U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
2014 Champ Gillman Leads Alabama Trio into Semifinals August 9, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn. By David Shefter, USGA

118th U.S. Women’s Amateur | #USWomensAm
The Golf Club of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tenn.
Quarterfinals, Match Play, Friday, Aug. 10 | Par 71, 6,336 yards
Hole Locations
Championship History | Media Center

What Happened

When Kristen Gillman won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Nassau Country Club, the then-16-year-old trailed at some point in every match.

So when the 20-year-old from Austin, Texas, faced a 1-down deficit with one to play against good friend and fellow 2018 USA Curtis Cup competitor Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., in Friday’s Quarterfinals at The Golf Club of Tennessee, Gillman dug into her past experiences to earn a comeback victory.

Gillman, who became just the third player to go 5-0-0 in a single Curtis Cup Match since it switched to a three-day format in 2008 and tied for 27th in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, knocked a 5-iron approach from the left rough to the closing hole and converted the 8-foot birdie putt to force extra holes. One hole later, Gillman earned a trip to the Semifinals when Li’s 2-foot par putt on the par-3 19th hole (No. 10 on the course) lipped out.

RELATED CONTENT: Jeon Keeps Tide Rolling at Women's Amateur

“I knew I just had to stick [my 5-iron approach on 18] close because I knew she wouldn’t make a bogey,” said Gillman. “I hit a 5-iron draw around the tree … and then was able to make that putt. And then on the last hole, hit it to about 5, 6 feet, and I missed that, but she missed a short putt, and I hated for it to end that way, but we both played our hearts out.”

Gillman wasn’t the only University of Alabama All-American to register a comeback victory on Friday. USA Curtis Cup competitor Lauren Stephenson, 21, of Lexington, S.C., rallied from a 2-down deficit to eliminate the last mid-amateur in the field, Lauren Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va., 2 and 1.

Incoming Alabama player Jiwon Jeon, a junior-college transfer from Daytona (Fla.) State Junior College, made it three 2018-19 Crimson Tide golfers in the final four with a 19-hole victory over Baylor University sophomore Gurleen Kaur, 18, of Houston, Texas.

“It’s amazing,” said Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea. “I knew they were really good players and that Alabama has the best golf program, but I never thought three Alabama players are going to be in the Semifinals. I’m very excited to play one of them tomorrow.”

The other Quarterfinal match saw University of Arkansas senior Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., defeat Ohio State University senior Jaclyn Lee, 21, of Canada, 3 and 2.

Gillman, No. 6 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) and Stephenson (No. 5 in the WAGR) were partners in both foursomes sessions at the Curtis Cup in June at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. Jeon, meanwhile, competed against both of them as a member of last month’s international side in the Palmer Cup in France.

Stephenson, who was 2 down after 10 holes, changed the momentum with four consecutive birdies from the par-5 11th hole to grab a 2-up lead.

“I think for me, sometimes I do better when I come from behind,” said Stephenson, who also rallied to win her Round-of-16 match Thursday afternoon against Yuka Saso.

Benton birdied holes 11, 12 and 14 to pull away from Lee, the final player to get into the field when last week’s Ladies European Amateur champion declined the exemption.

Jeon, who won eight tournaments in her two-year junior-college career and is No. 10 in the WAGR, squared her match on the 18th hole with a par and then eliminated Kaur with a par on the 19th hole.

The Semifinals will be televised live by FS2 at 9 a.m. EDT and will re-air on FS1 at 10 p.m. USGA.org has the live stream of Sunday’s morning 18 of the 36-hole final from 10 a.m. to noon, with FS1 picking up the afternoon coverage at 2 p.m.

Kaylee Benton is the first University of Arkansas player to reach the semifinals since Stacy Lewis 12 years ago. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Notable

  • The semifinalists are exempt into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships. Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., hosts the 119th championship, while Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., is hosting in 2020.

  • Should Kristen Gillman win on Sunday, her four-year span between victories would be the largest since Margaret Curtis claimed the 1907 and 1911 titles. Curtis, who founded the Curtis Cup Match with sister Harriot in 1932, also won a third title in 1913. Harriot won the title in 1906.

  • Lucy Li made only two bogeys in four matches (64 holes), her first hole in Wednesday’s Round of 64, and the 19th hole of her Quarterfinal loss to Gillman. Those the only two bogeys Li made in 100 holes of golf this week.

  • Li’s defeat meant the drought of medalists winning the title was extended to 10 years. Amanda Blumenherst, the 2008 champion, remains the last medalist to hoist the Robert Cox Trophy. Li and Selin Hyun shared medalist honors with a record-tying score of 133. Hyun was eliminated by Lauren Stephenson in the Round of 32.

  • Jaclyn Lee lost the par-3 fourth hole in her match against Kaylee Benton when she removed a loose impediment in a bunker, a violation of Rule 13-4.

  • Benton is the first player from the University of Arkansas to reach the semifinals since Stacy Lewis in 2006 at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon. The last Arkansas player to reach a final is Amanda McCurdy in 2004 (lost to Jane Park at The Kahkwa Club in Erie, Pa.).

  • David Ingram, the president of The Golf Club of Tennessee and husband of three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Sarah Lebrun Ingram, was the standard bearer in the Lauren Stephenson-Lauren Greenlief Quarterfinal match. Ingram helped found the club, which opened in 1991.

  • Lauren Greenlief was the first mid-amateur to reach the Quarterfinals since Katharina Schallenberg advanced to the championship match in 2006 at Pumpkin Ridge. Greenlief won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.

  • If Gillman defeats Benton, the final match will be a guaranteed matchup between two University of Alabama players – Jiwan Jeon is enrolling in the fall. Players from the same college have never faced each other in the championship match in the Title IX era (1972).

 

Quotable

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., on the 2-foot par putt she missed on the 19th hole:

“I’m not sure what happened. I just stood over it. I wasn’t nervous or anything. I felt like I pushed it a little bit. But honestly, I’m not sure what happened.”

Lauren Stephenson, 21, of Lexington, S.C., on reaching the Semifinals for the first time:

“To make it as far as I have, it’s an honor. I’m so thankful for this opportunity because last year I lost in the Quarterfinals [in 30 holes to Chia-Yen Wu], and I think any time you can make it further the next year, it’s just a huge accomplishment, whether I make it to the finals or not. I’m really proud of the way I’ve played so far.”

Jiwon Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea, on reaching the Semifinals in her first USGA appearance:

“It’s just amazing to be in the Semifinals. I never thought about that coming up here, because before I came here, I wasn’t really confident with my golf game. But here I just played my golf. I knew I worked hard before the tournament, so I think I deserve to be here.”

Kaylee Benton, 21, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., on carrying the banner for Arkansas:

“I can’t even put into words the amount of support I’ve gotten from the state of Arkansas, my team and my friends and family back home [in Arizona]. To have everyone behind me, it means the world.”  

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

The Social Scene