No. 9 seeds Alyaa Abdulghany and Ellen Takada eliminated stroke-play medalists Kendall Griffin and Athena Yang in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round of match play of the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Abdulghany and Takada join three other sides – Mika Liu and Rinko Mitsunaga; Robynn Ree and Hannah O’Sullivan; and Madelein Herr and Brynn Walker – in Wednesday morning’s semifinal matches on the par-72 Pacific Dunes course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Californians Abdulghany, 16, of Newport Beach, and Takada, 17, of Irvine, lost the first hole to Griffin and Yang’s birdie. But they quickly squared the match with Griffin, 16, of Sebring, Fla., and Yang, 17, of Winter Haven, Fla., with a par on the second hole. Abdulghany and Takada took the lead for good with a birdie at the par-3 fifth, one of their six birdies, and ultimately captured a 4-and-3 win.
“We work on staying very consistent, and we tried not to make bogeys,” said Takada, who nailed a 6-foot birdie on No. 18 to win their Round-of-16 match against Veronica Joels and Morgan Goldstein. “She made birdies and I made birdies, so it was good.”
Abdulghany agreed with her partner’s assessment, adding: “If one person was doing bad, we stepped up. We knew we had to cover up for the other person.”
Liu, 16, of Beverly Hills, Calif., and Mitsunaga, 18, of Roswell, Ga., faced a stern quarterfinal test in No. 5-seeded Angel Yin, 16, of Arcadia, Calif., and Muni He, 15, of the People’s Republic of China. Yin and He led for the majority of the match, but Liu and Mitsunaga never let the deficit grow larger than 2 up.
Liu’s clutch 10-foot birdie at the par-3 17th brought the match to all square, and 18 holes were not enough to decide a victor. Another Liu birdie, this one from 7 feet at the par-5 12th, earned them a 21-hole marathon win.
“I knew somebody had to make a birdie,” said Liu, who has verbally committed to Stanford University for 2017. “I missed (an) opportunity (on the 20th hole), and I was very upset. I just deleted all my thoughts and stayed focused and committed to my putt, and I made it. I was really overjoyed.”
Liu and Mitsunaga reached the quarterfinals by defeating Kathleen Scavo and Lucy Li, 2 and 1, in the morning’s Round of 16.
Ree, 18, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and O’Sullivan, 17, of Chandler, Ariz., quickly found themselves 2 down to Katie Miller, 30, of Jeannette, Pa., and 2003 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Amber Marsh Elliott, 46, of Greensboro, N.C. Miller and Marsh Elliott stuck approach shots on the first two holes to what O’Sullivan termed “gimme” distance. But Ree and O’Sullivan, future University of Southern California teammates, were not dissuaded.
“We just tried to keep doing what we were doing and just keep hitting fairways and greens, try to wear out our opponents and hopefully drop some putts here and there,” said O’Sullivan of their strategy.
Ree and O’Sullivan cut into the deficit with a birdie at the par-5 third, and pulled all square when they parred the par-4 sixth. A birdie 3 at No. 6 gave Ree and O’Sullivan a 1-up advantage, and they cruised in for a 4-and-3 victory.
Ree admitted to some fatigue after four days of walking the hilly, windswept Pacific Dunes layout, including their 7-and-5 victory over Abby Portyrata and Lauren Greenlief in Tuesday morning’s Round of 16. “We were struggling in the second 18,” she said, “but we were able to drop some putts.”
Herr, 17, of New Hope, Pa., and Walker, 16, of St. Davids, Pa, played 7-under golf in their 5-and-3 win over four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 36, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Dawn Woodard, 40, of Greer, S.C. Herr and Walker won the first hole with Walker’s 3-foot birdie and never trailed, a far cry from their first two matches, both of which required extra holes.
“We had adrenaline going and we came back from 2 down in the last match, so we just kept going with it,” said Walker, who has committed to the University of North Carolina for 2017. “At the beginning of the last match, we didn't play our real game, so we just wanted to stick to our game plan and keep it going, so that's what we did.”
The average age of the championship competitors has steadily dropped since the start of the championship. While the full field had an average age of 33.7, the eight quarterfinalists have an average age of 16.9.
The 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Wednesday, May 13, which will air live on Fox Sports 1. This championship is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Christina Lance is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.