U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
3 Things to Know: Match Play
August 7, 2019 | West Point, Miss.
By David Shefter, USGA
With the two stroke-play rounds officially in the books in the 119th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club, it’s time for a reset for the 64 match-play qualifiers. Regardless of seed, everyone now starts from scratch on Wednesday. Each round is a competition unto itself, and the goal for each of these talented players is to win six consecutive matches, culminating with the 36-hole final on Sunday, to become the next U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
Sunday’s winner will not only receive a gold medal and have her name engraved on the Robert Cox Trophy -- arguably one of the most aesthetic pieces of hardware in the game – but also earn an exemption into the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
So, as the golfers gear up for the Round of 64, here are three things to know going into match play:
Any competitor will tell you that besting the field – albeit over 36 holes – is always an honor. You get recognized by the USGA and get the top spot in the match-play draw. But that’s where the platitudes end. Trying to carry over exquisite play from stroke play to what hopefully is successive match-play rounds is a tall task. One bad day and the championship run comes to a screeching halt. That can explain why only three medalists since 1990 have also emerged as the champion: Amy Fruhwirth (1991), Meredith Duncan (2001) and Amanda Blumenherst (2008). That is the task facing teenagers Jiarui Jin, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, and 14-year-old Floridian Alexa Pano. Neither has ever been in this position, although Pano was the No. 5 seed last year at The Golf Club of Tennessee, only to be eliminated in the Round of 64 by Isabella Fierro.
Lei Ye, an incoming freshman at Stanford University, is the only player in the field with a chance to earn a second USGA title in 2019, having claimed the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis. If the 18-year-old from the People’s Republic of China can pull off this difficult feat, she would be the second player to do the U.S. Girls’ Junior/U.S. Women’s Amateur double, following Eun Jeong Seong, of the Republic of Korea, in 2016. Pearl Sinn (1988) and Jennifer Song (2009) captured the now-retired U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in the same year.
It has been 41 years since anyone over the age of 25 has won this championship. Canadian Cathy Sherk was 28 when she defeated fellow mid-amateur Judy Oliver at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. In fact, the oldest players to have won the title in the last 65 years are JoAnne Gunderson Carner (1968) and Barbara McIntire (1964), both of whom were 29 at the time of their victories.
Julia Potter-Bobb, 31, of Indianapolis, Ind., could surpass the two legends if she can successfully negotiate six match-play victories. The last time Potter-Bobb tasted the match-play experience in a U.S. Women’s Amateur was 2008. Back then, she was a 20-year-old rising junior at the University Missouri who was serving as a USGA Boatwright Intern with the Missouri Golf Association. That also happened to be the last time she gained entry in the event via qualifying before this year.
Of the seven mid-amateurs to tee it up this week at Old Waverly, Potter-Bobb is the only one who can end the drought.
“I wouldn’t have played in this event if I didn’t think I had a shot at winning,” said Potter-Bobb, the director of member services for the Indiana Golf Office. “I know my odds are a little different than those who are playing collegiately and juniors, but I’ve been here before, I’ve played match play, I’ve been successful at match play, and I know that the tournament doesn’t really start until [Wednesday], and you’ve got to take it one match at a time.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.