GEORGETOWN — April Emerson won the 83rd Women's State Amateur golf championship Friday, not once but twice, in the most bizarre and confusing finish in the event's history.
Emerson, an 18-year-old freshman-to-be at Eastern Kentucky University, thought she had prevailed 1-up in the title match after making a three-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Cherry Blossom Golf and Country Club.
But after getting hugs and congratulations for her victory over Lydia Gumm, and while being interviewed by television and newspaper reporters, Emerson got some bad news.
Her father and caddy, Mike Emerson, asked April if, before her last putt, she had remarked her ball after moving it out of Gumm's line.
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She had not.
After 10 minutes of discussion, an official ruled that Emerson had to forfeit the hole, thus tying the match and forcing a sudden-death playoff.
"I couldn't believe I actually didn't move my mark back," Emerson said. "That's one of those things you always remember.
"I was a little torn up, I'm going to admit."
After the players hit their approach shots on the first extra hole, play was interrupted as the rules official tried to determine if the penalty claim at No. 18 was indeed valid.
"Even if I have to look like an idiot ... let's get it right," said Jim Jones of the Kentucky Golf Association.
After a 10-minute delay, the golfers resumed the playoff, which finally ended when Emerson sank a 10-foot par putt on the third extra hole.
Emerson was the State Am champ again.
This time for sure.
Has the Russell County native ever had a stranger, wackier golf experience?
"No," she said. "I couldn't believe what all was happening. I was wondering what in the world could happen next. It was crazy."
But it was worth it.
"It's amazing," Emerson said. "I never expected this.
"I just wanted to come out, have a good time and win a match or two. I never thought I'd make it to the championship and beat Lydia. She's such a strong player."
Emerson outplayed Gumm most of the day, starting with a birdie on the first hole and eventually going 4-up after a birdie at No. 14.
Gumm, a 15-year-old freshman-to-be at North Hardin, didn't have much go her way up to that point.
She conceded the fifth hole after hitting the wrong ball out of the rough. At the 11th, she air-mailed her approach 30 yards over the green. At the 12th, she hit into a wet bunker. And at the 14th, her ball landed just above a bunker, leaving her with an awkward stance in the sand.
But she didn't give up.
"As crazy as I was hitting my driver, I had to grind," she said.
Gumm, who looked on the verge of tears, steeled herself and rallied. She won the next three holes, capped by a six-inch birdie on the 17th that Emerson conceded.
Then came the confusing events at the 18th that left both golfers tied up in emotional knots.
"We were both upset," Emerson said, adding that she understood why the penalty had to be called.
Gumm said she didn't realize Emerson had forgotten to remark her ball until "after the hole and everybody was talking about it.
"I didn't want to call it, but it was the State Am, and I didn't want to leave that out.
"It was pretty bizarre, all that stuff going on. It was crazy but you have to regroup and keep playing."
Gumm credited Emerson for "playing really good. She deserved it. I just didn't hit the ball very good."
Gumm, whose dad Gary caddied for her all week, said the loss in the title match will motivate her in the future.
"It was a good experience. I want to get back in the finals again. It was awesome. But I'll hope for a better result."
Emerson, meanwhile, will never forget claiming her first State Am, not once but twice.
"This is the biggest tournament I've ever won," she said. "And the most stressful win of my life, too."