U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
U.S. Women's Amateur, Round 1: Five Things to Know August 5, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn. By David Shefter, USGA

Rachel Heck, of Memphis, Tenn., is excited to be playing the U.S. Women's Amateur on one of her favorite courses. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home | Fan Info

The calendar has flipped to August, which means two things: students are preparing to head back to school, and it’s time for the USGA’s two marquee amateur championships to be contested.

The 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship will be played at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, approximately 25 miles west of Nashville. It will be just the third time the most prestigious female amateur competition will be conducted in the Volunteer State, and the first in the country music capital. The U.S. Women’s Amateur features a stellar field, including 15 of the top 25 players in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™, and 11 USGA champions.

On the eve of the championship, here are five things to know going into Monday’s first round of stroke play:

Sophia’s Choice

After graduating from the University of Texas in May and playing in both the U.S. Women’s Open and Curtis Cup Match, reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Sophia Schubert decided it was time to take the next step in her golf career. Raised in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Schubert thought about playing her final amateur event at The Golf Club of Tennessee (she attended Preview Day last month), but recently withdrew from both the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the U.S. Women’s Amateur to focus on her professional debut next week in the Indy Women in Tech Championship Driven by Group 1001.

Schubert’s decision means University of Alabama rising junior Kristen Gillman is the only U.S. Women’s Amateur champion in the field. If Gillman, who defeated Brooke Henderson in the 2014 championship match at Nassau Country Club, doesn’t win, the door is open for a new name to be engraved into the Robert Cox Trophy.

Two and Noh?

Only three females in history have managed to win multiple USGA championships in the same season: Pearl Sinn (1988 U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links), Jennifer Song (2009 Women’s Amateur and WAPL) and Eun Jeong Seong (2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur). Given her recent form, Yealimi Noh, who claimed the U.S. Girls’ Junior title two weeks ago at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif., has an excellent chance to join that illustrious group. Noh, 17, of Concord, Calif., comes into the championship having claimed the Girls Junior PGA Championship (24-under 268), U.S. Girls’ Junior and Canadian Women’s Amateur (11 under par) titles in successive weeks.

Volunteer State of Mind

American Junior Golf Association All-American and 2018 USA Junior Ryder Cup team member Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., has called The Golf Club of Tennessee one of her favorite venues. Kynadie Adams, 14, and the lone Nashville resident in the field has a connection to the layout, as her father, Adrian, caddied there for seven years, and will be on her bag this week.

Two others – Ashley Gilliam, 17, of Manchester, and Addie Baggarly, 18, of Jonesborough – would thoroughly love to win a national title in their home state. And Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., was born in Jackson.

All are banking on the extra support from family and friends to provide an extra boost this week as they look to follow fellow Tennessean Schubert in the winner’s circle.

Irish Eyes Are Smiling

The USGA recently made significant changes to how it will select players for international team competitions such as the Curtis Cup, Walker Cup and World Amateur Team championships. One way to automatically get chosen for one of these prestigious events is by winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur. This year’s champion, provided she is a U.S. citizen, will earn a spot on the three-person team that will travel to the Republic of Ireland for the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, Aug. 29-Sept. 1 at Carton House Golf Club in Dublin. Reigning NCAA champion Jennifer Kupcho, 21, of Westminster, Colo., a rising senior at Wake Forest University, already has locked up one berth by virtue of being No. 1 in the WAGR as of July 25.

Yoonhee Kim (right) hopes to go from caddieing for a USGA champion to winning one herself this week at The G.C. of Tennessee. (USGA/JD Cuban)

From Caddie to Competitor

Two weeks ago, Yoonhee Kim, 20, of San Ramon, Calif., was strolling the fairways of Poppy Hills Golf Course, encouraging and helping good friend Yealimi Noh to the U.S. Girls’ Junior title. Once match play commenced, Kim pushed the cart and kept Noh relaxed while serving as her caddie. While Kim, a junior at the University of California-Davis, is 3½ years older, the two have known each other since Kim’s junior-golf days. They were also partners in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Streamsong (Fla.) Resort. But this week, Kim is shedding the caddie bib for a competitor’s badge, and Noh will be an adversary instead of an ally.

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

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