U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Five Storylines for Round 1 of Stroke Play
August 6, 2017 | Chula Vista, Calif.
By David Shefter, USGA
Practice rounds have concluded, and all the necessary adjustments are complete. Now it’s time for the 156 competitors in the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship to officially begin the first of two stroke-play rounds at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif. By late Tuesday afternoon, we should know which 64 golfers are advancing to match play.
But first, the players must negotiate the challenging William Watson layout that opened for play in 1921 and has hosted two previous USGA championships, including the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur won by Jill McGill and the 1964 U.S. Women’s Open won by Mickey Wright.
As the players get set to tee off, here are five storylines for Round 1:
Double-Double: Mention those two words around these parts, and people will think you’re talking about a popular Southern California hamburger establishment. Not this time.
Erica Shepherd, 16, of Greenwood, Ind., has a chance to become the second player to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same calendar year. In 2016, Eun Jeong Seong, of the Republic of Korea, who eschewed defending her title to compete in last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open (missed cut), became the first player in USGA history to claim both championships in the same year.
Two weeks ago, the left-handed Shepherd defeated Jennifer Chang, 3 and 2, to win the 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
Cardinal Rules: Stanford University boasts one of the top women’s golf teams in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Five members of the 2017-18 team have qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, led by 2016-17 NCAA Freshman of the Year Andrea Lee. Lee, 18, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., was the runner-up to Seong in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur and was a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup and Women’s World Amateur teams.
She is joined in the field by fellow 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor Mika Liu, 18, of Beverly Hills, Calif.; Shannon Aubert, 21, of France; Sierra Kersten, 20, of Spokane, Wash.; and 2016 Olympian Albane Valenzuela, 19, of Switzerland. Rachel Heck, 15, of Memphis, Tenn., who made the cut in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open, is a future Cardinal, having verbally committed to play there in the fall of 2020.
12 and 12: Meghan Stasi, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has the distinction of being the oldest competitor in this year’s field. This is also Stasi’s 12th U.S. Women’s Amateur start. The four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion’s first start in this championship came in 2000, four years before this year’s youngest competitor, 12-year-old Alexa Pano, of Lake Worth, Fla., was born.
Pano, a two-time age-group champion in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club, has qualified for her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur. Two weeks ago, Pano advanced to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Stasi is vying to become the first mid-amateur (25 and older) to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in nearly 40 years.
California Dreamin: The Golden State is the most represented in the field with 26 competitors (16.7 percent). That group includes Hannah Kim, 21, of Chula Vista, a Northwestern University senior who lives 3 miles from the club. Kim led the Wildcats to a runner-up finish in this year’s NCAA Championship. She is also one of six players who call San Diego County home. San Diego’s Brooke Seay, 16, made the cut in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open, and Calista Reyes, 17, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior. Haley Moore, 18, of Escondido, was the individual runner-up in the 2016 NCAA Championship as a freshman at the University of Arizona.
While California has the most players, it has been six years since someone from the state has hoisted the Robert Cox Trophy. Danielle Kang won consecutive titles in 2010-11.
Other notable U.S. Women’s Amateur champions from California include Juli Inkster (1980-82), Poway native Becky (Lucidi) McDaid (2002), Barbara Romack (1954), Pat Hurst (1990), Kay Cockerill (1986-87), Jane Park (2004) and Dorothy Delasin (1999).
Teen Queens: Considering what has been happening in the game on both the male and female side, it shouldn’t come as a complete shock that the U.S. Women’s Amateur hasn’t produced a champion over the age of 19 in nearly a decade. The last non-teen to win was 21-year-old Amanda Blumenherst in 2008 at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. During that span, just two 19-year-olds have won: Jennifer Song (2009) and Emma Talley (2013).
When 21-year-old Virada Nirapathpongporn claimed the title in 2003, it marked the fourth consecutive year for a 20-plus-year-old champion. Since then, only Blumenherst has managed to break the teens’ grip on the title.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.