U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
9 Things to Know About the 116th U.S. Women's Amateur
July 28, 2016 | Far Hills, N.J.
By David Shefter, USGA
No state has conducted more USGA championships than Pennsylvania (84 after the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in June), and that number will increase by three more in 2016, including the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, a Philadelphia suburb.
The world’s elite female golfers will descend on the classic William Flynn design Aug. 1-7 in the hopes of becoming the next champion to have her name etched on the Robert Cox Trophy.
Here are nine things to know about this year’s championship:
Shannon Rouillard, the director of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, was asked at media day on May 31 why the USGA consistently returns to the Philadelphia area. Merion Golf Club in Ardmore hosted the 2013 U.S. Open and 2009 Walker Cup Match, and this year, Rolling Green and Stonewall Links in Elverson (U.S. Mid-Amateur, from Sept. 10-15) are hosting, and Philadelphia Cricket Club will host the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.
“This area is so rich in golf,” said Rouillard. “It’s rich in its history and has such magnificent golf courses that we can’t help but come back time and time again.”
Added Mark Peterson, the executive director of the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP): “We have strong member clubs. We’re excited about making the  U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship one of the best of all time.”
Most golf aficionados have heard of venues such as Merion, Pine Valley, Aronimink, Philadelphia Country Club and Philadelphia Cricket Club. Rolling Green, however, can get lost among its Philadelphia-area brethren.
“It’s interesting when people ask me where I play, and I proudly say Rolling Green,” said Temple University men’s basketball coach and longtime Rolling Green member Fran Dunphy. “The good amateur players tell me, ‘You have an unbelievable place.’ It’s a great, great golf course, and that’s how we [as members] all feel, whether we come once a week or for some guys, it is their second home. And I get it because it is a family.”
Rolling Green, which celebrates its 90th anniversary on the eve of the Women’s Amateur, has hosted many GAP events, among them the 1982 and 2015 Amateur, 1983 Open, and the annual Francis X. Hussey Memorial Tournament, which was created in 1985 in honor of a Rolling Green junior member who died from a congenital heart disease. It has also hosted numerous USGA qualifiers.
The club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1976 by hosting the U.S. Women’s Open, won by JoAnne Gunderson Carner.
Architect William Flynn put his fingerprints on a number of classic clubs in the region, including Lancaster Country Club, site of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, Philadelphia Country Club (1939 U.S. Open and 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur), Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club (three U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs), Whitemarsh Valley (1934 U.S. Women’s Amateur) and Merion, where he served as the East Course superintendent for a few years.
Rolling Green is considered one of Flynn’s finest designs.
“It’s a fun course that is challenging enough to make you think, and that’s Flynn,” said architect Jim Nagle.
Nagle and partner Ron Forse have spent the past 13 years restoring Rolling Green, including bunker renovation and green expansion.
“The greens are just routed and built beautifully on the topography,” said Nagle. “You have lots of elevated tee shots to some drops, but then the greens sit up on these hills. There’s so much variety.
“We talk about Flynn greens being subtly complex. When you look at them, they don’t look like they have a lot of undulations but when you putt on them you can’t pick up on that. I’m excited to see how this course will play with match play.”
Expect a Challenge
Rouillard said that Rolling Green, which will measure 6,259 yards and play to a par of 71, will test all phases of competitors’ games.
Greens are expected to roll between 10.5 and 11 on the Stimpmeter, with the primary rough cut to 2½ inches. Alternate teeing grounds are expected to be utilized on Nos. 5 and 8 as well as No. 18, which could play as a par 5 (486 yards) or a long par 4 (440 yards).
“There are so many unique and challenging holes here,” said Rouillard. “The key to playing this course well will be putting and getting the ball in the right place on the [greens]. There is a lot of movement in these greens, and it will require accurate club selection in keeping the ball below the hole.”
The Women’s Amateur offers spectators – on the grounds and via the Fox Sports 1 broadcast – the opportunity to see the potential stars of tomorrow. Lydia Ko, the 2012 champion, has risen to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and claimed two majors. Morgan Pressel, who won in 2005, owns a major championship. Recent runners-up Jessica Korda (2010), Azahara Munoz (2008) and Brooke Henderson (2014) have won on the LPGA Tour, with Henderson the current world No. 2.
While recent three-time LPGA Tour winner Ariya Jutanugarn never advanced to a Women’s Amateur final (she lost in the 2012 semifinals to Ko), her sister, Moriya, who is also on the LPGA Tour, lost in the 2011 final to current LPGA competitor Danielle Kang.
Last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club drew competitors from 16 foreign countries, including Guatemala, Panama and Peru, one more than the previous year. Expect similar international representation in 2016, as the top 25 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ as of June 15 are fully exempt.
For the first time, a sectional qualifier was held outside of the U.S., at Brampton Golf Club in Ontario, Canada, one of 20 sectional sites for the championship.
Who Is Coming
Seven of the eight USA Curtis Cup competitors have entered the championship, including 2015 runner-up Sierra Brooks, of Sorrento, Fla., semifinalist Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif., and quarterfinalist Mika Liu, of Beverly Hills, Calif., as well as 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Andrea Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Another 2015 semifinalist, Mathilda Cappeliez, of France, has entered. Cappeliez and Brooks will be teammates at Wake Forest this fall.
Eun Jeong Seong, the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, also is in the field. Seong, of the Republic of Korea, became the first player in 45 years to successfully defend her Girls’ Junior title last week at The Ridgewood Country Club.
Duke University sophomore Virginia Elena Carta, of Italy, the 2016 NCAA champion, will look to become the first since Vicki Goetze in 1992 to win the NCAA and U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in the same year.
Tiffany Chan, of Hong Kong China, will be traveling from the Women’s Amateur to Rio de Janeiro to represent her country in the Summer Olympic Games. Chan, who plays at the University of Southern California, is one of three amateurs in the 60-player field at Rio.
Kristen Gillman exceeded all of her expectations by winning the 2014 Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club on Long Island. Winning the title landed Gillman a spot in four women’s professional major championships, including the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, where she played the first two rounds with defending champion Michelle Wie. She also represented the USA in the 2014 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Japan, the 2015 Pan-Am Games in Canada and the Junior Solheim Cup in Germany.
“It means a lot,” said Gillman of becoming a USGA champion. “USGA championships are some of the highest tournaments that you can play in and they are run so well. They treat us so well. It’s so much fun going to any USGA championship because you know you’re going to be playing the best golf courses under the best conditions.”
When the U.S. Women’s Amateur was moved up a week to accommodate the first Olympics golf tournament for women, it made for a difficult decision for defending champion Hannah O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan’s victory last August at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club earned the Chandler, Ariz., resident spots in four major championships, including the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the latter of which concludes at Woburn Golf Club in England on Sunday, July 31, the day before the Women’s Amateur commences. Given the travel challenges, O’Sullivan, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, did not enter the Women’s Amateur. Gillman, who will enroll at the University of Alabama later this month, is the only player in the field to have claimed this championship.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.