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Dinosaurs helped put a 15-year-old in this pro golf tournament in Davidson

The $175,000 Symetra Classic women’s golf tournament begins Thursday at River Run Country Club in Davidson. Above, a player hits a shot in the pro-am event on Wednesday.
The $175,000 Symetra Classic women’s golf tournament begins Thursday at River Run Country Club in Davidson. Above, a player hits a shot in the pro-am event on Wednesday.

Before the dinosaurs and windmills, Amanda Sambach was headed for tennis stardom.

She seemed to have a natural flair for the game and climbed to the No. 1 ranking in the 12-under division in North Carolina.

“But I didn’t like the pressure,” says Sambach, a 15-year-old Concord Cannon School freshman who has gained a sponsor’s exemption and will play in the $175,000 Symetra Classic golf tournament that begins Thursday in Davidson.

Besides, there were the dinosaurs and windmills.

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Amanda Sambach, a Concord Cannon School freshman, is the No. 1-ranked female golfer in North Carolina in the high school graduating class of 2021 and No. 4 among all female teens in the state. Courtesy of Lila Sambach

“Amanda loved those miniature golf courses at the beach,” recalls her mother, Lila. “When we’d go there, she’d ask, ‘Can we play? Can we play?’ ”

“I drove them crazy about that,” Amanda recalls with a laugh.

And on one of the family’s beach trips, Amanda was introduced to the game of golf at a miniature-style course. And the rest, as they say, is history.

She had her first hole-in-one at age 7, on the par-3 13th at Northstone Country Club in Huntersville. Then came another, at age 12 on the par-3 15th at Greenville (S.C.) Country Club.

Sambach shot her first subpar round at age 11, scoring a 68 at Cowan’s Ford Country Club. A year later, she was picked for the six-member U.S. Kids vs. Team Europe tournament at Pinehurst No. 2.

She is the No. 1-ranked female golfer in North Carolina in the high school graduating class of 2021 and No. 4 among all female teens in the state.

That, along with a 4.0 grade-point average, helped her land a golf scholarship to the University of Virginia in eighth grade.

And now comes the next chapter – her first appearance with the pros.

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Symetra Tour player Carlie Carr watches her shot in Wednesday’s pro-am event at River Run Country Club. Carr is among the players set to go in the the $175,000 Symetra Classic that begins Thursday. Benjamin Robson

The Symetra Tour is the women’s version of the Web.com Tour, as a sort of Class AAA level to the LPGA. The tournament was played at Raintree Country Club from 2012-2016, was not held last year, and this year is moving to River Run Country Club in Davidson.

“Am I nervous? Yes,” Sambach says. “But I’m also excited. I think the nervous thing will last a few holes, and then I’ll settle down.”

Sambach says she turned from tennis to golf because it provided “a different kind of pressure. I didn’t like how it felt in tennis, but I enjoy the kind of pressure I feel on a golf course.”

Sambach acknowledges she will have a sort of home-field advantage in the 54-hole tournament. She and her parents (dad Chris and mom Lila) live along River Run, and she plays there frequently. Several teammates from her Cannon School golf team and other friends say they will follow her along the course in the tournament.

However, Sambach adds, “These players are at a different level than me right now.”

And while competing in a professional tournament is exciting stuff for a 15-year-old, Sambach says she tries to stay grounded.

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The $175,000 Symetra Classic women’s golf tournament begins Thursday at River Run Country Club in Davidson. Above, players warm up the pro-am event on Wednesday. Benjamin Robson

As Sambach is quick to point out, “I’m a high school student. I’ll miss two days of school to play in this tournament.”

She describes herself as being serious about physical fitness, visiting the gym several times a week. And she enjoys spending time with friends.

“I don’t want to give up being a teen,” she says. “I want a normal life, as much as possible.”

But Sambach acknowledges that the Symetra Classic appearance is a part of her future plans.

“Sure, I’d like to be on the LPGA Tour one day,” she says. “But I take it day by day. I’m a high school student. Then I want to attend college and play golf. We’ll see where it goes.”

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The view from the 18th hole at River Run Country Club in Davidson, site of this weekend’s $175,000 Symetra Classic women’s golf tournament. Benjamin Robson

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