U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Semifinals to Feature Four International Players
August 5, 2016 | Springfield, Pa.
By Cody Manmiller, USGA
Virginia Elena Carta, of Italy, the reigning NCAA individual champion, and Mathilda Cappeliez, of France, stormed back from multi-hole deficits on the inward nine to advance to the all-international semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,259-yard, par-71 Rolling Green Golf Club.
Yuka Saso, 15, of the Philippines, and Eun Jeong Seong, 16, of the Republic of Korea, also erased deficits to join Carta and Cappeliez, guaranteeing the first all-international championship match since 1910.
Carta, a sophomore at Duke University, trailed Maria Torres, 21, of Puerto Rico, before winning five consecutive holes to flip a 2-down deficit after nine into a 3-and-1 triumph. Carta converted two birdies and two pars during a five-hole winning streak to grab control with a 3-up lead through 14 holes.
“I don't know why last night I was feeling super nervous, and as I woke up this morning, it was the same thing,” said Carta. “It was kind of tough, and this is why after winning I cried because all of my emotions kind of went away. I was excited, but it was super, super tough.”
Torres, the Southeastern Conference Golfer of the Year for the University of Florida, played nine bogey-free holes to jump out to a 2-up advantage before playing holes 10-14 at the match-play equivalent of 5 over par to open the door for Carta, who is the oldest remaining player at 19.
Six players have won the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and only one – Vicki Goetze (1992) – accomplished the feat in the same year. Carta has a chance to join both exclusive lists. Silvia Cavalleri, in 1997, is the only Italian to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Cappeliez, 18, overcame a 3-down deficit before coming back to defeat Hannah Green, 19, of Australia, in 19 holes. Cappeliez was 3 down on the 13th hole after losing four of five holes, a stretch where she made par just once.
She won the next three holes, including a short birdie on 13 after stopping her approach inside 5 feet, to pull even. She trailed again after bogeying the 17th, and managed a par on the 18th, where Green had a chance to seal the victory, but lipped out a mid-range putt.
“I thought I was done. I didn’t putt well today. On 17, I three-putted. I thought, ‘You are so stupid,’” Cappeliez said about the moments leading up to Green’s miss on 18.
Cappeliez’s par on the 19th hole – Rolling Green’s No. 10 – was enough to clinch a spot in the final four.
“My bad putting was just today,” Cappeliez said. “The other days, my putting was so good. Today, even though my putting was not here, my long game was pretty good. This year, I didn’t play a lot of tournaments because I had school and graduation, so I’m just enjoying myself.”
Saso, 15, won the 12th hole with a par to square her match against Nasa Hataoka, 17, of Japan. Both struggled to hit the green on No. 13, leading to a halved hole with bogeys. Saso holed out on the 14th from the fringe for one of back-to-back birdies to take a 2-up lead with three to play.
“I feel really great,” said Saso. “I'm thankful and I'm looking forward to the next couple days.”
Hataoka fought back with a birdie on the penultimate hole to push the match to the 18th hole, but Saso calmly handled a tricky par putt to win, 1 up.
Seong knocked off Andrea Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., 1 up, in a battle of good friends that ate lunch together earlier in the day. Seong, the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, trailed Lee three separate times and never led until a par on the 15th hole. Lee, the runner-up to Seong in this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, rebounded with a birdie on the next hole to level the match once again.
On the final hole, Seong managed a par, while Lee just missed her own to extend the match to extra holes. Friday was the third time the two faced off in USGA competition. Lee won the first, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and now Seong has captured the second and third in the last two weeks.
Seong acknowledged the sometimes-tense atmosphere between the two, despite being good friends.
“Yeah, maybe almost every breakfast and lunch with Andrea, we’re kidding around,” said Seong. “But in the match, we're very serious.”
Seong is attempting to become the first person to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior titles in the same season.
All four semifinalists are exempt into the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateurs, which will be conducted at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif., and the Country Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tenn., respectively. The U.S. Women’s Amateur champion traditionally receives an exemption into four major professional championships – the U.S. Women’s Open, the Women’s British Open, the ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship.
The match-play rounds of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1. Coverage will air from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Exclusive bonus coverage will be streamed live on usga.org on Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Cody Manmiller is the USGA’s summer communications intern. Email him at email@example.com.