After two glorious days at Timuquana Country Club, the field has been whittled exactly in half – in fact, when Lauren Gomez birdied her side’s 36th hole of stroke play, it locked in the bracket of 32 on the nose, no playoff required.
Gomez, of San Diego, Calif., and partner Olivia Yun, of Carlsbad, Calif., will square off at 11:24 a.m. on Monday against Kelsey Chugg and Julia Potter-Bobb, who have reached a combined five U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur finals.
Here are 3 Things to Know as the format moves from stroke play to match play for the championship’s final three days:
Timuquana’s Testy Nature
Clint Avret, the longtime director of golf at Timuquana, preaches patience when it comes to approach shots into the greens of the Donald Ross-designed layout.
“On a lot of newer golf courses, you will hit an approach shot and it will funnel toward the hole,” said Avret. “The number of times that happens at Timuquana is very infrequent. The majority of shots will hit the ground and move away from the hole, and that’s kind of maddening to the players who think they’ve hit a pretty good shot.”
Everyone knows that patience is tested in match play, and Timuquana may stretch those limits. Avret discussed a few holes that may be pivotal to the results as the march to Wednesday afternoon’s final match begins in earnest.
The 11th hole is a 324-yard par 4, and despite playing as the second-shortest par 4 on the course, it features a demanding approach to a green set at a diagonal. In stroke play, five sides walked off the green with a better-ball score of double bogey, and two of the three triple bogeys made during stroke play occurred here.
“The hole will be won with 3s, but there will likely be at least one team that wins with a 5,” said Avret. “It’s a very difficult hole and a possible momentum builder.”
Or a momentum stopper.
The home stretch also includes the 184-yard, par-3 13th, which played as the third-toughest hole in stroke play. “A lot of pars will win that hole, and perhaps even a bogey,” said Avret.
The par-4 14th is 342 yards, but it may feature a drivable option at some point. “And 16, 17 and 18 will require quality shots coming in,” said Avret. “Not that there won’t be birdies on those holes, but pars will be at a premium.”
Switching from Stroke-Play Mode
Last October, Rachel Heck and Sadie Englemann won the Greenwood Cup, a four-ball event at River Oaks in Houston, but this is their USGA debut playing the format.
“I brought her down to play in it,” said Englemann, 16, of Austin, Texas, who combined with Heck, 17, of Memphis, Tenn., to shoot 66-66 and earn the No. 2 seed for match play. Will they change their game at all when they square off against Katie Miller and 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief on Monday?
“I think as we move into match play, we’ll probably be going for more putts,” said Englemann.
“The greens are definitely tough,” said Heck, who made the cut in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and will join Engelmann at Stanford University. “Sometimes in stroke play you want to play center of the green, but in match play you can be aggressive and go at pins.”
Kelsey Chugg and partner Julia Potter-Bobb have both won USGA titles at match play, and they plan on a more controlled approach.
“We both have the same mentality,” said Chugg, 27, of Salt Lake City, Utah. “We just try to make par and if we make birdie, we’re most likely going to win the hole. The idea is to make people try and beat us. Usually, if our ball-striking is good we’re going to be hard to beat.”
Kay and Abbey Daniel, of Covington, La., became the first mother-daughter duo to make match play in this championship. Kay went to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, and Abbey won the Louisiana Women’s Amateur last year at match play – 13 years after her mother accomplished it. Kay knows the formula for success.
“I need to hit it better – today I helped on two holes and three yesterday,” said Kay, a veteran of 21 USGA championships. “Normally, I’m a very consistent golfer, but I’m not playing my game right now. I need to be able to make the pars, so Abbey can be more aggressive flighting it in and hopefully holding these greens. Then she can have all the glory of the birdie putts.”
With that, she was off to the practice area.
The No. 3-seeded tandem of Julia Potter-Bobb and Kelsey Chugg are off to a nice start in their U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball debut with rounds of 65-69 in stroke play. Potter-Bobb, the 2013 and 2016 Women’s Mid-Am champion and 2014 runner-up, knew on Sunday that her partner was feeling less than 100 percent physically.
Chugg, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, gritted it out on Sunday, and the partners cited experience as a factor in their bogey-free round.
“I knew I would probably only be good for a few holes,” said Chugg. “But we’re good enough partners and strong enough partners to be able to pick up the slack when one or the other isn’t playing to best of their abilities.”
“I’d like to think that our match-play experience will be helpful,” said Potter with a chuckle of the duo’s combined 33-5 mark in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “I get told so often that my age is a disadvantage, I’d like it to be helpful at some point. And although four-ball match play is new to me, we’re smart enough players to know when to go for it and when to lay back. We know that we’re not playing the course anymore tomorrow, we’re playing the opponent.”
They are joined in the bracket by defending champions Katrina Prendergast and Ellen Secor, as well as three other fellow USGA champions: 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief and partner Katie Miller; 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Shannon Johnson and partner Megan Buck; and 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior winner Erica Shepherd and partner Megan Furtney. Shepherd and Furtney also got to the semifinals of this championship last year.
“We’ve gone above and beyond my expectations,” said Potter-Bobb. “Since this is our first time being here, I just wanted to make match play.”
With good reason.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.