U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Tuesday Digest: Cavaliers Making Their Mark; Whaley Following in Famous Footsteps; Mid-Am Makes Match Play August 2, 2016 | Springfield, Pa. By Cody Manmiller, David Shefter and Joey Flyntz, USGA

Morgan Gonzales is one of five current or former University of Virginia golfers in the field this week. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

Kelly Whaley

The University of Virginia is using this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club as its latest personal showcase. With four current players and one graduate in the field, the Cavaliers are showing their strength in not only collegiate golf, but in international amateur competitions.

The two-time defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions advanced to match play in the NCAA Women’s Championship in May at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.

Morgan Gonzalez and Anna Redding, as freshmen, earned significant playing time on a team that lost two All-Americans to graduation heading into next season. Maho Hayakawa and Lyndsey Hunnell didn’t play much last season, but are hoping to use their experience this week and the rest of the summer to break into the starting lineup.

The fifth Cavalier in the field, 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief, graduated in 2012.

This is the first USGA championship for the four current Wahoos, and a little familiarity has helped.

“I remember I started on the back (on Monday) and my teammate came and watched me when she was done playing,” said Hunnell. “We talked a little bit walking on the fairway and she calmed my nerves. It helped a lot.”

 

During the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the championship, two of the Virginia players teed off in the morning with the other two in the afternoon wave, affording them time to support each other from outside the ropes

Hunnell, who played a practice round with Gonzalez and Redding, alluded to the advantages teammates have in an individual competition.

“It was great because some of us would practice certain uphill putts and downhill putts, and some of us would throw balls against the green to see where the breaks were,” Hunnell said. “We got to really help each other with notes.”

Through one round of stroke play, Redding led the Cavalier contingent after shooting an even-par 71 on Monday, and sat comfortably in position to reach match play. Greenlief and Gonzalez are also in contention to be in the 64-player draw after carding a 3-over 74 and 4-over 75, respectively. Hunnell has work to do on Tuesday at 8-over 79, while Hayakawa struggled to a first-round 84.

The cut is likely to fall between 4 and 6 over par.

Hayakawa, a rising junior, and Hunnell, a redshirt sophomore, advanced together through sectional qualifying at Kenwood Golf and Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Redding and Gonzalez joined them in the 156-player field after battling through at Sapona Ridge Country Club in Lexington, N.C. Greenlief was exempt through her U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur triumph.

“It's an incredible feat for our program,” Virginia women’s golf coach Kim Lewellen told the school’s athletic website. “It's shows how deep and strong our team is. I'm excited for these four to go out and play together. They get along well, they're good friends, so they're just going to have an enjoyable time out there while competing on such a national platform.”

Kelly Whaley is making her golf-professional parents, Suzy and Bill, proud this week with her play at Rolling Green Golf Club. (USGA/Steven Gibbons) 

Following in Mom’s Footsteps

Many people within golf circles have heard of Suzy Whaley, the Connecticut professional who became the first female in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event – the 2003 Travelers Championship – by winning the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship. Last year, she also became the first female elected to the board of The PGA of America, as its secretary. Suzy’s husband, Bill, is also a PGA professional at TPC River Highlands, the annual home of the Travelers.

But there’s another talented female in the family. Kelly Whaley, 19, of Cromwell, Conn., displayed those gifts the past two days at Rolling Green, posting 1-over-par 143 to qualify for match play in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur appearance. Kelly rebounded from Monday’s first-round 73 to shoot a 1-under 70 on Tuesday to earn a spot in Wednesday’s Round of 64.

Kelly, a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina, was still in grammar school when her mom competed in the 2003 Travelers, but that passion for the game is what inspired her to take golf seriously by the time she was 11.

“There’s always a little bit of pressure,” said Kelly. “People expect you to be a lot better because she was so good. But everyone has been really supportive … and honestly, it’s been great.”

Kelly, who failed in two previous attempts to qualify for the Women’s Amateur, said the difference this year is her short game. Her coaches at North Carolina constantly kept telling her the scores would improve with an increased focus on that area. Earlier this summer, Whaley advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Western Amateur at Dayton (Ohio) Country Club, losing to eventual champion Jillian Hollis in 20 holes. That run gave Whaley more belief that she could do well this week.

“It will definitely help,” said Whaley, whose hoping her mom can come down from Connecticut to watch her match on Wednesday. “You can be more aggressive. Even if you are under the trees, you go for it.”

Shirley Ends Match-Play Drought for Mid-Ams

Margaret Shirley-Starosto fully expected to play golf in the Philadelphia area on Wednesday. However, she didn’t necessarily expect it to happen in match play of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club.

Shirley-Starosto, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and runner-up in 2013 and 2015, arrived this week having not played more than nine holes since Father’s Day. In fact, Shirley-Starosto was so certain she wouldn’t advance past Tuesday’s second round of stroke play that she tried – unsuccessfully – to book a tee time at nearby five-time U.S. Open host site Merion Golf Club for Wednesday.

“We were definitely making plans of doing something else other than playing golf here, I can tell you that,” said Shirley-Starosto, 30, of Roswell, Ga. “I haven't played a competitive round since May. So my expectations were pretty low coming in, and I've just played a lot of really good golf.”

Shirley-Starosto posted a 36-hole total of 2-over 144 to easily qualify for match play, the only mid-amateur among the five in the field to do so and the first mid-am to advance to match play in the Women’s Amateur since 2013.

A veteran of USGA match play, Shirley felt a sense of accomplishment having held her own with players nearly half her age for 36 holes as well as scoring one for the mid-amateur player.

“Yeah, you do feel a sense of pride. Like I said, you feel like you're at a kid's tournament and I'm a working woman who has a job,” said Shirley-Starosto, the executive director for Atlanta Junior Golf. “I worked a little bit this morning, which I don't think anybody else probably did.”

Her hotel room is only booked through Wednesday, but certainly Shirley-Starosto wouldn’t mind having to change her plans again.

Cody Manmiller is the USGA’s summer communications intern. David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA and Joey Flytz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email Cody at cmanmiller@usga.org, Shefter at dshefter@usga.org and Flyntz at jflyntz@usga.org.