U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Wednesday Digest: Division II Star Having Big Week; Redding Uses Birdies to Raise Money; Brooks Now Has More Confidence
August 3, 2016 | Springfield, Pa.
By Cody Manmiller and Lisa D. Mickey
Division I and Division II golf have plenty of differences – stronger depth and more finances are two notable factors – but Gabrielle Shipley mentioned one important similarity: the golfers play the same game at each level.
Shipley, the 2016 NCAA Division II individual national champion, has not only reached the match-play portion of the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club, but she’s marching on to the Round of 32 after defeating Tiffany Chan, an Olympian from Hong Kong, China, in 21 holes on Wednesday.
A recent graduate of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Shipley doesn’t pay attention to who her opponents are, or where they play college golf, she’s just going to do what she does.
“That’s what’s different about golf, it comes down to a score,” said Shipley. “It doesn’t matter what school you go to, if you can shoot a certain number, that matches up against anybody in any division.”
Shipley converted a 7-foot birdie putt, which turned out to be her last collegiate stroke, to win the national championship by one at CommonGround Golf Course in suburban Denver. On Wednesday, she holed several big putts down the stretch to propel her into a Round-of-32 matchup on Thursday morning against 2015 semifinalist Mathilda Cappeliez, of France, who is headed to Wake Forest in the fall. Shipley made a 9-foot par putt to force the match to the 21st hole, before sinking a 6-footer that barely snuck over the lip to win the match.
“It definitely felt right when I read it. I felt that this one was the right read. I putted confidently and it rolled right in,” Shipley said of the putt on the 20th hole.
As for the winning putt, Shipley shrugged: “I practice 6-footers every single day. I read it and I didn’t want to think too much, so I putted it. I didn’t know if I hit it hard enough, but praise the Lord it rolled in. It was amazing.”
Shipley, who didn’t garner much attention from Division I schools during her high school days, doesn't hold a grudge.
“I got a lot better after I went to college,” said Shipley. “I struggled with the mental side of the game. I didn’t even know it existed before going to college.
“My coach [at Grand Valley State] taught me the mental side, and my swing coach, Charley Vandenberg from Grand Rapids [Mich.] has helped me immensely. I’ve grown so much since heading to college.”
With 36 holes of stroke play and a Round-of-64 victory already in the books, Shipley isn’t ready to stop.
“As long as I just keep doing what I know I can do, and trust in myself, I think I can be successful at the end of this week,” she said. “I expect to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur.”
Birdies for a Cause
Like any golfer, Anna Redding likes to make birdies.
But in the fall of 2014, she had more incentive than usual due to a high school project she established called “Birdies for Babies.” At The Cannon School in Concord, N.C., each senior was required to come up with a community initiative.
So Redding decided to use her final golf season to seek out donors. The sponsors would make monetary pledges – ranging from $1, $5 and $10 – for each birdie she made in competition from August through November. These could come from high school matches or outside tournaments.
And the goal was to raise money to purchase medical equipment for Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. Redding’s father, who is a neurosurgeon in North Carolina, worked with other physicians to identify a need, based on mission work the doctors had previously undertaken.
“I knew I wanted to do something for kids,” said Redding, 19, who lost in the Round of 64 on Wednesday to Shannon Brooks, 4 and 2.
The end result: Redding made 65 birdies and two eagles, and raised more than $22,000 from 170 sponsors. A few pledged $20 per eagle. Some made one-time donations. All were willing to help a high school student achieve a goal that benefitted others.
“It was incredible, just amazing,” said Redding, a sophomore at the University of Virginia. “Everybody wanted to help and I think they were a little surprised I had made 65 birdies.”
Redding raised the funds, invoiced donors and collected their pledges. She worked with a medical colleague of her father, Dr. Don Hoover, to research what kind of equipment was needed at the Kenyan hospital. Redding’s father and Hoover had made at least three previous trips to Kenya, so they knew the hospital needed a neonatal incubator.
The equipment was purchased and shipped to Africa in late November through early December 2015.
Redding knew she wanted to go to Africa to see the hospital, but, at the advice of her father, she also was being prudent about visiting the country during an outbreak of the Ebola virus that started in late 2013 and was finally under control by late December 2015.
The trio eventually made the trip in January of this year to see firsthand the fruits of her fundraising labor.
“The incubator was in use and I got to see the very first baby it was helping,” said Redding. “That was both good and bad, but the baby boy was getting better.”
It was also an emotional experience for the then-college freshman.
“I walked in and burst into tears when I saw that baby,” she said. “The people in the hospital were so incredibly grateful. They were crying and I was crying and it was just an emotional meeting.”
Redding said the project left a lasting impression.
“I learned there are bigger things than golf and bigger things than one person playing golf,” she said. “That project was my inspiration for three months – and it’s still with me.
“I like competing for something and for someone, which I’m still doing now as a college golfer. It was very motivating because it kept me fighting for every shot.”
Brooks Bests Good Friend
It’s one thing to compete alongside one of your best friends in a national championship. It’s even tougher to face her in the opening round of match play.
“I’m glad I got through my match, but it was unfortunate because I had to play a friend I’ve known for six or seven years,” said Shannon Brooks, 18, of Vienna, Va., who defeated her pal Anna Redding, of Concord, N.C., 4 and 2, on Wednesday.
“I was a bit more nervous today because I knew what she was capable of doing. I know how good she is and what her strengths are, and I knew she was never out of it even when I was 4 up at one point early on.”
As uncomfortable as it was, though, Brooks, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, likely needed a shot of confidence before she heads back to school this fall. For most of her freshman year, she wondered if she was good enough. She questioned her abilities and sometimes felt a little lost.
“I sometimes compared myself to other girls and sort of psyched myself out when I shouldn’t have been doing that,” said Brooks, who was both a 2016 Academic All-American and a member of the 2016 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team. “Now, I know I’m just as good as these other girls, if not better, so now I have to stick to my game and do what I do best and not worry about them.”
Brooks credited Tennessee teammate Anneliese Newell, of Tampa, Fla., for giving her plenty of competition in team practices and for pushing the Virginian to step up, play hard and to be self-confident.
Newell, a 2015 U.S. Women's Amateur quarterfinalist who lost to Robynn Ree on Wednesday, 1 down, broke a pair NCAA scoring records in the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown: low 54-hole score (198) and relation to par (-18).
“She’s really good in practice to play against because she’s very competitive and holds me to a higher standard when I play her,” added Brooks, who is playing in her third USGA championship. “She’s been a big help.”
Brooks will face SEC rival Maria Torres, of Puerto Rico and the University of Florida, in Thursday’s Round of 32. But regardless of the match’s outcome, she knows she will have a different mental approach after this event.
“I think this year should be better,” said Brooks, who carded a career-low score of 62 recently playing with friends at her home course, the 1757 Golf Club in Sterling, Va. “I’ve been working on my swing and I think it’s going to be more consistent this year, which will help with my confidence. I’m finally going in the right direction.”
Cody Manmiller is the USGA’s summer communications intern. Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.