U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Round of 64: Five Matches to Watch August 9, 2017 | Chula Vista, Calif. By David Shefter, USGA

Mariel Galdiano, a 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor and UCLA sophomore, takes on 14-year-old Lucy Li on Wednesday. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

Now that the field of the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship has been trimmed from 156 to 64, the drama will go up a notch at San Diego Country Club.

Stroke play has been replaced by match play.

Some might call it the knockout stages. It’s opponent versus opponent.

And there are some fantastic Round-of-64 matchups on Wednesday. Trying to come up with five wasn’t easy. We have Korean-born Yunjeong Son, of Norman, Okla., playing Mexican-born University of Oklahoma (the school is in Norman) rising senior Ana Ruiz. How about 2016 Great Britain and Ireland competitor Alice Hewson, of England, meeting inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champion Rinko Mitsunaga.  And 12-year-old Floridian Alexa Pano, the youngest in the field, meets 16-year-old Isabella Fierro, who last month became the first Mexican-born player to win the Women's North & South and is featured in this week's Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd section.

Unfortunately, they were honorable-mention selections. Of course, these are completely subjective, but here are the five first-round matchups we decided were the most intriguing (all times PDT):

Mariel Galdiano (Pearl City, Hawaii) vs. Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, Calif.), 9:50 a.m.

The 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team player meets the darling of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Li, now 14, captured the attention of the golf world three years ago by becoming the youngest qualifier in Women’s Open history. She didn’t make the cut at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2, but she gave us a glimpse into her promising future. Two weeks ago, she was the medalist in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Boone Valley Golf Club (lost in Round of 32), and earlier this spring, she was the low amateur in the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s professional major of the season. Galdiano, 19, is competing in her 14th USGA championship. The rising UCLA sophomore was medalist a year ago in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, only to suffer a heartbreaking 22-hole loss to Muni He, who plays at rival University of Southern California, in the first round. Galdiano also is a four-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, including the 2017 championship, in which she missed the cut.

Rachel Heck (Memphis, Tenn) vs. Brooke Seay (San Diego, Calif.), 10:50 a.m.

Next week, these teens will be members of the USA Junior Solheim Cup Team that competes in Des Moines, Iowa. But they’ll have to put that friendship aside for a few hours on Wednesday. Last month, Heck, 15, and Seay, 16, took on LPGA Tour winners Sandra Gal and Katherine Kirk in a friendly match during a practice round at the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. Seay said it was one of the most enjoyable days of her fledgling career. Each player made the cut, with Heck, who has verbally committed to attend Stanford University in 2020, tying for 33rd and Seay tying for 60th.

Virginia Elena Carta (Italy) vs. Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (France)

Green grass with a white ball involving a couple of neighboring European countries. Sorry World Cup fans, this isn’t a soccer match. But it is a contest between two fierce European rivals. Carta, 20, the U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up last year, won the 2016 NCAA Championship. Now a rising junior at Duke University, Carta showed her mettle on Tuesday by going nine strokes lower than her first-round effort on Monday. All this came while she suffered from minor dizziness. This is Roussin-Bouchard’s first USGA championship. The 17-year-old won last year’s St. Rule Trophy and Spanish International. She also is one of three French players in the match-play draw, joining medalist Shannon Aubert and Agathe Laisne.

Kristen Gillman (Austin, Texas) vs. Hailee Cooper (Montgomery, Texas), 12:20 p.m.

Unfortunately, one USGA champion will be going home after this match. Gillman, 19, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, was the 18-hole co-leader after shooting a 5-under 67 on Monday. She’s also a strong match-play competitor as evidenced by her victory in the 2016 Women’s North & South at Pinehurst. The University of Alabama rising sophomore also represented the USA in the 2014 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship and won her first collegiate event this past spring. Cooper, 17, paired up with fellow Texan Kaitlyn Papp to claim the 2nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2016. The future Texas Longhorn – she has committed to attend the school in 2018 – was a member of the 2016 USA Junior Ryder Cup Team and 2015 USA Junior Solheim Cup Team. This is also her third consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur start.

Krystal Quihuis (Tucson, Ariz.) vs. Jennifer Kupcho (Westminster, Colo.), 2:20 p.m.

These two collegiate standouts each own a major amateur victory this summer. Quihuis, 21, won the Women’s Trans-National at Mid-Pines last month. The rising University of Arizona senior is one of three Wildcats to qualify for match play (Haley Moore and Gigi Stoll) and was the Pacific-12 Conference Freshman of the year in 2015. Her match-play record in the American Junior Golf Association’s Wyndham Cup (West Team) and Junior Solheim Cup (USA) is an impressive 4-0. Kupcho, 20, claimed the 2017 Canadian Women’s Amateur title last month while representing the USGA. The rising Wake Forest University junior nearly claimed this year’s NCAA individual title, but a triple bogey on her second-to-last hole cost her the championship. Kupcho also made the cut in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open, finishing tied for 21st.

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

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