U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
College Ties Abound Among Women’s Four-Ball Semifinalists
May 30, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.
By Joey Flyntz, USGA
Three of the four teams that advanced through the double-round marathon day Tuesday in the 3rd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club consist of past or future college teammates.
The Furman University – located in nearby Greenville, S.C. – duo of Alice Chen, 21, of Princeton, N.J., and Taylor Totland, 22, of Tinton Falls, N.J., won a pair of close matches on the 6,298-yard, par-72 Robert Trent Jones Sr. course to become the last of three co-medalist sides remaining.
Chen and Totland will face North Carolina high school standouts Jennifer Chang, 17, of Cary, and Gina Kim, 17, of Chapel Hill, on Thursday. Joining them in the semifinals is current Louisiana State University standout Kathleen Gallagher, 20, of Greenwood, Miss., and partner Kendall Griffin, 18, of Sebring, Fla., who will enroll at LSU in the fall. Gallagher and Griffin will face recently graduated University of Georgia players Sammi Lee, 22, of Athens, Ga., and Mary Ellen Shuman, 22, of St. Simons Island, Ga.
After defeating Las Vegas teens Morgan Goldstein and Veronica Joels, 2 and 1, in the morning’s Round of 16, Chen and Totland faced a formidable foe in the University of Florida duo of Maria Torres, 22, of Puerto Rico, and Samantha Wagner, 20, of Orlando, Fla., in the quarterfinals.
Chen won the first hole with a conceded birdie after sticking her approach shot within 2 feet, but then the sides halved 10 of the next 11 holes before Torres and Wagner took a 1-up lead on No. 13. Chen and Totland drew even on the par-4 16th when both players made birdie putts, eliciting a strong emotional reaction.
“We're hyped. Yeah, I hit a 3-wood that was like 20 yards farther than I've ever hit it, so I'm pretty juiced up,” said Chen. “I think a lot of that has to do with playing for a partner, and it's different than college because it's like everybody is still individual, but when you combine the score together, this is the result of it.”
After halving the par-3 17th, all four players were in good position in the fairway for their approach shots. Hitting last, Totland stuffed her approach to 6 feet with an 8-iron. Being closest to the hole, Totland had to wait several minutes for a chance to win the match after Torres three-putted and Wagner just missed her long birdie attempt right.
Totland employed an unorthodox method to keep her focus until her turn arrived.
“When I'm bored, which is often, I kind of look at my ball and play with it, and I noticed the 3, if you flip it, it kind of looks like a bird's head; do you see it?” said Totland. “That keeps me entertained.”
The usually stoic Chen admitted the significance of the moment overtook her on the 18th fairway.
“I would just look over to ‘Tot’ coming down 18 fairway, it just sounds really cheesy, but I was like, I'm her partner; I'm just so grateful to be here with her,” she said. “We're both rocking it. We're playing great golf. So again, just super grateful for the opportunity to do this. This has just been so much fun.”
Chang and Kim eliminated the most decorated team in the field in the quarterfinals, defeating 2016 USA Curtis Cup teammates Bailey Tardy, 20, of Norcross, Ga., and Monica Vaughn, 22, of Reedsport, Ore. Tardy qualified for the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open last week and Vaughn won the NCAA individual and team championships last week at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois.
After falling behind on the first hole, Chang and Kim won the second hole with a birdie, then the two sides halved 3, 4 and 6 with birdies before Chang and Kim won Nos. 7 and 8 with birdies. With the pressure applied to the Tardy-Vaughn duo, Tardy and Vaughn missed several birdie putts that scared the edge of the hole.
But with eight birdies and only one bogey over 17 holes, Chang and Kim’s victories were anything but a fluke.
“We knew they were going to be a strong opponent for sure, definitely,” said Chang. “Knowing they played the Curtis Cup, as well, we knew it was going to be a tough match.”
Like Chang and Kim, Gallagher and Griffin also toppled a well-decorated team on Tuesday, eliminating defending champions Hailee Cooper and Kaitlyn Papp in the morning’s Round of 16, 2 and 1, before besting Linyu (Anna) Dong and Rose Zhang, 4 and 2, in the quarterfinals.
Dong and Zhang had cruised through their first two matches, so when they misplayed the opening hole and gave Gallagher and Griffin an early 1-up lead, their confidence grew.
“I think that first hole, knowing they are [very good players], that they hit a shot that wasn't perfection, it kind of gave us a little like, look, oh, it's OK, let's just go play, let's go have fun, we're not going to worry about it,” said Gallagher, who is playing with Griffin for only the second time. “Every hole is a different hole, so one shot at a time.”
Gallagher and Griffin won holes 6 and 8 with birdies before Dong and Zhang won the ninth hole to give the LSU duo a 2-up lead at the turn. After winning 10 and losing 12, Gallagher and Griffin still led 2 up after 14, and sealed the match with winning birdies on 15 and 16.
The current and future LSU Tigers will face Lee and Shuman in the semifinals.
Lee and Shuman are both competing in their first USGA championships, but you would never know it based on their performance thus far. After ousting 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball runners-up Angelina Kim and Brianna Navarrosa in the Round of 32, Lee and Shuman cruised to a 3-and-2 triumph in the Round of 16 over co-medalists Brittany Fan and Esther Lee, then toppled Annick Haczkiewicz and Sydney Smith, 2 and 1, in the quarterfinals.
Leading 1 up on the 17th green, Lee drained a 30-foot putt from the fringe to extend their stay in Myrtle Beach by a day. Lee and Shuman embraced the pressure and stress of their first double-round match-play day in a USGA championship.
“It's definitely tough, but it's fun and it's exciting, and the good thing about it is having team match play, once you're out of a hole, you get a second to kind of catch your breath, refresh, refocus, hopefully while your partner has got your back,” said Shuman. “But yeah, it's definitely a grind. It's 36 [holes], and it's a lot of focus, but it's been a lot of fun.”
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball is one of 13 annual national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. The championship is open to sides of female amateur golfers, each of whom has a Handicap Index® not exceeding 14.4. It consists of two 18-hole rounds of stroke play, after which the field is cut to the low 32 sides for match play.
The semifinals begin at 7 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, followed by the 18-hole championship match at 1 p.m.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.