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Heath Hotzler, Published August 05 2009

Anderson's path to success has been long in the making

Amy Anderson is in the midst of the greatest summer of her golf career.

The 17-year-old Oxbow, N.D., resident in three weeks captured the U.S. Girls’ Junior title, placed 10th at the PGA Junior Championship and advanced to the match-play portion of the U.S. Women’s Amateur by carding a 4-over-par 75 Tuesday in the final round of qualifying.

The recent success launched Anderson into the national spotlight.

Some in the media have labeled her Cinderella, a small-town North Dakota girl who came out of nowhere to challenge some of the best junior golfers in the world.

But she is no overnight sensation. Anderson has been working since she was 9 years old for this moment.

“They go to the golf course around 8 o’clock in the morning and don’t come home until after supper,” swing coach Dale Helm said of Amy and brother, Nathan, who both committed to play college golf for North Dakota State this fall. “… She’s willing to go the extra mile to be good – and that’s what it takes. ”

Anderson’s journey to elite status began with frequent trips to the course with parents, Mark and Twyla, throughout childhood.

Mark Anderson, whose family lives on Oxbow Golf and Country Club, said he would take young Amy and Nathan in his cart whenever he played his home course.

“They don’t ever remember not golfing,” Mark said.

At age 9, Amy asked her parents if she could enter her first tournament in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Mark had one condition.

“I just said that if she wanted to enter a tournament there was one thing she had to promise me,” said Mark, who, with Twyla, homeschooled Amy and Nathan. “You have to practice really hard in the month of July. I told her that if she is going to enter something she had to put as much effort as she could into it.”

That challenge lit Amy’s competitive fire.

Mark said his daughter committed herself to improving on the golf course by hitting 150 bags of range balls in the month before the Detroit Lakes tourney.

She kept track of her own progress on a calendar without her parents’ knowledge.

Anderson won her first tournament.

“I would have to say she was hooked from that point,” said Mark, whose children have put in about eight hours of practice each day at the golf course for the last several years. “I’ve never really had to tell her that she had to practice. … I have never put any pressure on (Amy and Nathan) to practice so many times a day. I’ve always told them that failure with effort is always acceptable.”

Amy’s local resume is impressive.

She’s a three-time Fargo-Moorhead Junior All-City champion and a three-time winner of the F-M Women’s All-City. Off the course, Anderson is an accomplished pianist and violin player.

However, Anderson’s biggest moments have come in the last three weeks.

Her surprise run in the U.S. Girls’ Junior tournament culminated with a match-play victory against decorated Kimberly Kim, who at 14 became the youngest to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2006.

During match play, Anderson also defeated 2009 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Alison Lee and 2008 American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year Victoria Tanco.

Anderson is now looking to become the first golfer to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the Women’s Amateur in the same year.

“The drive comes from the good Lord and her parents,” Helm said. “Her parents are hard workers. For the most part, you can tell kids what to do but they are likely to do what you model. … There is no sure-fire anything. But I would certainly like to bet on her (playing in the LPGA). I would bet she would be a very good LPGA player.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com