U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Picture Perfect: Schubert Champion at San Diego C.C. August 13, 2017 | Chula Vista, Calif. By David Shefter, USGA

Sophia Schubert never trailed in beating Albane Valenzuela, 6 and 5, in the 36-hole championship match on Sunday. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

All week at the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Delisa Schubert tried to get her daughter to pose with the Robert Cox Trophy that was on display in the foyer of the clubhouse at San Diego Country Club.

Sophia Schubert kept on refusing. The 21-year-old from Oak Ridge, Tenn., didn’t want her mother posting any of her estimated 400 photos or videos on social media. The fewer the distractions, the better.

By late Sunday afternoon, Schubert officially ended the moratorium.

Firmly in possession of one of the oldest and most prestigious trophies in women’s amateur golf, Schubert was more than happy to pose and publicly share photos with the world.

The rising University of Texas senior defeated Stanford University standout Albane Valenzuela, 19, of Switzerland, 6 and 5, in Sunday’s 36-hole championship match on the 6,423-yard, par-72 layout. As she was presented the trophy on the 13th green, an emotional Schubert thanked her dad Bill and grandparents – all watching from home – while praising Ryan Murphy, her coach at Texas who served as her caddie this week. And finally her mom, who was in attendance all seven days of the championship.

“It hasn't set in yet,” said Schubert. “I’ve just worked so hard for this, and to finally be able to win something like this, it's incredible. I don't know when it’ll set in, but yeah, it’s exciting.”

Schubert, competing in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur and second USGA championship, became the first player over the age of 19 to win the title in nine years. Amanda Blumenherst was a 21-year-old rising senior at Duke University in 2008 when she defeated reigning NCAA champion Azahara Munoz. That also happened to be the last championship match featuring two current college players (Munoz played for Arizona State).

Schubert not only gets possession of the Robert Cox Trophy for one year, she also receives a gold medal and likely invites to three other women’s professional majors: the 2017 Evian Championship, and 2018 ANA Inspiration and Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Both finalists are exempt into the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside of Birmingham, Ala. Valenzuela, the No. 3 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™, who was bidding to become the first USGA champion from Switzerland, received a silver medal.

The outcome was a reversal from the 1993 championship at San Diego Country Club when the player from the California university (Jill McGill) defeated the Tennessean (Sarah LeBrun Ingram) in the final.

“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” said Schubert, whose victory will go a long way toward earning a spot on the 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team captained by Virginia Derby Grimes, who watched the championship match. “I've always wanted to go pro, but this really did it for me. Now I'm going to remain an amateur just to play in these events that I'm exempt in, and I think that'll be an incredible experience for me.

“I would love to play in the Curtis Cup, yes, and I hope this helps.”

The U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is open to female amateur golfers with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 5.4. It consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play to determine the champion.

Schubert joins Kelli Kuehne (1995, 1996) and Michiko Hattori as Texas Longhorns to have won the U.S.  Women’s Amateur. Kuehne and Murphy were texting daily about Schubert’s progress.

“Hopefully it’s all positive for her career, and I don’t think how it couldn’t be with all of the exemptions that you get,” said Murphy. “The biggest thing is right here (pointing to his head). She doesn’t have to wonder anymore. She is past that.”

Schubert also joined an exclusive club of champions who never trailed in the final. Since 2002, that list includes San Diego County native Becky Lucidi (2002), Morgan Pressel (2005) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (2012), the latter two being major champions.

Coming into the week, Schubert’s name was not on the tip of anyone’s tongue, even though she was No. 66 in the WAGR. Her only previous USGA experience was a Round-of-64 defeat in the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior. But since transferring to Texas after one season at Auburn, Schubert’s game has steadily improved. She was the co-runner-up in the 2016 Big 12 Championship, and this past season she claimed the Lady Buckeye, one of seven top-10 finishes. Earlier this summer, she advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Western Amateur.

This week, Schubert was grouped in stroke play with Stanford rising senior Shannon Aubert, who was the medalist with a 9-under total of 135. Then at the end of week, she beat Stanford’s most high-profile player, a golfer who competed in last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (T-21) and shared low-amateur honors in the ANA Inspiration. Valenzuela also made the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open, one item on an impressive resume that also includes a wealth of prestigious amateur competitions, including the Vagliano Trophy (Europe vs. Great Britain and Ireland) and the Junior Solheim Cup (Europe vs. USA).

Sophia Schubert joined former Texas standouts Kelli Kuehne and Michiko Hattori as a U.S. Women's Amateur champion. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Schubert seemed calm and poised from the opening tee shot, which split the middle of the fairway. Although Murphy said Schubert told him of some early jitters, winning holes 1 and 5 with conceded birdies definitely provided early confidence. The lead swelled to 4 up by the lunch break, thanks to a 10-foot birdie on No. 10 and a winning par on 11. Schubert shot the equivalent of 3-under 69 (with concessions), but then she had a two-hour break before starting the afternoon round.

At lunch, Murphy, Delisa and Sophia didn’t talk about golf, and Schubert tried to treat her warm-up session on the range as if it was another round of golf. Her game remained dialed in, despite making two bogeys, her only two in the last 39 holes of match play dating to the 11th hole of her semifinal win over Chia Yen Wu.

“No. 1 was driving that golf ball,” said Murphy on what keyed Schubert’s success. “She drove it really, really well. She drove it in a ton of fairways this week, and when you’re doing that, you are able to control that golf ball coming into the greens, which means you can keep it below the hole. And she did that perhaps better than anyone this week.”

It appeared Valenzuela, the runner-up in the European Ladies’ Amateur two weeks ago who led by seven strokes in the final round, might make an afternoon charge when her wedge approach to the 19th hole stopped 2 feet from the flagstick for a birdie. But that would be her final birdie of the match. Her only other birdie came on the par-5 eighth of the morning 18 when she and Schubert halved the hole.

“I played some great golf. It didn't go my way today, but other than that, I played steady golf, had a lot of [birdie] putts,” said Valenzuela. “I hit some great putts and great drives. A lot of good things to take out of [the championship]. I mean, it's great to win five matches and get that far for my first time, so I'm really excited.”

Schubert regained her 4-up lead on the 22nd hole by stuffing her approach to 3 feet. Valenzuela did have chances to trim the deficit on Nos. 25 and 26, but couldn’t get a putt to drop. Her 10-foot birdie attempt on the par-5 26th hole hung on the right lip.

Never flustered, Schubert just continued to hit fairways and greens. Her 25-foot birdie from the fringe on the par-3 29th hole virtually sealed Valenzuela’s fate. The match would end two holes later with Schubert converting a short par putt.

Now Schubert can bring the Robert Cox Trophy home to Oak Ridge, a town 25 miles west of Knoxville established in 1942 for the Manhattan Project, where some of the greatest scientific minds from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom gathered to create the atomic bomb that ended World War II. At one point, Delisa Schubert said, Oak Ridge had the greatest concentration of scientists in the world. It received several nicknames, including the Secret City and the City Behind the Fence, as the location and small population kept the site classified.

That legacy still lives on through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

While Schubert’s victory didn’t end a war or free a civilization, it is nonetheless historic.

Get those cameras ready.

Chip shots: Two USGA champions were part of the championship-match gallery: 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion Liselotte Neumann and 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Jill McGill, who won the title at San Diego Country Club. McGill also claimed the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title. … Also walking in the gallery were Lauren Stephenson and Chia Yen Wu, who played the longest match (30 holes) in USGA history in Friday’s quarterfinals. Stephenson is a good friend of Schubert. … Chris Riley, a member of the 1995 USA Walker Cup Team and current University of San Diego men’s golf coach, also watched part of the final. Riley is a San Diego C.C. member.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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