U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Undefeated Partners Gillman and Brooks Reunite
May 21, 2016 | Bowling Green, Fla.
By Lisa D. Mickey
In the last two years, Kristen Gillman and Sierra Brooks have made their share of appearances at the top of USGA championship leader boards. Gillman earned her first championship – the U.S. Women’s Amateur – in the summer of 2014, while Brooks was the runner-up in the same event in 2015.
This week, the two have joined forces as partners in the 2nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Streamsong Resort. The power combo of Gillman and Brooks didn’t seem to notice a steady wind in Saturday’s opening round, carding a 7-under-par 65 on Streamsong Blue for a one-stroke lead.
“I play a lot in the wind at home and I enjoy it because it’s a challenge,” said Gillman, 17, of Austin, Texas, who won the 2014 Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y., at age 16.
“Whenever I birdied, it was on the same hole [as Gillman],” said Brooks, 17, of Sorrento, Fla., who finished second to Hannah O’Sullivan in the 2015 Women’s Amateur at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. “Gillie hit a lot of iron shots close and hit every drive in the fairway. I picked a good partner.”
It’s not the maiden voyage for the two as partners in a team event. They paired up for the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup in Scotland and the 2015 Junior Solheim Cup in Germany. At each event, they won every match they played together.
“We decided to play in this before the Junior Solheim Cup last year,” said Brooks, currently No. 6 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. “We knew we’d get some experience playing in that, which would help us here.”
“We are very similar and we think alike on the golf course,” added Gillman, No. 116 in the world. “The most fun is just being able to have a partner. This is so different than what we usually do.”
Gillman represented the United States in the 2014 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Japan, and she also won the Junior PGA Championship by 11 shots the week before her win at the Women’s Amateur.
Last year, she accepted exemptions into four of the five women’s major championships, and also competed in the Pan-American Games in Canada the week before the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
Brooks will represent her country June 10-12 in Ireland as a member of the USA Curtis Cup Team.
And while Gillman had the hot hand in Saturday’s opening round, Brooks said she’s looking forward to the rest of the week with her good friend.
“We know each other’s games well and we see each other quite often, so we’ve built a friendship,” said Brooks.
“We just enjoy being with each other and it always helps to be with someone you like,” added Gillman. “You need to play with someone you can go out there and have fun with.”
When asked if they had any particular game plan, Gillman was quick to respond.
“Our game plan is to just play like you don’t have a partner,” she said. “I think we play the best that way – when we’re focused on our own golf ball.”
“We get momentum from each other – and confidence,” added Brooks, who sees her friend at American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and amateur tournaments throughout the year.
Both players also hope to use their tournament experiences to build confidence heading into college golf this fall, Gillman at the University of Alabama, Brooks at Wake Forest University.
“I’m really excited about it and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life,” said Brooks. “I feel like I’ve been playing junior golf for a long time.”
Gillman is also eager to start her college career.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” she said. “I just want to have some good finishes this summer to get confidence heading into college.”
For now, they will be focused on playing as a two-player team. Gillman’s sparkling play has already motived Brooks for Sunday’s second round of qualifying.
“Today was a bit of a tough day for me, but I’m going to help her out tomorrow,” said Brooks. “Whenever you get energy from each other, that’s good.”
And does this power pairing expect to contend for the second Women’s Four-Ball title?
“We’ve been in this position before and we know how to play out here,” Brooks said. “You learn a lot from experience, but we’re just going to play our games and see where that takes us.”
Lisa Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.