Sara Camarena etches name into history, claims Cal Women's Am Title

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Mexico City native Sara Camarena made a splash in her Golden State debut.

Camarena, a 20-year-old junior at Cal State University-Fullerton, made a clutch par on the tough par-3 18th hole Friday at Pasatiempo Golf Course to hold off Katherine Zhu, 1-up, and win the 54th California Women’s Amateur Championship.

Camarena, who becomes the first foreign-born player to win the prestigious event, was making her debut competing as an adult in a non-collegiate event in California. She transferred to CSU-Fullerton this past Spring after playing at Oklahoma State. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she’d only play one event as a TItan.

“I’ve only really played in California as a junior,” said the No.18-seeded Camarena, who joins the likes of Patty Sheehan and Juli Inkster as winners of the event. “I’m happy, but I don’t think that it’s really sunk in yet.”

Holding a 2-up lead through 16 holes, it looked like Camarena would somewhat cruise to a win. On the par-4 17th, however, she pulled her approach shot left and out of bounds, leading to an eventual triple-bogey and loss. On the ensuing 18th, with the flagstick tucked front right adn the hole playing at 145 yards, the No.9 seeded Zhu hit a great shot that landed about 9 feet above the pin. Camarena hit an even better, shot, with her ball landing just 3 feet to the right of the flagstick. Zhu missed her birdie try, and the two eded up tying with pars.

“On the tee on 18 I knew I was still 1-up. She (Zhu) hit a nice shot. I just wanted to be on the safe side,” said Camarena, who hit a choked-up 8-iron off the tee. “I wanted to hit a draw but my ball actually just went straight. It worked out.”

Camarena came out strong, making birdies on holes 1 and 2 to jump to a quick 2-up lead. Zhu, a junior at Cal-Berkeley, later won holes 7 and 8 with pars to tie the match.

On the back-nine, Zhu’s putter started uncooperating. While Camarena’s kept hitting. Having lost the 11th hole after making a bogey, on No.12 Zhu missed a 3-footer for a potential tie. The two would tie the next four holes before heading to the 17th. Whenever it looked like Zhu had a chance to win a hole, Camarena either came up with a fantastic up-and-down or clutch putt to earn a tie.

“I had a slow start, and the putts just didn’t drop,” said Zhu, a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California. “Once I started to pick things up, she started making these great up-and-downs. Everything was working for me early in the week. Today, it slowed down. I’m still satisfied with how I played.”

While Camarena had never seen Pasatiempo prior to the week, she became a quick study and fan of the Alister MacKenzie layoiut.

“I learned where to hit and where to miss it,” Camarena said. “A big thing for me all week I think was my focus. I would try to relax in between shots. It’s hard to focus the whole time.”

Story courtesy of the NCGA

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