U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Curtis Cup Trio of Li, Gillman, Stephenson Reaches Quarterfinals August 8, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn. By David Shefter, USGA

118th U.S. Women’s Amateur | #USWomensAm
The Golf Club of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tenn.
Rounds of 32 and 16, Match Play, Thursday, Aug. 9 | Par 71, 6,337 yards
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Championship History | Media Center

What Happened

Two members of the victorious 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team are headed for a Quarterfinal showdown after winning a pair of matches at The Golf Club of Tennessee on a hot and muggy Thursday in the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.

Co-medalist and No. 1 seed Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., will face 2014 champion Kristen Gillman, 20, of Austin, Texas, in one of four Quarterfinal matches scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Lauren Stephenson, 21, of Lexington, S.C., another member of the USA Curtis Cup Team that rolled to a historic 17-3 victory in June over Great Britain and Ireland at Quaker Ridge Golf Club, joined her two teammates in the Quarterfinals.

RELATED: Meet the Quarterfinalists

Stephenson, who rallied to defeat 2016 semifinalist Yuka Saso, 18, of the Philippines, 1 up, will face 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va.

The other two matchups will feature University of Arkansas senior Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., against Ohio State senior Jaclyn Lee, 21, of Canada; and world No. 10 Jiwon Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea, against Baylor University sophomore Gurleen Kaur, 18, of Houston, Texas.

Play was suspended twice for a total of 92 minutes on Thursday due to thunderstorms.

Li, a semifinalist in last month’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and a two-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, defeated incoming University of Arizona freshman Ya Chun Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei, 2 and 1, in the Round of 16. Earlier on Wednesday, she quickly eliminated Alice Duan, 20, of Reno, Nev., 7 and 5. Since match play began, Li, No. 9 in the Women’s World Amateur Ranking™ (WAGR), has trailed for just one hole in three rounds, a span of 45 holes.

“I’ve been hitting the ball really well this week … and I’ve been putting really well,” said Li, a quarterfinalist last year.

World No. 6 Gillman, coming off an All-American sophomore season at the University of Alabama and a 5-0 mark in the Curtis Cup, is seeking to become the first multiple U.S. Women’s Amateur champion since Danielle Kang won consecutive titles in 2010 and 2011. After defeating a pair of Georgians on Thursday, she is halfway to that achievement.

Gillman eliminated Northwestern University senior Janet Mao, 21, of Johns Creek, 3 and 2, in the Round of 32, and then registered seven birdies in ousting 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor and University of Georgia senior Bailey Tardy, 22, of Peachtree Corners, 5 and 4, in the Round of 16.

“I’m really excited to play Lucy,” said Gillman. “She’s a sweet girl. I think it will be a fun match. She’s a great player, so I think … you [will] have to be make a lot of birdies out there be able to survive. I’m excited to see how it turns out.”

Tardy was coming off what arguably was the match of the day when she eagled the par-5 23rd hole to eliminate 2018 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Yealimi Noh, 17, of Concord, Calif. The two competitors combined for 14 birdies and the eagle. Noh, who was bidding to become the fourth female to win multiple USGA titles in the same calendar year, birdied the par-4 18th hole to force extra holes. Both players birdied the par-4 19th hole from short range before halving next three holes with pars.

Stephenson, a senior at the University of Alabama who posted a single-season school-record 69.76 stroke average in 2017-18, won holes 14, 15 and 17 – the latter two with birdies – after the afternoon weather suspension to beat Saso.

Friday’s Quarterfinal matches will begin at 1:45 p.m. CDT, with FS1 broadcasting live from 3 to 6 p.m. The Semifinals are set for Saturday morning at 8 a.m., with the 36-hole final on Sunday beginning at 7:15 a.m.

2018 USA Curtis Cup competitor and world No. 5 Lauren Stephenson rallied to earn a spot in Friday's Quarterfinals. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Notable

  • All of the quarterfinalists are exempt into next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.

  • With her 19-hole, Round-of-16 victory over 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitor Annabell Fuller, Lauren Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va., became the first mid-amateur (25 and older) to reach the Quarterfinals since Katharina Schallenberg advanced to the championship match in 2006. Greenlief converted a 2-foot birdie putt to secure the victory.

  • Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., recorded the ninth known hole-in-one (USGA records began in 1993) in the U.S. Women’s Amateur when she aced the 141-yard fourth hole with an 8-iron in her 4-and-3, Round-of-32 victory over Madison Caldwell.

  • Jaclyn Lee, 21, of Canada, made eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch to defeat UCLA All-American Patty Tavatanakit, 5 and 4, in the Round of 32.

  • The University of Alabama has three golfers in the final eight. Besides current players Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, Jiwon Jeon is transferring to the school this fall after spending the last two years at Daytona (Fla.) State Junior College, where she won eight tournaments.

  • Stephenson is the highest-ranked player in the WAGR remaining at No. 5.

Quotable

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., on completing her Round-of-16 match before the afternoon weather suspension:

“Yeah, we played 17 holes in like three hours. That makes me so happy. I like playing fast. She’s (Ya Chun Chang) a good friend of mine and she plays really fast.”

Li on the friendly nature of her Round-of-16 matchup with Ya Chun Chang:

“We’re really good friends. We’ve played AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) tournaments together. It definitely helped me being more relaxed.”

Lauren Stephenson, 21, of Lexington, S.C., on surviving a long day of two matches, including a comeback, 1-up win in the Round of 16 against Yuka Saso:

“I think with all the match play and the Curtis Cup and everything we’ve played this year, it’s really helped me stay mentally focused because you just had to practice it so much. I think the [late-afternoon] rain delay definitely gave me the momentum. I hit a good shot before we went into the rain delay, so I felt like I kind of had a little bit of an upper hand because she had all the momentum.”

Lauren Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va., on surviving the marathon day of two matches and two weather suspensions:

“Just leverage my match-play experience, having gone through this in the [2015 U.S. Women’s] Mid Am, going all the way [to the title]. I think having played a lot of match-play tournaments in the past really helps keep you focused.”

Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., on making a run to the final eight in her third U.S. Women’s Amateur appearance:

“I think I’ve just matured a lot. I had just [transferred] to Arkansas [from UNLV] in my first U.S. Women’s Am, and the three years that I’ve been there, or the two and now this third, has just really matured me and my game. I’ve gotten stronger, I’m a better ball-striker, and my putting is way better.”

Benton on where she ranks this achievement among her golf accomplishments:

“That’s tough to do. I don’t know. I would say it’s definitely a top achievement. I don’t know if I could rank it, but, yeah, just pretty cool to make the Quarterfinals at the Women’s Am. One of the best ones, I guess I could say.”

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

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