CHARLESTON, S.C. – For most collegiate sports, the end of the academic year brings a well-deserved break from training and fewer interactions with coaches and teammates. But in amateur golf, summer is arguably the most hectic season, allowing teammates at elite programs to remain close year-round, offering support as well as healthy competition.
At the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur, the University of Southern California had five players from the active roster and incoming freshman class advance to match play: Doris Chen, Kyung Kim, Annie Park, Sophia Popov and Gabriella Then.
Chen, 20, of Chinese Taipei, defeated Erynne Lee, 20, of Silverdale, Wash., 1 up. Lee plays collegiate golf for the University of California-Los Angeles, USC’s crosstown rival.
“Today I tried not to think about that,” said Chen when asked about the USC-UCLA rivalry. “I tried not to give this match too much meaning. I know she’s a very good player and we’ve played several times together, but today I wanted to just focus on my game and get my game right.”
Park, 18, of Levittown, N.Y., eliminated Lauren Stephenson, 16, of Lexington, S.C., 4 and 3. Park joined the USC squad for the spring semester and won the 2013 NCAA Division I individual championship, becoming just the seventh freshman in history to do so.
While Chen and Park advanced, their comrades were not so fortunate. Kim, 19, of Chandler, Ariz., fell to Katelyn Sepmoree, 22, of Tyler, Texas, 2 and 1. Popov, 20, of Germany, lost to Casie Cathrea, 17, of Livermore, Calif., 3 and 2. Incoming freshman Gabriella Then, 17, of Rancho Cucamonga, lost to Aurora Kan, 19, of Boothwyn, Pa., 7 and 5.
The University of Alabama had three active players and one recruit advance to match play: Cammie Gray, Stephanie Meadow, Emma Talley and Nicole Morales, who will join the Crimson Tide in 2014. All advanced to the round of 32 except Meadow, 22, of Northern Ireland, who was defeated by Leona Maguire, 18, of Ireland, 3 and 2.
Gray, 20, of Northport, Ala., eliminated Simin Feng, of the People’s Republic of China, 4 and 3. She said that having her teammates at the championship is invaluable because they understand her game, and more experienced players can offer good advice.
“It’s been nice to be able to hang out with people you know so well,” said Gray. “It’s also very helpful because they've been in this situation before and I’m kind of a baby, so it’s nice just getting some help from them mentally. They always tell me it’s just important to stay in the moment and stay focused.”
Talley, 19, of Princeton, Ky., defeated Lydia Choi, 16, of Beverly Hills, Calif., 3 and 1. Talley, a rising sophomore, earned second team All-American honors for the 2012-13 season. Morales, 17, of South Salem, N.Y., earned a 2-and-1 victory over Liv Cheng, of New Zealand.
Matches to Watch
Cathrea and Morales are facing off Thursday at 8:20 a.m. in one of the most anticipated matchups in the round of 32.
Cathrea was the low amateur at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., finished tied for 25th with a final-round 70 that was tied for Sunday’s low score. She was also a quarterfinalist in the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior championship.
Morales advanced to the third round of match play in the 2011 Women’s Amateur, as well as in the 2010 and 2012 U.S. Girls’ Juniors. Both players will represent the United States in the 2013 Junior Solheim Cup.
In tomorrow’s lower bracket, local favorite Katelyn Dambaugh, 18, of Goose Creek, S.C., will take on Alison Lee, 18, of Valencia, Calif., at 9:10 a.m. Dambaugh eliminated Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, 2 up, to advance to the round of 32, and Lee defeated Dawn Woodard of Greer, S.C., 3 and 1, to move on.
Both players have finished as runner-up at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. In 2010, Dambaugh was defeated, 3 and 2, by Chen. In 2012, Alison Lee was bested by Minjee Lee, 1 up.
Alison Lee will also represent the United States in the 2013 Junior Solheim Cup.
Luck of the Irish
At the start of the 24th match of the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur, the two young women about to ascend to the teeing ground animatedly chatted as the starter cleared her throat to announce them. The girls paused for a moment as she announced Stephanie Meadow, of Northern Ireland, and Leona Maguire, of Ireland. Spectators scattered around the tee turned abruptly, suddenly paying attention to this match that had piqued their interest.
Maguire defeated Meadow, 3 and 2, in a match that pitted friendly rivals. They have competed against each other on multiple occasions, most recently at the 2012 Irish Ladies Close Championship, when Maguire was also victorious.
However, they have also played as teammates. In the 2012 Curtis Cup Match, Maguire and Meadow played together in four-ball, when they defeated Lisa McCloskey and Lindy Duncan, and in foursomes, when they lost to the same duo.
Both players acknowledged that this would be a difficult match, given their familiarity with each other’s style of play. Maguire didn’t think either had a clear advantage, simply saying, “It could have gone either way at any stage.”
Anne D. Pennington is a communications intern at the USGA. Email her at email@example.com.