who is 3 under. Florida’s Annabell Fuller and Michigan’s Mikaela Schulz are in a tie for third place with 2 under, and a trio of golfers with 1 under make up the only seven women to break par.

Sambach is one of 25 players on the ANNIKA Award preseason watchlist, which is presented each year to the nation’s top college golfer. That’s why Monday’s performance meant even more.

“Annika is literally the greatest of all time, so it’s really great to be on a site that I know will be,” Sambach said. “She’s such an inspiration, and this tournament is one of the bigger ones, so it’s a little more nerve-wracking, but I’m just excited to be here.”

Virginia also holds the team leader at 4 under and was the only team to finish under par in the first round. Michigan and Texas are on par with Duke and Oregon in fourth with 4 left. Jennifer Cleary shot 1 under for the Cavaliers, Megan Propeck was 1 over and Celeste Valinho scored a 3 over round as the four counting scores.

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While there’s plenty to golf, Scott couldn’t have asked for a better start to her team.

“This is a very strong field, one of the best in the country,” said Scott. “When you come to the ANNIKA (Intercollegiate) you have to have the guts to play it against such a strong field at the beginning of the season. We don’t have some of these warm-up weeks like some other sports. But that’s where we come in.” proud, giving these girls a great schedule and great opportunities to test themselves all year round.”


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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek