U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Medalist Aubert Impressive in Round-of-64 Victory August 9, 2017 | Chula Vista, Calif. By Vanessa Zink, USGA

Lucy Li, 14, knocked out 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor Mariel Galdiano in the Round of 64 on Wednesday. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

Medalist Shannon Aubert, of France, birdied three holes on the outward nine en route to a 6-and-4 victory over Samantha Hutchison Wednesday in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. The largest winning margin of the day, Aubert’s secured her place in the second round of match play on San Diego Country Club’s par-72, 6,423-yard course.

Hutchison, who qualified via an 11-for-8 playoff that finished on No. 17 Wednesday morning, began the match 1 up after Aubert bogeyed the first hole. The match was squared when Hutchison registered a bogey of her own on the second hole. Hutchison, of San Jose, Calif., regained the lead when Aubert registered her final bogey of the day on the fourth hole.

“I think partially nerves, just some bad shots,” said Aubert, a rising senior at Stanford University, of her early bogeys. 

Aubert, who resides in Stuart, Fla., when she’s not in school or playing golf in Europe, found her stride on the fifth hole, landing her approach shot to 10 feet and making the birdie putt. She won the next three holes to take a 3-up lead on the par-5 eighth, stuffing her approach to 2 feet for a conceded birdie on the last hole of the stretch.

“Sam played great,” said Aubert, 21, who shot 9-under 135 in stroke play, tied for the second-best stroke-play score in U.S. Women’s Amateur history. “It was a tough match for sure. I was lucky enough to start hitting well, make a few putts, so it obviously just feels good to win.”

Aubert will face fellow French national team member Agathe Laisne in the first match at 7:30 a.m. PDT Thursday. Laisne, 18, won the European Ladies’ Amateur Championship in Switzerland by one stroke over Albane Valenzuela – Valenzuela had a seven-stroke lead heading into the final day of the championship – two weeks ago. Laisne advanced by eliminating 16-year-old Erica Shepherd, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship two weeks ago, in the first round. 

Valenzuela, 19, of Switzerland, is ranked No. 3 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™, the top-ranked player in the field. She defeated Wad Phaewchimplee, of Thailand, 1 up.

“I was not really focusing on her game for the first 15 holes, and then that's when you really have to make the quick turn,” said Valenzuela, a 2016 Olympian and rising sophomore at Stanford University. “I played more aggressively when I had to, or more conservatively at times, but other than that, I was just very focused and just sticking to my game.”

The 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association, is open to female amateur golfers with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 5.4. It consists of two 18-hole rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday.

Round 1 co-leaders Kristen Gillman, of Austin, Texas, and Haley Moore, of Escondido, Calif., each won their matches against Hailee Cooper and Latanna Stone, respectively. Gillman and Moore both shot 5-under 67 in the first round of stroke play on Monday.

“I played pretty solidly,” said Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who’s heading into her sophomore year at the University of Alabama. “I made a lot of pars and Hailee played really well, so I knew that I had to make birdies if I wanted to win some holes.”

Gillman, who converted three birdies, including one on No. 6 that she said gave her confidence after bogeying the fifth hole, never trailed against Cooper, a 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champion with Kaitlyn Papp, in her 3-and-2 win.

“It takes a lot,” said Gillman of what it takes to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur. “It's a really long week, so you can't really make any mistakes. You have to play well every single day.”

As for the extra pressure in playing as a former champion, Gillman said: “I feel like you can look at it both ways. It is added pressure because there's a lot of people talking about how you've won this tournament before, but then there's also no added pressure because playing it, you know you've won. Obviously, you want to win, but if you lose, at least I've won it before.”

Kristen Gillman moved one step closer to a second Women's Amateur title with a 3-and-2 win over fellow Texan Hailee Cooper. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Moore, an 18-year-old rising junior at the University of Arizona, won her match against Stone, 15, by draining a 12-foot birdie on the par-5 18th hole, which played as the most difficult hole in stroke play, producing only 21 birdies over two days.

“I missed a couple short putts in the beginning, and I just took some breaths and was focusing more on getting it closer to the hole,” said Moore of her thought process walking to the 18th tee all square with Stone, of Riverview, Fla., as a gallery of Moore’s close friends and family watched. “I just came in there, just hit a good drive and was in between two clubs and just hit a nice easy one and just stuck it pretty close and made birdie.”

“I only had a couple fall in today, so definitely going to go to the putting green for a little bit and get more confident in my stroke,” said Moore. Her older brother, Tyler, qualified for next week’s U.S. Amateur Championship at The Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club in the Los Angeles area.

Virginia Elena Carta, who finished runner-up in the 2016 U.S Women’s Amateur, never trailed in her 4-and-3 victory against Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, of France.

“I knew playing against Pauline would be hard,” said Carta, a rising junior at Duke University whose friends in Italy gave her a scouting report on Roussin-Bouchard, 17, who was playing in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“I think I'm a good match-play player just because I'm able to focus on one shot at a time, and even if one hole is not going my way, I'm able to finish up well. Be in the present, be patient and keep rolling putts, and if they don't go in, it's OK; they will sooner or later. And today was an example of it. I didn't play my best golf, but I kept staying patient. I kept waiting for the putts to go in, and then I made finally the final putt to win. Being patient is the key.”

Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif., the only remaining 2016 Curtis Cup Match competitor of the eight who qualified for the championship, will face 14-year-old Lucy Li in the Round of 32. Li defeated four-time U.S. Women’s Open player and 2016 Curtis Cup team member Mariel Galdiano, 4 and 3.

“I played really well today,” said Li, who counted five birdies and never trailed against Galdiano, a rising sophomore at UCLA. “I'm hitting the ball way better than I was yesterday, and the last couple holes, I rolled in a couple of 20-footers unexpectedly, so that was really good.”

In 2013, Li, of Redwood Shores, Calif., surpassed Stone as the youngest player in U.S. Women’s Amateur championship history at age 10 years, 10 months and 4 days old. She is also the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history at 11 years, 8 months and 19 days old.

Rinko Mitsunaga, 20, of Roswell, Ga., is the only other remaining USGA champion in the field. Mitsunaga, who won the inaugural 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Mika Liu, defeated Alice Hewson, a member of the victorious 2016 Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup Team, in 20 holes. The match was one of four that stretched to extra holes during the first round, all of which ended in 20 holes.

The match-play rounds of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship will be broadcast on FS1 (Fox Sports 1). Coverage will air from 3-6 p.m. PDT on Thursday and Friday, from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Exclusive bonus coverage will be streamed live on usga.org on Thursday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Vanessa Zink is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at vzink@usga.org.

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