U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Devil of a Time
December 17, 2019 | Jacksonville, Fla.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
As she and partner Megan Furtney awaited the outcome of the other U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship semifinal match at Timuquana Country Club, Erica Shepherd tried to temper Furtney’s expectations about competing in a USGA final.
“I talked to Megan about some things I learned,” said Shepherd, 18, who had defeated Jennifer Chang for the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior title at Boone Valley Golf Club. “Somebody told me before my final match that you want to play your best golf because it’s the biggest stage, but that’s just not going to happen. You have to mentally accept that and have lower expectations.”
Either the advice went unheeded or it served to calm Furtney, because she came out firing in the final against No. 27 seeds Jillian Bourdage and Casey Weidenfeld. Furtney, 18, of South Elgin, Ill., won the second and third holes with birdies, and Shepherd, of Greenwood, Ind., birdied the par-4 seventh to give the duo a 3-up advantage.
Their lead never slipped below two holes after that, and the fifth-seeded incoming Duke University freshmen closed out a 2-and-1 victory when Furtney holed a 7-foot par putt to halve No. 17. The pair made five birdies in the final after converting six birdies in their 4-and-3 semifinal win over No. 8 seeds Amari Avery and Alexa Pano. Bourdage and Weidenfeld outlasted No. 2 seeds Sadie Englemann and Rachel Heck in 20 holes in their semifinal.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a hundred more times,” said Furtney of her rapport with her Blue Devil teammate. “We know each other’s games so well and we’re so good about communicating with each other. Being able to talk shots through and have a lot of options open is really important for us.”
The duo shot 68-67 in stroke play for a 9-under-par total of 135, five strokes behind record-setting medalists Faith Choi and Aneka Seumanutafa, who combined for a 12-under 60 in Round 1 and carded a 36-hole total of 14-under 130, which broke the championship record by two. Seumanutafa, of Emmitsburg, Md., the Big 10 Freshman of the Year at Ohio State, made 10 of the duo’s 12 birdies in the opening round. The No. 1 seeds couldn’t sustain the magic, however, and lost in the opening round to the No. 32 seeds, California sisters Avery and Whitney French, 3 and 2.
Shepherd joined fellow Indiana native Julia Potter-Bobb, who won the 2013 and 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs, as the second left-handed player to win multiple USGA championships. Potter-Bobb and 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Kelsey Chugg earned the No. 3 seed in match play at Timuquana but lost, 3 and 2, in the first round to Lauren Gomez and Olivia Yun.
Kay and Abbey Daniel of Covington, La., became the first mother-daughter duo to make match play, but lost in the first round to reigning Mexican Women’s Amateur champion Cory Lopez and Avery Zweig, the youngest player in the field at age 12.
Furtney and Shepherd got to the semifinals of this championship in 2018 at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., before losing to eventual champions Ellen Secor and Katrina Prendergast. Secor and Prendergast earned the No. 11 seed in their title defense and were eliminated in the Round of 16 in 20 holes by Bourdage and Weidenfeld.
“This is Megan’s first time making it all the way through something this big, and I think she handled it great,” said Shepherd. “She looks like she’s won a USGA championship before.”
A little advice from her partner who had already won one certainly didn’t hurt.
|Indiana residents Erica Shepherd and Julia Potter-Bobb are the lone female lefthanders to win a USGA championship and are the only lefties with multiple titles. Five left-handed male players have won one USGA championship. Phil Mickelson, the 1990 U.S. Amateur, has been a runner-up in the U.S. Open a record six times.|
|Furtney and Shepherd earned the victory after earning the No. 5 seed in stroke play. No. 13 Mika Liu and Rinko Mitsunaga, who won the inaugural championship in 2015 at Bandon Dunes, are the lowest-seeded side to win in the championship’s five editions.|
|The 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball will be played April 25-29 at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla. The club was scheduled to host the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur before damage from Hurricane Irma forced that championship to be moved to Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.|
|The runners-up hailed from the championship’s host state of Florida. Jillian Bourdage, of Tamarac, and Casey Weidenfeld, of Pembroke Pines, ousted the defending champions, Katrina Prendergast and Ellen Secor, in 20 holes in the Round of 16. In July, Bourdage would reach the final of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, falling to Lei Ye, a runner-up with partner Ya-Chun Chang in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball.|
|The 2019 championship featured the longest match in Women’s Amateur Four-Ball history, a 22-hole victory by Isabella Rawl and Karlee Vardas over 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Shannon Johnson and Megan Buck in the Round of 32.|
|The average age of the championship field at the start of the week was 20.3 years, the youngest in its five years. That average dropped in ensuing rounds, to 18.1 for the Round of 32; to 16.8 for the Round of 16, and to 16.4 for the semifinal round.|