U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
3 Things to Know: Stroke Play
August 4, 2019 | West Point, Miss.
By David Shefter, USGA
The oldest women’s amateur competition in the country – and the second-oldest in the world behind the Ladies British Open Amateur – is set to commence on Monday at Old Waverly Golf Club with the 119th playing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Each of the 156 competitors is looking to be among the 64 golfers to advance to match play after two 18-hole stroke-play rounds the next two days, and then hoping to win six matches over five days, including a 36-hole final, to have her name engraved on the Robert Cox Trophy.
The Women’s Amateur champion receives a gold medal and custody of the trophy for the ensuing year, as well as an exemption into next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club. She will also earn invites to three other LPGA major championships: the ANA Inspiration, the Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open. The runner-up also earns a spot in the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open.
With last year’s champion, Kristen Gillman, turning pro in December after successfully navigating LPGA Tour Q-School, a new name will be added to the long list of illustrious champions, legends such as Juli Inkster, Glenna Collett Vare, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Beth Daniel and Louise Suggs. Recent champions who have gone on to professional success include Morgan Pressel, Lydia Ko and Danielle Kang.
Here are three things to know going into stroke play:
From 1954 to 1990, the average age of the U.S. Women’s Amateur champions was 22. Since 1991, that number has dropped to 19. Thirty-two golfers who competed in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago at SentryWorld are in the field. Seventy-one players (45.5 percent of the field) will be 18 or younger at the outset of the competition.
So, if you’re looking to single out a possible champion, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the player is a teenager, and perhaps someone who has yet to enroll in college. While the last two champions – Gillman (2018) and Sophia Schubert (2017) – were 20 and 21, respectively, the previous eight were all under 20, including 15-year-old Lydia Ko.
It’s no secret that golf has become a global game, especially in the female ranks. International golfers have won 16 of the last 30 U.S. Women’s Opens. The U.S. Women’s Amateur has also seen a growth in foreign competitors, partly thanks to the USGA adding the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking to its criteria for exemptions seven years ago. Since 1995, there have been 24 U.S. Women’s Amateurs contested and 18 of them have included at least one foreign-born player in the championship match. This year, 17 countries are represented in the field. Australia leads the foreign contingent with seven players, followed by the People’s Republic of China with six. One of China’s six players is 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lei Ye.
While the field does not feature a past U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, there are three players who have come within one victory of claiming the title: 2015 runner-up Sierra Brooks, 2016 runner-up Virginia Elena Carta and 2017 runner-up Albane Valenzuela. Having just shared low-amateur honors in the Evian Championship, Valenzuela comes into the championship with the most impressive credentials. The Stanford All-American also has qualified for three U.S. Women’s Opens and represented Switzerland in the 2016 Olympics.
Brooks, an All-American at the University of Florida where she is a rising senior, represented the USA in the 2016 Curtis Cup and also qualified for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, while Carta, of Italy, won the NCAA individual title as a Duke University freshman in 2016. In May, she helped the Blue Devils win the NCAA team title in Arkansas.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.