Part of Golfing Gallaghers, Kathleen Has Chance at Family History May 31, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. By Tom Cunneff

Kathleen Gallagher is carving her own path in a family of decorated amateur and professional golfers. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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The field of the 3rd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship has been filled with some terrific players with impressive resumes, such as Monica Vaughn, who just won the NCAA Division I Women’s individual and team championships, and Meghan Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion.

But no player in the championship has a better golf pedigree than Kathleen Gallagher, 20, of Greenwood, Miss., whose parents are five-time PGA Tour champion Jim Gallagher and 12-time Mississippi State Women’s Amateur champion Cissye Gallagher. As impressive as their careers have been, however, neither won a USGA title, which Kathleen has the chance to do Wednesday at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.

“I haven’t played in that many USGA events, but that would be so neat getting to do something first,” said Kathleen, whose previous best USGA accomplishment was making it to match play in the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced Golf Club near San Francisco. “My parents have done everything setting a great example for us to follow.”

On Tuesday, Gallagher and her partner, Kendall Griffin, 18, of Sebring, Fla., took down defending champs Hailee Cooper and Kaitlyn Papp, 2 and 1, in the Round of 16 and then defeated Linyu (Anna) Dong and Rose Zhang, 4 and 2, in the quarterfinals.

“She’s such a good driver of the ball, she goes first and hits it every time down the middle,” said Griffin, who will join Gallagher at Louisiana State University in the fall. “It gives me a little bit less pressure. She’s great in every part of the game, so it’s definitely good to have a partner like that.”

Added Cissye, who has followed her every step of the way this week and has played in more than a dozen USGA championships: “I’m so happy for her. I would be so thrilled if she were to bring home a USGA championship, but it’s been a great week just getting to know Kendall.”

Kathleen’s previous biggest wins to date would be the 2013 and 2016 Mississippi State Women’s Amateur titles. In 2015, Cissye beat Kathleen on the 18th hole in the second round before going on to claim her 12th title and first since 2006. Eldest daughter, Mary Langdon, won the event in 2010 and 2014 and has also had to play Cissye.

“After Kathleen lost, she grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘You better play as good against everybody else as you just played against me,’” recalled Cissye, who played at LSU with Jim’s sister Jackie. “It is hard to play your daughter, but it's harder for them to play me because I can't lose. I'm thrilled to death either way.”

Kathleen, the third of four children, also played on four boys and girls state champion golf teams at her high school and won the individual Boys North State Championship her junior year, much to the consternation of the boys.

“I would get 10 percent off their yardages on tee shots,” she said. “They all hated it, but they're all my good buddies. I loved getting to play with them.”

Beating the boys was no big deal since golf has been as much a part of her life as breathing. Not only did Jim’s sister Jackie win on the LPGA Tour, but Jim’s father, Jim Sr., is a highly respected teaching pro in Indiana and his brother Jeff also played on the PGA Tour.

Before the age of 10, Kathleen would travel with the family to 20 to 25 PGA Tour events a year before Jim started winding down his career. One of her fondest memories is celebrating her birthday each year during the Milwaukee Open. On her eighth birthday, her dad and other pros were getting to take batting practice with the Brewers before a game when a giant “Happy Birthday, Kathleen” popped up on the Jumbotron. 

“That's probably what I remember most – those birthdays on the road,” said Kathleen, who would like to turn pro after college, too. “I definitely want to try it out, but I don't think I will do it too long. I think just depends on how things go. If it doesn't work out, it's OK.”

But for now, she’ll remain an amateur and is elated that she and Griffin are exempt now into next year’s Women’s Four-Ball at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif.

No matter what happens today, she’s added another impressive entry into the Gallagher golf record book.  

Tom Cunneff is a South Carolina-based freelance writer.

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