U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Five to Watch for Round 1
July 31, 2016 | Springfield, Pa.
By David Shefter, USGA
Some of the game’s greatest female players have etched their names on the Robert Cox Trophy as winners of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. This week, 156 golfers have come to Rolling Green Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia with the hope of becoming the next champion and joining the likes of Glenna Collett Vare, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Juli Inkster, Beth Daniel, Morgan Pressel and Lydia Ko. Last year’s champion and current world No. 1 Hannah O’Sullivan, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, is not defending her title after competing in last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open Championship in England.
Here are five player storylines to watch as the stroke-play portion of the championship commences:
Only two females have won multiple USGA championships in the same year: Pearl Sinn (1988 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur) and Jennifer Song (2009 Women’s Amateur Public Links and Women’s Amateur). Eun Jeong Seong, 16, of the Republic of Korea, is looking to become the third, and the first to pull off the elusive U.S. Girls’ Junior/Women’s Amateur double. On July 23, Seong became the first player in 45 years to successfully defend her Girls’ Junior title, defeating 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor Andrea Lee, 3 and 2, in the championship match at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
Three players have come agonizingly close to winning the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur in the same year. Gunderson Carner lost to Marlene Streit in the 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur final three weeks after winning the Girls’ Junior. In 1989, Brandie Burton won the U.S. Girls' Junior at Pine Needles and then lost to Vicki Goetze in the U.S. Women's Amateur final a week later at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club's Course No. 2. In 2001, Nicole Perrot fell in 37 holes to Meredith Duncan in the Women’s Amateur final at Flint Hills National in Andover, Kan., a week after winning the Girls’ Junior at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kan.
National Title Part II?
In late May at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, Duke University freshman Virginia Elena Carta, of Italy, posted four sub-70 rounds en route to a record eight-stroke victory at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. Her 16-under total of 272 also was an NCAA record. Now, Carta hopes to become the first player in 24 years to win the NCAA and Women’s Amateur titles in the same year. Former University of Georgia All-American Vicki Goetze is the only player to accomplish the feat, defeating future three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam in the 1992 final at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in suburban Chicago.
Trading Silver for Gold
The last time a player claimed the Women’s Amateur a year after finishing runner-up coincidentally occurred in Pennsylvania, with Jane Park defeating Amanda McCurdy at The Kahkwa Club in Erie in 2004. A year earlier at Philadelphia Country Club, Park lost to Virada Nirapathpongporn in the final match.
Sierra Brooks, 18, of Sorrento, Fla., would like to repeat what happened to Park 12 years ago. The 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team member suffered a 3-and-2 defeat to O’Sullivan a year ago at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club.
In addition to Park, four others have won the championship a year after being the runner-up: Patty Berg (1938), Gunderson Carner (1957), Donna Horton (1976) and Cathy Sherk (1978).
It has been eight years – Amanda Blumenherst in 2008 – since anyone 20 or older has captured the Women’s Amateur, and it’s been 38 years – Sherk in 1978 – since a mid-amateur (25 and older) has won the title. With 66 percent of the field under the age of 20, the odds favor another teenager walking away with the championship. But there are a couple of 20-and-over players to watch, including 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor Monica Vaughn, 21, of Reedsport, Ore., and Duke University standout Celine Boutier, 22, of France, who represented her country in the 2012 and 2014 Women’s World Amateur Team Championships. Vaughn advanced to the semifinals of this year’s Ladies British Open Amateur, while Boutier won the 2015 Ladies British Open Amateur. Katelyn Dambaugh, 21, of Goose Creek, S.C., was a first-team All-American this past season for the University of South Carolina and the runner-up in the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Philly Now, Rio Later
Tiffany Chan, 22, of Hong Kong, is one of three amateurs who will compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when the 72-hole women’s golf competition commences on Aug. 17. Chan’s appearance in this week’s Women’s Amateur likely means she will miss walking in the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, Aug. 5. A rising senior at the University of Southern California, Chan won a pair of national junior college titles at Daytona (Fla.) State College before transferring to USC for the 2015-16 season. Chan moved up high enough in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings to qualify for the Olympics by winning the 2016 Hong Kong Ladies Open and the 2015 TLPGA Future Open. The other two amateurs going to Rio – Leona Maguire, of the Republic of Ireland, and Albane Valenzuela, of Switzerland – are not in the field this week. Both competed in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.