U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Round of 32: Five Key Matches August 10, 2017 | Chula Vista, Calif. By David Shefter, USGA

Lauren Stephenson would like to enjoy a few more congratulatory hugs from her father/caddie, Charles, on Thursday at San Diego C.C. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

Wednesday’s Round of 64 in the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at San Diego Country Club proved to be heartbreaking for those with Curtis Cup ties.

Four of the five competitors who competed in the 2016 Match in the Republic of Ireland saw their championship run come to a premature end, Bethany Wu being the lone exception.

Three Americans – Andrea Lee, Bailey Tardy and Mariel Galdiano – along with Great Britain & Ireland golfer Alice Hewson, of England, were unceremoniously bounced from the competition.

They weren’t the only victims. Two of the youngest players – 12-year-old Alexa Pano and 14-year-old Latanna Stone – were also eliminated, along with Jennifer Kupcho, No. 4 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™. But, as they say, the show must go on and the Round of 32 on Thursday morning has some intriguing matchups.

Here are five that stand out (all times PDT):

Shannon Aubert (France) vs. Agathe Laisne (France), 7:30 a.m.

Golf fans in France will be departing work just when these two native daughters will be teeing off. Aubert, a rising Stanford University senior who now resides in Stuart, Fla., has been virtually flawless the past three days, earning medalist honors with a near-championship-record score of 135 (9 under) and then dispatching her first-round opponent, Samantha Hutchison, 6 and 4. Aubert’s credentials speak for themselves: 2012 Women’s World Amateur Team competitor, 2013 European Junior Solheim Cup team, and member of Stanford’s 2015 NCAA title team. Laisne, 18, is coming off a victory in the European Ladies Amateur, where she posted a pair of weekend 67s, overcoming a seven-stroke deficit in the final round to edge Albane Valenzuela, of Switzerland, by a stroke. Laisne, an incoming University of Texas freshman, dispatched reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 2 and 1, in the Round of 64.

Bethany Wu (Diamond Bar, Calif.) vs. Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, Calif., 7:40 a.m.

Wu, 20, is hoping she doesn’t become the second 2016 Curtis Cup competitor to be victimized by the 14-year-old wunderkind Li. Wu, a rising UCLA junior, toughed out a 3-and-2 victory over Kaylee Benton on Wednesday, thanks to a red-hot putter. She might need that against Li, who dispatched Wu’s UCLA teammate Mariel Galdiano, 4 and 3, in the opening round. Two years ago, Wu advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Li, who at the age of 11 in 2014 became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history, was low amateur in the ANA Inspiration earlier this spring and the medalist in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago before being eliminated in the Round of 32.

Albane Valenzuela (Switzerland) vs. Cheyenne Knight (Aledo, Texas), 8:20 a.m.

This has intensity written all over it. Valenzuela, 19, is the more decorated player, having represented Switzerland in the 2016 Olympics (one of three amateurs in the field) in Brazil and the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. She also has made the cut in multiple major championships: the 2015 Evian Championship, the 2016 ANA Inspiration (low amateur) and the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. The rising Stanford University sophomore also represented Europe in the 2015 Junior Solheim Cup and was the runner-up in the European Ladies Amateur two weeks ago. Knight, 20, was named the 2016 Women’s Golf Coaches Association Freshman of the Year after a season at the University of Alabama that featured six top-10 finishes, including one victory and a tie for fourth in the NCAA Championships. Now a rising junior at Alabama, Knight is competing in her third consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur, having reached the Round of 32 in each of her last two starts.

Lauren Stephenson (Lexington, S.C.) vs. Jaravee Boonchant (Thailand), 9:20 a.m.

Stephenson, 20, is a rising junior at the University of Alabama after spending her freshman season at Clemson. She has qualified for the last two U.S. Women’s Opens and won the 2016 Eastern Women’s Amateur and 2015 Dixie Women’s Amateur championships. Like her teammate Cheyenne Knight, she had a decorated junior career before arriving in college. Boonchant, 18, is an incoming freshman at Duke University after graduating from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. This is her fourth USGA championship and second U.S. Women’s Amateur start. Last year, she claimed the Annika Invitational title in Florida.

Isabella Fierro (Mexico) vs. Yuka Saso (Philippines), 9:40 a.m.

Fierro, 16, could be the next rising start from Mexico, having won this year’s Women’s North & South Amateur at Pinehurst. She already has verbally committed to attend Oklahoma State University in the fall of 2019, the same school where her coach, Rafael Alarcon, played. Alarcon was the instructor for World Golf Hall of Fame member Lorena Ochoa, who serves as a mentor to Fierro. Saso, who also is 16, advanced to the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club. She was impressive in dispatching Conner Beth Ball, 3 and 2, in the Round of 64 on Wednesday.

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