Lea Venable fought tears.
Not only because she won her third Women's South Carolina Golf Association Amateur Championship, and first with rival Dawn Woodard in the field. But for the first time, the tournament winner was awarded the Inez Long Trophy, named for the former WSCGA director who helped launch junior golf in the state for players like Venable.
Venable, a Simpsonville resident, defeated four-time champion Woodard by a shot Thursday to claim the trophy at Colleton River Plantation's Nicklaus Course. Long presented Venable the trophy.
"I have the utmost respect for that lady," said Venable, who finished the 54-hole event at 3-under 213. "... I'm speechless when it comes to what it means to me for her to give me that trophy."
The 41-year-old held off Woodard, a former Furman golfer who made five birdies and led by one through 15 holes. But Woodard made bogey on two of her final three holes and failed to win the tournament for the first time.
Woodard had defeated Venable in the WSCGA match play final in June on Cat Island.
"At some point the law of averages is going to catch up with you," Woodard said. "You can't win them all, no matter how good you are."
The ladies will go from rivals to teammates next week in Ohio when they compete for South Carolina in the USGA Women's State Team Championship.
Woodard then will compete next month in Asheville, N.C., at the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, where she was medalist a year ago in the stroke play portion.
Venable's golf schedule relaxes after the team event. She goes into the lull with a new outlook on her game after reaching the finals against Woodard in match play and then finishing ahead of her Thursday.
Venable entered the final round with a two-shot lead after Woodard's second-round 77 allowed a cushion. But she had played with the Greer resident enough to know what to expect the final 18 holes.
"A two-shot lead with Dawn Woodard on the tee, it's not a lead," Venable said. "You just try to go out and play your best and if you get beat, you get beat."
"Two shots is great, but if she starts making birdies, five shots isn't enough."
Venable chipped in for birdie on No. 3 and added birdies at 6, 7, 10 and 15. The last was a tap-in she thought had pulled her even with Woodard, but her counterpart dropped a long, downhill putt to remain one ahead.
It wasn't until Woodard topped her drive only 50 yards off the 18th tee and made bogey that Venable had her opening. The former University of South Carolina golfer won the tournament for the first time away from the Upstate. Her previous victories came at Furman and Thornblade, neither over Woodard.
"I've been bridesmaid for quite some time," Venable said. "She's got the best of me, but I feel like I'm finally learning how to play my game and stay in the moment."
Women's South Carolina Golf Association Amateur Championship
Thursday, at Colleton River Plantation's Nicklaus course, par 72
(Full results available at wscga.org)
Championship flight 1
Lea Venable 70-73-70 -- 213
Dawn Woodard 68-77-69 -- 214
Ashley Rose 79-73-73 -- 225
Karen Ferree 80-77-71 -- 228
Jennifer Adams 84-71-77 -- 232
Catherine Shealy 81-79-78 -- 238
Susan Cummings 80-83-81 -- 244
Stephanie Van Inwagen 91-86-79 -- 256
Chrissie Spidell 86-85-94 -- 265
Championship flight 2
Terrie Allemang 81-78-84 -- 243
Betty Jean Armbruster 81-84-87 -- 252
Renee Rezzetano 91-84-80 -- 255
Inga Ivey 86-86-84 -- 256
Christine Hamrick 93-80-84 -- 257
Natalie Huff 84-87-93 -- 264
Deanna Childers 83-89-93 -- 265
Suzann Bartley 90-90-96 -- 276
Ginny Hackbert 93-93-97 -- 283