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Hartselle’s Nail wins Women’s State Amateur golf tourney

Two Hartselle natives faced each other in the 83rd Women’s State Amateur Championship at Gadsden Country Club June 25-27.

Heather Nail of the University of Mobile and Arin Eddy of the University of Montevallo, both Hartselle natives, were two of 16 players in the championship flight.

The top 16 players, based on handicap index, were picked to form the championship flight. Wednesday the rounds of 16 and quarterfinals were contested, while Thursday saw the semifinals and Friday the 18-hole final.

Eddy advanced to the semifinals by beating Lucie King and Jordan Susce. She faced Nail in Thursday’s first semifinal.

Nail beat reigning State Senior champion Susan West and then Grayson Gladden on the second extra hole of their quarterfinal to advance.

On Thursday, Nail beat Eddy one up to advance to the final. Nail and Eddy grew up playing high school golf together. Nail, 19, just finished her sophomore year on the golf team at the University of Mobile, while Eddy is a year older and goes to the University of Montevallo.

Nail won four times her sophomore year and was named Second Team, All-American in NAIA.

Nail, a former Women’s State Four Ball champion as a high school student, came out on top in a close contest.

Never more than a hole in it the whole match, Nail and Eddy came to the final hole all square. After both hit fine approach shots to the green on the uphill closing hole, both were left with around five feet for birdie. Eddy went first and her downhill effort missed, leaving the door open for Nail to drain her uphill putt and advance.

“We both knew it would be a close match. We were tied almost the entire back nine. I just managed to come out on top,” Nail said.

She relished playing 10-time Women’s State Amateur champion Kathy Hartwiger of Ole Miss in the final.

“Alison (Hovatter) is a great player, but I was rooting for her (Hartwiger) to win,” Nail said. “She is an amazing player.”

Nail pointed out that she and Suzanne Stanley beat Hartwiger and Lea Green in the final match of the 2012 Women’s State Four Ball. Hartwiger previously won in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1999. She won the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and has long been a top competitive golfer.

Nail went on to defeat Hartwiger in the 18-hole final by a score of one up to claim her second state title.

In the closely contested match, Nail led most of the way, but a resilient Hartwiger took her all the way to the final green before coming up just short.

The match was played in searing temperatures on a beautifully conditioned course.

Hartwiger started with an opening birdie to go one up, but it would prove to be her only lead of the day as Nail responded with a 20 foot putt for a birdie two on the next hole to square the match.

The next three holes were halved with pars, before a Hartwiger three-putt from the fringe allowed Nail to go one up through six holes. She would never relinquish her lead.

Both players struggled to bogey fives on No. 9 with Nail still one up. Hartwiger struggled on the next hole as well, conceding it to Nail, who doubled her lead. It would stay that way until an up-and-down for par on No. 15 allowed Hartwiger to cut into Nail’s lead, but an errant Hartwiger second on 16 gave the two up advantage right back to Nail.

Hartwiger captured the 17th with a rock solid par, but an errant tee shot far left on the closing hole, followed by Nail’s drive sailing right down the middle, left Hartwiger, literally, with a very tough hill to climb. Nail was able to three-putt, but still tied the hole and thus won the championship match one up.

“I thought it was so key to keep the momentum going when I got ahead,” Nail said. “I was able to make some good putts and that’s what mattered. I really wanted to win this championship, but knew I would face a tough match as Kathy is a great, great champion.

“I just felt all week that this course fit my eye. I felt like I was able to figure out the greens well. I’m truly blessed to win this championship, especially against someone who is the Jack Nicklaus of Alabama golf. She’s the best ever.”

Hartwiger, 49, admitted that the heat and playing four matches in three days took its toll on her, but would take nothing away from Nail’s win.

“Heather played a great match and was very consistent,” Hartwiger said. “She gave me very few openings and when she did, I wasn’t sharp enough to take advantage.”