U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Gillman, Jeon Make it an All-Alabama Final at Women's Am
August 10, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn.
By David Shefter, USGA
Get set for an all-University of Alabama 36-hole championship match.
Kristen Gillman, 20, of Austin, Texas, a junior, will face incoming junior-college transfer Jiwon Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea, in Sunday’s final of the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship after both earned extra-hole Quarterfinal victories on Saturday at The Golf Club of Tennessee.
It’s the first final featuring college teammates since Title IX was passed in 1972.
Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, produced a second consecutive Houdini-like rally in eliminating University of Arkansas senior Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., in 19 holes.
Mirroring Friday’s 19-hole Quarterfinal win over co-medalist Lucy Li, Gillman dramatically won the 18th hole to force extra holes and then watched her opponent three-putt the par-3 19th hole (No. 10). But instead of making birdie on the par-4 18th like she did on Friday, Gillman on Saturday tugged her 191-yard approach with a hybrid left into the hazard.
This came after Benton’s drive caromed off a tree and into a hazard, forcing her to go back to the teeing ground to play her third shot.
“I hadn’t played that hole since stroke play, so it was a little bit different,” said Benton, who had not been extended past the 16th hole in four previous matches. “I just took the same line, and I felt good over it, just felt a little open, but I just swung, hit it good, went a little left and hit the tree. It’s OK.”
Benton’s fourth shot from the fairway found the back fringe, and then she had to wait some 10 minutes for Gillman to make a decision about playing from the hazard. Gillman didn’t feel comfortable playing the shot from the native area and chose to take a drop. She then pitched the ball to 20 feet. Putting first, Gillman, who trailed in all six of her matches when she claimed the 2014 title at Nassau Country Club, calmly holed her bogey putt, forcing Benton to make her 15-footer for 5 to win the match. When Benton missed, the two sauntered to the nearby 10th tee.
“I could see the read pretty well,” said Gillman of the putt on 18. “It was just going a little right to left, and there’s no point in overthinking it, especially because I know there was going to be more speed so it’s not going to break as much as it usually would. I just played it barely right of the hole and just wanted to get up there and hit it before I started thinking too much.”
Gillman, No. 6 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), and Benton both found the green with their tee shots on the 19th hole, but just like the Li match, the latter could not convert a short par putt.
Meanwhile, Jeon, the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association individual champion, outlasted Stephenson in 23 holes, the longest Semifinal match in U.S. Women’s Amateur history.
Stephenson, who lost a historic 30-hole Quarterfinal match a year ago at San Diego Country Club, took a 1-up lead on the par-5 17th hole with a 10-foot birdie putt, but watched Jeon force extra holes by sinking a downhill 15-footer for birdie that just snuck inside the left portion of the hole on No. 18.
The two then halved four consecutive holes before Jeon, No. 10 in the WAGR, birdied the par-5 11th, the third time the two opponents played that hole.
“I played well today,” said Stephenson, No. 5 in the WAGR and member of the victorious 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team. “I didn’t hit it as well as I did the past couple days, but I mean, I have nothing to complain about. I had one bad hole that cost me on 11 in regulation, but she played great, and she made a lot of really good putts. I mean, her putt on 18 to take it extra holes was really good.”
USGA.org has live streaming of the morning 18 of the championship match beginning at 10 a.m. EDT. FS1 has live coverage of the afternoon portion of the final at 2 p.m. EDT.
- Both finalists are exempt into the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina, provided they are still amateurs. Kristen Gillman tied for 27th in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek and missed the cut in 2015. Jiwon Jeon has never played in a U.S. Women’s Open.
- This was only the second time in Women’s Amateur history that both Semifinal matches went extra holes. The last time it occurred was 1900 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
- Before Saturday’s 23-hole match, the longest Semifinal match occurred in 1915 when Mrs. C.H. Vanderbeck defeated Alexa Stirling in 22 holes at Onwenstia Country Club.
- If Gillman wins Sunday, she will automatically earn a spot on the USA Women’s World Amateur Team that will compete at Carton House in the Republic of Ireland at the end of the month. Automatic spots go to the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion (if American) and the winner of the McCormack Medal for being No. 1 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ on Aug. 15. Jennifer Kupcho is already on the three-person team by being No. 1 in the WAGR on July 25.
- The only time Gillman led in her last two matches has been on the 19th hole.
- Should Gillman win the title, it would be four years between championships. The longest span between titles belongs to Dorothy Campbell Hurd (14), who won in 1910 and again in 1924.
- Jeon is bidding to become the fifth Korean-born champion, joining Pearl Sinn (1988), Grace Park (1998), Lydia Ko (2012) and Eun Jeong Seong (2016). Ko was born in Korea, but moved to New Zealand at a young age.
Kristen Gillman, 20, of Austin, Texas, on her thought process in the fairway on No. 18 after Kaylee Benton found the hazard with her tee shot:
“I was trying to play left of the flag when I should have just kind of been playing safe. I was just trying to play it low to the flag, but I had a 4-hybrid in [and] I pulled it a little bit and hit it in the hazard. I had a decent lie over there, but I didn’t want to take any chances of not getting it out because I felt like if I didn’t get out, then I would be done. I just wanted to take a drop and try to get up and down [for bogey].”
Gillman on her mindset going to the par-3 10th hole for a second consecutive extra-hole match:
“I think it definitely helped because yesterday I was nervous going to that tee again. Today, I was even more nervous than I was yesterday, surprisingly. But I hit the same club (7-iron) as I did earlier, and I knew there was a little bit more wind to my face, but with that pin, you can’t go long. I’d rather stay on the short side and just kind of putt it up there close to kind of put pressure on her to have to make the putt to extend the match.”
Gillman on her uncanny ability to rally in matches:
“I think it’s more I just have the right personality for it. It’s always a lot more stressful being from behind, so I don't think I’d ever pick to do that, but I never get too worried if I’m coming from behind because I know that I have the capability to come back. If it doesn’t [happen], then it’s just not meant to be. But I know that I’m able to do that. It’s not too bad coming from behind, but obviously I’d prefer to be ahead.”
Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., on what she learned from her run this week:
“I just feel like I can play here and learned a lot about myself and how I handle pressure. An unfortunate end, but I still feel like I handled myself well this week. Yeah, good week.”
Jiwon Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea, on preparing for the 36-hole final in what promises to be another hot and humid day:
“Well, stay hydrated, obviously, and then try to focus on each shot and just stay calm and just stay in the moment and keep going.”
Jeon on reaching the championship match in her first USGA championship appearance:
“Honestly, I wasn’t really confident before I came here. I was actually not going to play this tournament. But I came here, and then now my confidence got really rising. It’s like I’m 90 percent or more confident about my game right now.”
Jeon on the reason she entered the U.S. Women’s Amateur:
“I always wanted to play this tournament, and last year I didn’t play qualifying or anything, I don’t think I was ready. But this year I was exempt to the U.S. [Women’s] Am [based on being in the top 25 of the WAGR], so I just signed up, and I came up this far.”
Lauren Stephenson, 21, of Lexington, S.C., on the emotional and physical stress of playing 23 holes:
“Yeah, I’m really tired. I told my dad on the last hole, I’m so tired.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Social Scene
On to the final! Kristen Gillman rallies to win her semifinal match on the first playoff hole and will play for the #USWomensAm championship on Sunday. Gillman's UA teammates Lauren Stephenson and Jiwon Jeon are on their first playoff hole in the other semifinal.#RollTide pic.twitter.com/rEs5EXqfLe— Alabama Women's Golf (@AlabamaWGolf) August 11, 2018
Thank you so much to @USGA for an amazing tournament and all the volunteers at Golf Club of Tennessee. I enjoyed my first US Am although it ended a little faster than I’d hoped. Big thank you to @MichelleEstill for caddying.. so fun getting to experience this week with you 😈 pic.twitter.com/25aKeu5yor— Olivia Mehaffey (@OliviaMehaffey) August 11, 2018
Thank you @USGA for hosting such a great event. Sad my week ended earlier than I would have hoped, but making it to the round of 16 at the #USWomensAm was one of the many highlights of my summer. Also, thank you to my family & friends for supporting me this week! pic.twitter.com/LulVJSAatg— Emilee Hoffman (@e_hof8) August 10, 2018