The friendship between Madelein Herr and Brynn Walker was forged out of competition.
Herr and Walker first met when they squared off in the championship match of the 2013 Pennsylvania Girls Junior, won by Walker, and the camaraderie they developed through their rivalry led to them teaming up in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They reached the semifinal round before falling, 3 and 2, to the second-seeded pair of Hannah O’Sullivan and Robynn Ree on Wednesday morning.
Herr, 17, of New Hope, Pa., and Walker, 16, of St. Davids, Pa., live about 45 minutes apart, but “we talk all the time,” said Herr. Herr is the youngest of three siblings, all of whom played golf for Council Rock North High School in Newtown, Pa. Her older brother, Zach, just finished his sophomore year at Vanderbilt University, where he plays for the Commodores.
In 2009, Zach, then 14, received the American Junior Golf Association/USGA Presidents' Youth Leadership Award for starting the Zach Attacks Cancer Foundation. Zach started the charity a year earlier when his mom, Cyndie, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Through a golf outing, silent auction and sale of wrist bands, Zach raised $60,000.
He received help from his sister, Erica, a two-time state high school champion who qualified for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open. She just completed her freshman season at Wake Forest.
“This week makes nine USGA championships for the three of them,” said Madelein’s father, Eric Herr, who caddied for Madelein this week and noted that all of the siblings are attempting to qualify for their respective U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open championships this summer. The Women’s Open is in their home state, at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club in July. Madelein is eligible to compete in one more U.S. Girls’ Junior, which will be played in July in Tulsa, Okla.
“Zach was the first to play a USGA event, the Junior Amateur,” said Eric. “Erica played in three Girls’ Juniors and the Women’s Open at Sebonack. This is the national championship. It’s a big deal – the fact that you have to qualify for it is what makes it so gratifying, I think. The USGA is the grandfather of golf, if you will.”
Walker also had a taste of USGA competition before this week, having represented the Keystone State in the 2013 Women’s State Team Championship at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. But one thing the pair had not experienced before they qualified for this week’s championship was a four-ball partnership. The format obviously agreed with them, as they tied for third place in stroke-play qualifying with a 9-under total of 135, then won a pair of extra-hole matches before defeating the veteran duo of Meghan Stasi and Dawn Woodard, 5 and 3, in the quarterfinals.
“We had a lot of discussion about how we would play it,” said Madelein, who has committed to attend Penn State in 2016. “I’m a shorter hitter and she would be more aggressive with her shots.”
“On the first day, she teed off first on every hole,” said Walker, who is headed to the University of North Carolina in 2016. “But we didn’t do well on the par 3s, so I teed off first on those from then on. It worked out pretty well. I definitely learned a lot from this, and we pulled off some shots that we didn’t know we could hit.”
Walker is a former baseball pitcher who gave up the game in ninth grade, although she still misses it.
“I used to play baseball and basketball, too,” said Walker, who just finished her junior year at Radnor High School and also plans to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. “But playing baseball takes up a lot of time in the spring, and I didn’t want to get injured.”
Not when there is so much golf to play. Walker and Herr will continue to see each other at league, state, and junior competitions over the next year, and likely at USGA championships for years to come, whether as partners or as friendly foes.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.