U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Final Day: Five Storylines May 31, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. By David Chmiel, USGA

Mary Ellen Shuman and partner Sammi Lee advanced to the Women's Four-Ball semifinals in their first USGA championship. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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After winning two matches on Tuesday, the semifinalist sides remaining in the 3rd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club will have to win two more matches on Wednesday to win the championship. Here are five things to keep an eye on:

CONFERENCE CALL Tuesday’s matches had more SEC representation than the college football playoffs. Nine of the 16 players in the morning matches – three for Georgia, two for LSU, two for Florida and two for Kentucky – were flying their colors. And when the dust settled, LSU (Kathleen Gallagher and Kendall Griffin) will square off in one side of the bracket against recent University of Georgia graduates Sammi Lee and Mary Ellen Shuman.

BYE BYE BIRDIES The morning matches looked like the classic Alfred Hitchcock film about an avian invasion. Monica Vaughn and Bailey Tardy (10 birdies in 15 holes) and Jennifer Chang and Gina Kim (six birdies and an eagle on the outward nine) dominated the action in the morning. In the quarterfinals, though, a combination of fatigue and tucked hole locations made finding feathered friends an elusive chase. The four winning sides managed “only” 26 birdies. The semifinalists still pledged to be judiciously aggressive when competition resumes, but the gravity of the situation could force more of a chess game than a game of darts.

FIRST TIME’S THE CHARM Lee and Shuman, University of Georgia class of 2017 grads, are getting perilously close to having to join the real world. Lee, for example, will soon join the workforce as an equities sales and trading analyst for Barclays. But the 22-year-olds are hoping that they can use their college experience to extend the summer day dream and make it to the finals. Despite being the oldest remaining team, they are playing in their first USGA championship.

GOING UP While the average age of the field had dipped with the passing of every round, the number spiked more than an entire year – from 18.7 to 19.9 when Lee and Shuman knocked off a pair of 17-year-olds, Annick Haczkiewicz and Sydney Smith in the quarterfinals. With Taylor Totland (22) and Alice Chen (21), and Lee and Shuman in each side of the draw, the finals could be one for the ages – the first time that a pair of teenagers were not in contention – at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball final.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS No matter how tight the matches have gotten (or how tough some of the losses have been) at The Dunes Beach & Golf Club, the teams vying for the Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship have been unfailingly focused on having fun and enjoying the ride. From the analysis of the course and the greens to the camaraderie among competitors, even when situations got sticky, the competitors made it clear that they wanted to win, but wanted to beat their opponents’ best efforts.

“The players are so good so we feel like we have to just keep trying to hit our best shots all the time,” said Gina Kim. “We didn’t make any birdies on the back nine this morning, but it wasn’t like we were trying to slow down. This championship has raised our game and we’re trying to keep it going. A couple of times we got on the wrong side of the hole, so we had to be careful, but we are fired up and ready to roll. More birdies!”

The sentiment was echoed by the rest of the field.

“I just can’t believe we made it to the semifinals. Now you tell us that we are exempt into next years’ Four-Ball too,” Kathleen Gallagher said. “That is awesome. We are going to fight to get to the finals, but we’re going to have fun along the way. I am super excited that I will be going to California (El Cabellero Country Club in Tarzana) next year.”

David Chmiel is the manager of member content for the USGA. Email him at dchmiel@usga.org

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