U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Rounds of 32 and 16: Five Things to Know
August 8, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn.
By David Shefter, USGA
Match play can often be a fickle format. Even the best players can be off for one round and suddenly they are sent to a premature exit. The Round of 64 on Wednesday in the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at The Golf Club of Tennessee saw a few notables eliminated, specifically world No. 1 and reigning NCAA Division I individual champion Jennifer Kupcho and No. 3 Albane Valenzuela, the runner-up in last year’s championship.
Twenty-four competitors will be headed home by day’s end on Thursday when two rounds of match play are contested on the picturesque Tom Fazio layout.
So with the Round of 32 set to commence, here are five things to watch:
The University of ‘A’
That stands for the 25 percent (8 out of 32) of the competitors remaining who attend either the University of Arizona, Alabama or Arkansas. The Wildcats (Arizona) and Crimson Tide (Alabama), who met in the championship match of this year’s NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., each have three golfers left. That includes two from each school who were involved in that team match-play final. Arizona’s Haley Moore delivered the clinching point in an extra-hole thriller, while Bianca Pagdanganan holed a 30-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole of stroke play to get the Wildcats into a playoff for the last match-play spot. The third Wildcat is incoming freshman Ya Chun Chang, of Chinese Taipei, who was the runner-up in this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Lei Ye.
Alabama’s threesome features a pair of 2018 USA Curtis Cup competitors: 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman and 2017 quarterfinalist Lauren Stephenson, whose stroke average of 69.76 last season was the lowest in women’s college history. The third Tide player is junior-college transfer Jiwon Jeon, of the Republic of Korea.
Arkansas’ two remaining players are three-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Dylan Kim and Kaylee Benton, whose great-grandfather, Jim Benton, was an All-American wide receiver at Arkansas in 1937 and played on NFL championship teams in 1943 and 1945.
Jaclyn Lee, 21, of Canada, was preparing to take a few weeks off from golf after competing in last week’s Canadian Women’s Amateur in British Columbia. She was going to recharge the batteries before starting her senior season at Ohio State University. But when European Ladies Amateur champion Cella Barquin declined her automatic exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur field, the USGA went to its alternate list to find player No. 156.
Lee happened to be the first competitor on the allotment list and she accepted the spot after earning first-alternate status in a sectional qualifier on July 18 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Given only a few days to make travel arrangements, Lee came into this week with relatively low expectations.
“Honestly, I didn't try and go hard on practice,” she said. “I just really wanted to give my body the rest that it needed.”
Lee posted a pair of 3-under 68s in stroke play, and then rallied from a 2-down deficit with four to play to defeat Kylie Raines, 1 up, in the Round of 64.
International House of Golf
In addition to the United States, 10 other countries are represented among the final 32, including two each from the Republic of Korea (co-medalist Hyun Selin and Jeong) and the Philippines (2016 semifinalist Yuka Saso and Pagdanganan). The other seven countries are Canada (Jaclyn Lee), Chinese Taipei (Ya Chun Chang), Sweden (Beatrice Wallin), England (Annabell Fuller), the Republic of Northern Ireland (Olivia Mehaffey), Mexico (Isabella Fierro), Japan (Suzuka Yamaguchi) and Thailand (Patty Tavatanakit).
In the Round of 32, players from the People’s Republic of China, Germany and Australia were eliminated.
One of the intriguing Round-of-32 matchups features former Baylor standout Dylan Kim against current sophomore Gurleen Kaur. Both are Texas residents – Kim from Sachse and Kaur from Houston – but the two never crossed paths on the Waco campus. Kim transferred to Arkansas prior to last season before Kaur enrolled.
With the top three players in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ now out of the championship – No. 2 Lilia Vu missed the cut, while the Nos. 1 and 3 golfers lost in the Round of 32 – Stephenson, of Lexington, S.C., is the highest-ranked player remaining at No. 5. World No. 4 and two-time USA Curtis Cup competitor Andrea Lee did not file entry and neither did No. 8 Frida Kinhult, of Sweden. In addition to Stephenson, four others in the WAGR top 10 are left: Gillman (6), Tavatanakit (7), co-medalist Lucy Li (9) and Jeon (10).
The average age of the remaining players is 19.06, with Li 25 days younger than fellow 15-year-old Fuller. Both competed in the 2018 Curtis Cup Match for their respective countries. 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief, 27, of Ashburn, Va., is the oldest player remaining, while 17 of the 32 competitors are still in their teens.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.