U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Five Matches to Watch for Round of 32 August 4, 2016 | Springfield, Pa. By David Shefter, USGA

Texan Hailee Cooper is still in the running to win a second USGA championship in 2016. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

Can anything top the drama of Wednesday’s opening round of match play in the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club?

Six of the 32 matches went to extra holes, including Muni He’s dramatic 22-hole victory over medalist Mariel Galdiano when the 17-year-old native of the People’s Republic of China drained a 30-foot par putt on the 20th hole to extend the match and then converted a 35-foot downhill birdie putt to win the match on the fourth extra hole. Six other matches went 18 holes and five more went as far as the 17th green.

So what will Thursday’s Round of 32 bring? Here are five matches that could deliver more drama:

Muni He, People’s Republic of China vs. Virginia Elena Carta (7:30 a.m. EDT)

He can’t rest on her laurels too long as next up is the reigning NCAA Division I individual champion. Carta, 19, of Italy, who will be a sophomore at Duke University, didn’t have nearly the drama in her Round-of-64 match, dispatching 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champion Rinko Mitsunaga, 5 and 4. Carta was the equivalent of 1 over par, with the usual match-play concessions, while He didn’t post a bogey in her match. This came after He holed a 22-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Wednesday morning to secure the final match-play spot in a 9-for-5 playoff that was suspended Tuesday night due to darkness.

Mika Liu, Beverly Hills, Calif. vs. Hailee Cooper, Montgomery, Texas (8:20 a.m.)

This is a matchup of U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champions. Liu, 17, won in 2015 with Mitsunaga at Bandon Dunes Resort, while Cooper, 16, teamed with fellow Texan Kaitlyn Papp to claim this year’s championship in May at Streamsong Resort. Liu, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, outlasted Jessica Vasillic, of Sweden, 2 and 1, in her Round-of-64 match, while Cooper eliminated Liu’s Curtis Cup teammate Bailey Tardy, 2 up. Liu, who has committed to attend Stanford University in 2017, advanced to the quarterfinals of both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur last year. Cooper, a rising high school junior, advanced to the Round of 16 of last month’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and last week helped the West captured the Wyndham Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association.

Katelyn Dambaugh, Goose Creek, S.C. vs. Kristen Gillman, Austin, Texas (8:30 a.m.)

Gillman, 18, is looking to join an exclusive fraternity of players with multiple U.S. Women’s Amateur titles. The incoming University of Alabama freshman got off to a strong start with a 5-and-4 win over fellow Texan Annika Clark, while Dambaugh, 21, a senior at the University of South Carolina, cruised to a 4-and-3 win over Aurora Kan, of Boothwyn, Pa. Dambaugh is coming off a strong college season in which she was named a first-team All-American by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. She also was the runner-up to Doris Chen in the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior. Gillman’s summer includes a championship run at the North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2.

Maria Fassi, Mexico vs. Celine Boutier, France (9 a.m.)

Fassi, 18, a rising sophomore at the University of Arkansas, has won the last two Mexican Women’s Amateurs (2015 and 2016). She also rolled past Yu Eun Eunice Kim, of Australia, 6 and 5, in the Round of 64, and can be a tough competitor. In the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior, Fassi rallied from an opening-round 89 to make match play by going 20 strokes lower on Day 2. Boutier, 22, graduated from Duke University in May, and the Women’s Amateur is likely one of her last competitions as an amateur. She won the 2015 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship and lost in 20 holes to eventual champion Kristen Gillman in the Round of 32 of the 2014 Women’s Amateur.

Hye-Jin Choi, Republic of Korea vs. Bethany Wu, Diamond Bar, Calif. (9:30 a.m.)

Choi, 16, has been on quite a month-long run that began with her earning low-amateur honors in the U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle. She then shared medalist honors two weeks ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she advanced to the semifinals before losing to Andrea Lee. Last week, Choi won the Canadian Women’s Amateur, a 72-hole, stroke-play event in Nova Scotia. Wu, 19, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur last year, and was the stroke-play medalist in 2014. The sophomore at UCLA also was the runner-up to Curtis Cup teammate Bailey Tardy in last year’s North & South Women’s Amateur.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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