Lake Norman & Mooresville

Sambach makes another championship swing for Cannon School golf team

Amanda Sambach after winning Peggy Kirk Bell Championship at Salem Glen on Aug. 11.
Amanda Sambach after winning Peggy Kirk Bell Championship at Salem Glen on Aug. 11.

Amanda Sambach has seemed destined for greatness on the golf course from the time she started constantly asking her parents, Chris and Lila, to take her to play miniature golf when she was on vacation with her family at Hilton Head when she just 5 years old.

At age7, the Davidson native had her first hole-in-one, acing the par-three, 13th-hole at NorthStone Country Club with a driver.

By age 11, Sambach broke par on 18 holes, shooting a 68 at Cowan’s Ford Country Club on Lake Norman.

At age 12, Sambach was selected to play for the United States’ six-player squad in the U.S. Kids’ World Championship versus Team Europe at Pinehurst No. 2.

In January, Sambach may have topped all of her accomplishments when was offered a full scholarship to play college golf at the University of Virginia by Cavaliers’ coach Kim Lewellen.

Two days later and nearly seven months before her first day of high school, the then 14-year old, Cannon School eighth-grader committed to play golf at Virginia.

Amanda is the prodigy, she’s special.

Cannon School golf coach Pat Whisenant

“Honestly, I don’t think all of this (University of Virginia commitment) has fully set in yet,” said Sambach, who committed during a visit to the University of Virginia campus and golf team. “It’s definitely a dream come true (college golf) because I love playing golf. I am so excited because I know a lot of the girls on the team (including former Cannon standout, Anna Redding) and that will be on the team in next few years.”

While Sambach has earned her reputation on the golf course, she could have easily chosen to make tennis her future as she also excelled on the courts from a young age, and was ranked No. 1 in the state in the USTA (U12 rankings) when she was 12 years old.

But about the same time, Sambach made the difficult decision to fully commit to golf.

“I love playing tennis and was very serious about it,” said Sambach, who notched her second hole-in-one when she was 12 years old at Greenville Country Club (S.C.) on the par-three, 15th-hole. “But golf to me is a game for life and I love everything about it. …

“My dedication to golf is all about my natural competitive nature, I love to win at anything I do. I’m playing golf or out on the range 24-7, and if I’m not there I try to be in the gym getting (fitter, strong) better there.”

While Sambach’s hard work has been paying off for several years, she’s had one of the best stretches of her golf career this summer.

Sambach not only made it to match play portion of the USGA U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Cannon School, teammate, Muskan Uppal, but also won two consecutive tournaments in August, including the Peggy Kirk Bell Tour Championship at Salem Glen (in Clemmonsville, N.C.) and the American Junior Golf Association Junior All-Star tournament at the Club at Irish Creek (in Kannapolis).

Sambach — whose home course is at River Run Country Club in Davidson — is ranked No. 9 in the state and No. 1 in her class (2021), according to the Tarheel Youth Golf Association golf rankings.

The most unbelieve part is Sambach accomplished all of this before her first day of high school at Cannon School, Aug. 21.

She is excited to get her Cannon School golf career started as she joins a loaded, Cougar girls’ team that has won five of the last six, NCISAA state championships.

Cannon girls’ golf team has at least four players who will play college golf, according to Coach Pat Whisenant, including Sambach; junior Uppal, a University of Richmond commit; sophomore Sophie Holland, who generates Division I interest including Wake Forest; junior Elena Jacoby.

Cannon School senior Sophie Jenike, junior Mirabella Calabrase and freshman, Molly Morris have also showed promise.

But even as one of the youngest girls on the team, Coach Whisenant says Sambach has the talent to be Cannon’s best player.

Whisenant notes Sambach compares to Cannon School boys’ golf standout, two-time, state champion, senior Michael Sanders, Louisiana State University commit, whose reputation proceeded him even before he got to high school.

“Amanda is the prodigy, she’s special,” said Whisenant, a PGA professional who works for Titleist and a scratch golfer who has guided the Cannon boys’ and girls’ golf teams to eight state titles. “We (Cannon School) have had a lot of great players, but Amanda has a chance to be the best. …

“I remember when her coach (River Run director of golf instruction, PGA professional), David Ross, first told me Amanda would be that good two years ago when she was going into the seventh grade. Now, I think she may be even better.”

Sambach, who stands 5-foot-7, has a complete game from tee to green, as she can drive the ball consistently 260 yards, hitting the ball 103 mph.

But the Cannon School freshman says her favorite club is her eight-iron and she also loves sand shots.

Sambach, who says she would like to improve his distance control with mid-irons and her emotions on the course, is always look to get better.

“I really hold myself accountable being a college commit, going to a really good school,” Sambach said. “I a lot of pressure on myself to be the best I can be every time I play.”

While Sambach travels the country playing the AJGA, Carolinas’ Golf Association (CGA), PKB tours as well as some USGA events, she should playing for her high school team at Cannon School, is something she has looked forward to since she got to the Cannon School in fifth grade.

Coach Whisenant says the 2017 Cannon girls’ golf team is the best team he’s ever had.

“This is going to be a fun year because records are going to be set, especially with Amanda,” said Whisenant, whose Cannon team won the 2016 state title by nine shots at Whispering Pines in Pinehurst. “I’m just lucky to have the players I have playing, with the dedication they have to golf. I’ve got three players (Sambach, Uppal, Holland) who want to be No. 1. …

“It’s going to be a race to win with Amanda, Muskan and Sophie in our matches and for the (individual) state championship. When they go to any tournament, their goal is to win. They real push each other to play their best golf and makes our team better.”

For now, Sambach is focused on helping the Cannon School girls’ golf team to another state championship season.

She says she is excited to get closer with her Cannon teammates as “they already have a few sleepovers planned.”

Sambach will also play at the AJGA Girls’ Championship at Furman University on Sept. 1, AJGA Justin Rose Junior All-Star Invitational on Oct. 6 and the PKBGT Invitational at Grandover Resort in Greensboro on Nov. 9.

While her focus is always on winning the next round, Sambach admits she has thought about her future on the golf course.

“I have very high expectations,” said Sambach, who shot a career-best 67 at Long Leaf Golf Club in Southern Pines. “To be honest, I try not to think about about it (playing professionally) a lot, but it’s definitely crossed my mind. I’ve definitely though about it. But I know I have a long way to go, a lot to prove.”

Whisenant, a PGA professional for the past 40 years, says Sambach thrives on the challenge of living up to her own expectations.

“I can’t imagine what that is like because I’ve never had to do it,” Whisenant said. “She thinks she should win every tournament; I think she should win every tournament. But she understands golf is hard and you can’t win everything. …

“But, Amanda (is an exceptional player. There’s no limit to what she can accomplish. She can hit shots that other players, at least on my team, just can’t hit.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: