2018 U.S. Girls' Junior: Get to Know the Field July 11, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Joey Flyntz, USGA

USGA champion Hailee Cooper is one of eight players in the field to compete in last month's U.S. Women's Open. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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The average age of the 156 U.S. Girls’ Junior competitors is 16 years, 9 months, 19 days as of July 16.

Avery Zweig, 11 years, 5 months, 19 days, of McKinney, Texas, is the championship’s youngest competitor and the youngest qualifier in Girls’ Junior history. She is the only 11-year-old in the field.

The championship’s oldest competitor is Elizabeth Caldarelli, of Scottsdale, Ariz. She is 18 years, 10 months and 27 days old as of July 16.

Field breakdown by age:

11: 1 player
12: 1 player
13: 5 players
14: 13 players
15: 22 players
16: 35 players
17: 39 players
18: 40 players

There are 14 countries represented in the championship: Argentina (2), Australia (3), Canada (6), Chinese Taipei (2), Colombia (2), Hong Kong China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico (4), Nigeria, the People’s Republic of China (7), the Philippines (2), the Republic of Korea (2), and the United States (122).

There are 33 states represented in the championship: Alabama (2), Arizona (4), Arkansas (2), California (34), Colorado (2), Connecticut (2), Delaware, Florida (10), Georgia (3), Hawaii (2), Idaho, Illinois (2), Indiana (2), Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland (3), Massachusetts, Michigan (2), Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey (5), New Mexico, New York (5), North Carolina (6), Ohio (4), Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina (2), Tennessee (3), Texas (13), Utah, Washington (2) and Wisconsin.

There are two USGA champions in the field: Hailee Cooper, 18, of Montgomery, Texas (2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Kaitlyn Papp), and Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., the defending U.S. Girls’ Junior champion.

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., is the lone player in the field who competed in the 2018 Curtis Cup Match. Li went a combined 3-0-1 in the USA’s 17-3 victory over Great Britain and Ireland at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.

There are two pairs of sisters in the field:

  • Maria Fernanda Martinez Almeida, 16, and Maria Jose Martinez Almeida, 18, of Mexico
  • Serena Shah, 18, and Symran Shah, 14, of Carrollton, Texas

Eight players in the field competed in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Shoal Creek, Ala.:

  • Hailee Cooper – T-55: 72-76-77-74—299
  • Celeste Dao, 17, of Canada – MC
  • Gina Kim, 18, of Chapel Hill, N.C. – MC
  • Lucy Li – T-55: 72-74-77-76—299
  • Erica Shepherd – MC
  • Yujeong Son. 17, of the Republic of Korea – MC
  • Elizabeth Wang, 18, of San Marino, Calif. – T-34: 72-74-71-77—294
  • Dana Williams, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla. – MC  

Seven players are in the top 100 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ as of July 11:

  • No. 9 – Lucy Li
  • No. 22 – Yujeong Son
  • No. 36 – Yuka Saso, 17, of the Philippines
  • No. 48 – Isabella Fierro, 17, of Mexico
  • No. 70 – Yealimi Noh, 16, of Concord, Calif.
  • No. 71 – Gina Kim
  • No. 85 – Suzuka Yamaguchi, 17, of Japan

There are four current college players in the field:

  • Elizabeth Caldarelli (Texas A&M)
  • Gurleen Kaur, 18, of Houston, Texas (Baylor)
  • Mychael O’Berry, 18, of Hoover, Ala. (Auburn)
  • Shotika Phadungmartvorakul, 18, of Bakersfield, Calif. (Oregon)

There are 35 players who have signed national letters of intent to play college golf in fall 2018:

  • Morgan Bentley, 18, of Tacoma, Wash. (Weber State)
  • Ya Chun Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei (Arizona)
  • Hailee Cooper (Texas)
  • Jordan Cornelius, 18, of Bethesda, Md. (Towson)
  • Payton Fehringer, 18, of Pocatello, Idaho (Grand Canyon)
  • Ami Gianchandani, 18, of Watchung, N.J. (Yale)
  • Sarah Hauenstein, 18, of Wheaton, Ill. (Illinois)
  • Sifan He, 18, of the People’s Republic of China (Pepperdine)
  • Speedy Kent, 18, of Mequon, Wis. (Wofford)
  • Annie Kim, 18, of Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla. (Vanderbilt)
  • Gina Kim (Duke)
  • Ashley Lau Jen Wen, 18, of Malaysia (Michigan)
  • Trussy Li, 17, of Diamond Bar, Calif. (Denver)
  • Sienna Lyford, 18, of Roseville, Calif. (California-Irvine)
  • Maria Jose Martinez Almeida, 18, of Mexico (Houston)
  • Lindsay May, 18, of Auburn, N.Y. (Clemson)
  • Ramya Meenakshisundaram, 18, of Jacksonville, Fla. (South Florida)
  • Alexis Miestowski, 18, of Schererville, Ind. (Indiana)
  • Elizabeth Moon, 18, of Forrest City, Ark. (Central Florida)
  • Katherine Muzi, 17, of Walnut, Calif. (Southern California)
  • Malia Nam, 18, of Kailua, Hawaii (Southern California)
  • Lauren Peter, 18, of Carmel, N.Y. (Ohio State)
  • Pinya Pipatjarasgit, 17, of Sylvania, Ohio (Brown)
  • Valery Plata, 17, of Colombia (Michigan State)
  • Calista Reyes, 18, of San Diego, Calif. (Stanford)
  • Serena Shah, 18, of Carrollton, Texas (Southern Methodist)
  • Ivy Shepherd, 18, of Peachtree City, Ga. (Clemson)
  • Kelly Sim, 18, of Edgewater, N.J. (Northwestern)
  • Sydney Staton, 18, of Fort Smith, Ark. (Arkansas Tech)
  • Kelly Su, 18, of Scottsdale, Ariz. (Northwestern)
  • Caroline Waldrop, 18, Birmingham, Ala. (Western Kentucky)
  • Elizabeth Wang (Harvard)
  • Libby Winans, 18, of Richardson, Texas (Oklahoma)
  • Haeley Wotnosky, 18, of Wake Forest, N.C. (Virginia)
  • Katherine Zhu, 18, of San Jose, Calif. (California-Berkeley)

There are 16 players in the field who have competed in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club:

  • Nicole Adam, 16, of Pinehurst, N.C. (2016)
  • Sophia Burnett, 16, of Bluffton, S.C. (2016)
  • Abbey Daniel, 17, of Covington, La. (2015)
  • Megha Ganne, 14, of Holmdel, N.J. (2015, 2017, 2018)
  • Ashley Gilliam, 17, of Manchester, Tenn. (2015)
  • Sophie “Yixian” Guo, 17, of the People’s Republic of China (2016)
  • Savannah Grewal, 16, of Canada (2017, won 14-15 Division)
  • Gina Kim (2015)
  • Lucy Li (2014, won 10-11 Division)
  • Ashley Menne, 16, of Surprise, Ariz. (2014)
  • Alexa Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla. (2014, won 10-11 Division in 2016, won 12-13 Division in 2017)
  • Natalie Pietromonaco, 18, of Auburn, Calif. (2014, won 12-13 Division)
  • Katherine Schuster, 15, of Kill Devil Hills, N.C. (2018, won 14-15 Division)
  • Christine Shao, 17, of Green Brook, N.J. (2015)
  • Christine Wang, 16, of Houston, Texas (2014, 2015)
  • Avery Zweig (2016, 2018)
Lucy Li went 3-0-1 in helping the USA reclaim the Curtis Cup last month at Quaker Ridge Golf Club. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

General Player Notes

Annabelle Ackroyd, 16, of Canada, qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur championships on consecutive days in June. After deciding at the last minute to fly to Colorado from Calgary with her father, Ackroyd qualified for the Girls’ Junior on June 26 with a 70 at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie, then earned a trip to the Women’s Amateur the next day with a 71 at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster. In Calgary, she only gets to play five months a year, with golf courses not opening until early May. She hits golf balls into a net and putts on artificial turf during the winter.

Amari Avery, 14, of Riverside, Calif., was featured in the 2013 Netflix documentary “The Short Game,” along with fellow 2018 U.S. Girls Junior competitor Alexa Pano. She was named Southern California Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017 and was named a 2017 Rolex Second-Team All-American by the American Junior Golf Association.

Phoebe Brinker, 16, of Wilmington, Del., is the niece of Suzy Whaley, PGA of America vice president. Whaley, who also serves as Brinker’s instructor, qualified for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, becoming the first woman in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event. Whaley, who qualified for the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, will become the first female president of The PGA of America in November. Competing against boys, Brinker won the Delaware state high school championship in 2016 and 2018, and finished runner-up in 2017. Brinker also finished second individually in last year’s final USGA Women’s State Team Championship at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, N.M., and led Delaware to a second-place team finish.

Ya Chun Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei, finished runner-up in this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., alongside partner Lei Ye. She won the 2015 Jack Nicklaus Junior Championship at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China and finished runner-up as an amateur in the 2016 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, a Symetra Tour event. She is headed to the University of Arizona this fall.

Hailee Cooper, 18, of Montgomery, Texas, won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship with Kaitlyn Papp at Streamsong Resort in Florida. Cooper is one of three players in the field who made the cut in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek. She has also qualified for four consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships. She will join Papp at the University of Texas this fall.

Abbey Daniel, 17, of Covington, La., fractured her right arm in four places when she was 14 and was told she may never be able to play golf again. A year later, she advanced to the National Finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club. Also a volleyball player, Abbey has verbally committed to attend Mississippi State University in 2019, the same school her mother, Kay, and father, Chuck, attended. Kay advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant, La.

Ami Gianchandani, 18, of Watchung, N.J., advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior. During the summer of 2014, she ran a golf clinic for children in New Jersey in order to raise money for a trip to Costa Rica, where she and her classmates built a protective fence around a school to keep students safe from a road and nearby river. Gianchandani is also an accomplished squash player and computer wiz who is a member of her high school robotics team and an Apple Certified Mac Technician. She is attending Yale University in the fall.

Ashley Gilliam, 17, of Manchester, Tenn., was a member of Tennessee’s victorious team in last year’s final USGA Women’s State Team Championship, shooting a championship-best 67 in Round 2. She won the 2017 Tennessee Girls’ Junior and has won two AJGA events.

Gurleen Kaur, 18, of Houston, Texas, is one of three current college players in the field. Kaur enrolled early at Baylor University and made an immediate impact for the Bears, finishing seventh in the Big 12 Championship and the NCAA Championships, and earning Golfweek All-America honors. She is a three-time Junior Rolex All-American.

Caris Kim, 15, of Los Altos, Calif., is the younger sister of LPGA Tour player Lauren Kim. Lauren was a standout at Stanford University who led the Cardinal to its first national championship in 2015, and reached the Round of 16 in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Lauren is flying in the night before the U.S. Girls’ Junior begins to caddie for Caris.

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., competed in her second U.S. Women’s Open earlier this summer at Shoal Creek, finishing tied for 55th. In 2014, she was the youngest qualifier in Women’s Open history at 11 years, 8 months and 14 days, but missed the cut by seven strokes at Pinehurst No. 2. Earlier in 2014, Li won the inaugural Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship for her age division (11-12). In 2016, Li won the Junior PGA Championship and played on the victorious USA Junior Ryder Cup. Li’s most recent wins include the 2017 Ping Invitational and the 2017 Rolex Tournament of Champions. She also helped the 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team to a 17-3 victory in June, going 3-0-1 at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Sienna Lyford, 18, of Roseville, Calif., is the daughter of former professional golfer Keith Lyford, now one of the top instructors in the country. Sienna’s mother, Cindy Mah-Lyford, is a three-time quarterfinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship who competed in two U.S. Women’s Opens and played on the Ladies European Tour. Sienna is attending the University of California-Irvine in the fall.

Emily Nash, 17, of Lunenberg, Mass., made headlines last year when she won her high school district championship, but the title was revoked due to Massachusetts high school association rules that allow her to compete in the boys’ team competition but not for the individual title. She is the only girl on her high school boys’ team. After the incident, she received messages from U.S. Women’s Open champions Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr as well as former LPGA Tour champions Marilynn Smith and Dottie Pepper.

Yealimi Noh, 16, of Concord, Calif., won this summer’s California Junior Girls’ State Championship, four years after winning it previously. Noh won her second title at nearby Monterey Peninsula Country Club on June 28, shortly after serving as a guest speaker for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Preview Day at Poppy Hills. This will be her fifth appearance in the U.S. Girls’ Junior.

Georgia Oboh, 17, of Nigeria, is the second Nigerian to compete in a USGA championship, joining Anita Uwadia, who qualified for the 2014 Girls’ Junior at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Ariz., and now plays at the University of South Carolina. Oboh became hooked on golf 10 years ago when Lorena Ochoa spotted her in the crowd and threw her a golf ball.

Alexa Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla., two years ago became the youngest competitor to play in an LPGA of Japan Tour event – the 2016 Yonex Ladies Golf Tournament. An eight-time winner of the IMG Junior World Championship and two-time National Drive, Chip & Putt champion (2016 and 2017), she has already played in two U.S. Women’s Amateurs, making match play last year at San Diego Country Club. She was featured in the 2013 documentary “The Short Game” on Netflix.

Catherine Park, 14, of Irvine, Calif., is the daughter of two Olympians. Her mother, Hyang Soon Seo, became the first woman from the Republic of Korea to win a gold medal, doing so in archery in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Catherine’s father, Kyung Ho Park, won a gold medal in judo in the 1986 Asian Games, but did not medal in the Olympic Games. Her 26-year-old sister, Victoria, played on the Symetra Tour, and her 24-year-old brother, Sean, is a professional baseball player in Korea.

Calista Reyes, 18, of San Diego, Calif., moved from the Philippines to the U.S. with her mother when she was 5 years old, starting anew in America for two years before her father joined them. She tried several sports before falling in love with golf when her dad introduced her to the game. A two-time Junior Rolex All-American, Reyes will attend Stanford University this fall.

Mikaela Schulz, 16, of West Bloomfield, Mich., is the first cousin of 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Morgan Pressel, who inspired Mikaela to play golf. She is also the niece of former professional tennis player Aaron Krickstein, who advanced to the semifinals of the 1989 US Open and 1995 Australian Open. Mikaela is a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and has volunteered more than 100 hours in the past year and raised more than $30,000 for the Junior Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF).

Katherine Schuster, 15, of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., is the 2018 North Carolina Division 1A/2A state high school champion, as well as the winner of this year’s 14-15 Girls’ Division of the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club. Schuster thrives on the golf course despite a genetic bone disorder called multiple hereditary exostoses (MHE) that has caused her to undergo two surgeries in the past four years to remove benign bone tumors from her knees. She is also working toward earning her pilot’s license. With 12 hours of flying under her belt already, she is hoping to obtain both her pilot’s and driver’s license when she turns 16 next June.

Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., is the defending U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, defeating Jennifer Chang, 3 and 2, in the final match at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. She qualified for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle when she was 15, and this year became the first player to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open via the new exemption for the Girls’ Junior champion. Last year, Shepherd competed in the Wyndham Cup, Junior Solheim Cup and World Junior Girls championships. She has deep ties to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, as her middle name, Leigh, is in honor of family friend Leigh Anne (Hardin) Creavy, the 1998 Girls’ Junior winner. Her family is also close with two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Betsy King, whom Shepherd caddied for in the 2017 Senior LPGA Championship. Shepherd is one of seven left-handed USGA champions and only the second female left-handed USGA champion.

Britta Snyder, 16, of Ames, Iowa, won the 2017 Iowa Women’s Amateur by a record 13 strokes and was named Iowa High School Golfer of the Year in 2018 after going undefeated in team and individual play and winning the individual state championship by 13 strokes. Her 2018 scoring averages of 34.25 for nine holes and 68.33 for 18 holes are both state records.

Yujeong Son, 17, of the Republic of Korea, advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and qualified for the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open. Son, who now resides in Norman, Okla., won the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship with a birdie on the final hole. She won three consecutive Oklahoma women’s state championships, becoming the youngest winner in 2014. Other victories include the 2016 Kathy Whitworth Invitational, the 2016 and 2017 Dixie Women’s Amateur, the 2017 Swinging Skirts Classic, the 2018 Harder Hall Invitational and the 2018 Rolex Girls Championship.

Chia-Yen Wu, 14, of Chinese Taipei, advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif. She became the youngest semifinalist in Women’s Amateur history by winning the longest extra-hole match in USGA championship history. She needed 12 extra holes, 30 total, to outlast 2018 USA Curtis Cup competitor and University of Alabama All-American Lauren Stephenson.

Suzuka Yamaguchi, 17, of Japan, won the 2018 Australian Women’s Amateur, as well as the 2018 Avondale Amateur and the 2018 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final. The 2017 Japan women’s high school champion, Yamaguchi qualified for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club when she was 14.

Sydney Yermish, 12, of Wynnewood, Pa., has only been playing competitive golf a little more than a year. Her interest in the game took off during the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa., where her parents served as committee members for the championship. Her parents got her involved in the championship as a volunteer, and she became inspired watching the best female amateurs in the world. She lists 2015 and 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur runners-up Sierra Brooks and Virginia Elena Carta, respectively, as role models.

Avery Zweig, 11, of McKinney, Texas, is the youngest qualifier in U.S. Girls’ Junior history and has won 172 events. She competed against college players and other top amateurs as a 10-year-old in the South-Atlantic Ladies Amateur (SALLY), making the championship flight and finishing 30th out of 98 players. Already a two-time Drive, Chip & Putt national finalist, Zweig has also raised approximately $250,000 for “The Win Green” campaign that she started in 2015. The campaign raises awareness for pediatric cancer.

Joey Flyntz is an associate editor/writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org.

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