U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Lee Wins Epic 23-Hole Match Over Pano to Reach Quarters
August 8, 2019 | West Point, Miss.
By David Shefter, USGA
Andrea Lee only led once in her Round-of-16 match against co-medalist Alexa Pano in the 119th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship on a sultry Thursday afternoon at Old Waverly Golf Club. But it came at the most important time.
A two-putt par on the 23rd hole, the par-4 fifth, sealed the victory for the No. 2 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™.
A rising senior at Stanford University, Lee, 20, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., forced extra holes by converting a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. Lee and Pano, 14, of Lake Worth, Fla., then tied the next four holes before the longest match of the championship was finally decided when Pano failed to convert a 15-foot par putt after hitting a wayward tee shot into the 2½-inch bermudagrass rough. It was the first bogey by either player in 16 holes.
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Lee, a semifinalist in 2014 at Nassau Country Club, earned a Friday morning quarterfinal matchup against 2018 USA Curtis Cup teammate Lucy Li, 16, of Redwood Shores, Calif. Lee and Li played one four-ball match together (3-and-2 win) at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., during a 17-3 victory over Great Britain & Ireland.
“She’s a tough competitor for sure, and it’s going to be a tough match,” said Lee of facing Li on Friday. “She’s a really solid golfer, very consistent, and so I think it’s going to take some of what I did today on the back nine and in the extra holes [against Pano] to beat her.”
Pano, a 2019 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier who was the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, took control of the match early, winning three of the first eight holes. Lee, who shares the Stanford school record with eight collegiate victories, birdied back-to-back par 5s (Nos. 9 and 10) to trim the deficit back to one hole. She eventually tied the match with a birdie on the par-5 15th, only to see Pano retake the lead with a birdie on the ensuing hole.
That set up Lee’s dramatic birdie on the 393-yard closing hole. Her approach barely stayed on top of the ridge on the upper-right portion of the green, and when Pano failed to hole out her chip from just off the green, Lee calmly stepped up and drained her putt.
“From 9 on, I played some of the best golf I think that I’ve played in a while,” said Lee, who earlier on Thursday defeated Brooke Matthews, 4 and 3, in the Round of 32. “I’m exhausted, but I played really solid today, and I’m proud of the way I handled it.”
Li, meanwhile, earned her third consecutive trip to the quarterfinals. The youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history – she was 11 in 2014 at Pinehurst – overcame some shaky putting early in her match against Kent State University rising senior Pimnipa Panthong, 21, of Thailand, to earn a 2-and-1 win. Li made five birdies against one bogey over her last nine holes, including the clincher on the par-3 17th.
“My putting has been getting a lot better,” said Li, who is No. 4 in the WAGR. “These greens are a little tricky for me, but I started rolling it a lot better today, so I feel good.”
Albane Valenzuela, 21, of Switzerland, gave the quarterfinals its third top-5 ranked player when she defeated No. 4 seed and incoming Auburn University freshman Megan Schofill, 18, of Monticello, Fla., 4 and 3. Valenzuela, No. 5 in the WAGR, is coming off sharing low-amateur honors in the Evian Championship two weeks ago. The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier also was the low amateur in the 2016 ANA Inspiration and tied for 21st in the 2016 Olympics, one of two amateurs to compete in Rio de Janeiro.
None of the remaining competitors have played fewer holes over the first three rounds of match play than Gabriela Ruffels, 19, of Australia. The University of Southern California junior, who won last month’s North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst (also a match-play event), has needed just 42 holes to dispatch her three opponents, including a 6-and-5 victory over incoming Stanford freshman Brooke Seay, 18, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the Round of 16.
Seay had pulled off one Houdini act against an Australian in Wednesday’s Round of 64 (4 down with four to play) but couldn’t recover from this major deficit against Ruffels. The daughter of tennis professionals – her mother won an AIAW individual title at USC in 1981 and her father is an Australian Open doubles champion – went 6 up after eight holes and cruised home, playing the equivalent of 1-under golf (with concessions) over the 13 holes.
“I’m playing pretty well,” said Ruffels, who has USC coach Justin Silverstein serving as her caddie. “I think the scores don’t really reflect how tough it’s been. It definitely hasn’t been a breeze like the scores say, but this course is so hard, I think I’ve just been doing good with hitting fairways, hitting greens and staying consistent.”
Aneka Seumanutafa, 18, of Emmitsburg, Md., almost witnessed a major comeback when 2018 Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup competitor Annabell Fuller, 16, of England, erased most of a six-hole deficit with four consecutive birdies from No. 11. Seumanutafa, a rising Ohio State sophomore who played 3-under golf over the first 10 holes, stopped the momentum with a winning par on the 16th hole to earn a 3-and-2 win.
“That you know you’re talented, you know you can do it, just stay focused,” said Seumanutafa on what she told herself when Fuller was on her birdie binge. “Your game is out there, it’s on the golf course.
“She fought back really hard. She made some quality shots out there. But I didn’t feel like I was losing it out there. I was just playing my own game, just trying to stay focused.”
Due to impending weather, the quarterfinal matches have been moved to Friday morning, beginning at 8:15 a.m. EDT. FS1 will have a tape-delayed broadcast from 4-7 p.m. The semifinals will be staged on Saturday morning, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and Sunday’s 36-hole final is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., with the afternoon 18 set for 12:30 p.m. The morning 18 will be streamed live on usga.org from 10 a.m.-noon, with FS1 picking up the afternoon coverage at 2 p.m. All times above are EDT.
- All eight quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.
- Half of the players remaining are among the top 60 in the WAGR. It includes No. 2 Andrea Lee, No. 4 Lucy Li, No. 5 Albane Valenzuela, No. 52 Gabriela Ruffels and No. 57 Aneka Seumanutafa.
- The tee on the par-4 14th hole was moved up to make it drivable at 248 yards. Tyler Akabane eagled the hole in the Round of 32, but lost her match to No. 4 seed Megan Schofill.
- Quarterfinalist Caroline Canales, 16, of Calabasas, Calif., had to withdraw from the final round of the Southern California Golf Association Women’s Amateur last week at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club when she was involved in a minor car accident. Nobody in the vehicle was injured – Canales was not driving – and she was able to make normal preparations for this championship.
- Aneka Seumanutafa, 18, of Emmitsburg, Md., is named after three-time U.S. Open champion Annika Sorenstam, a player she has met four times but never revealed that little nugget. Her parents, who are of Samoan, Chinese and German descent, gave her the Hawaiian version of Sorenstam’s first name. Seumanutafa was born in Hawaii before the family moved to Maryland while she was in high school. “It’s very inspirational to follow in her footsteps,” Seumanutafa said.
- While many of the competitors in the field have played a full summer of competitions, Kenzie Wright, 22, of McKinney, Texas, a rising senior at the University of Alabama, is only competing in her second. She took a summer class in June at Alabama and then participated in the U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier in early July and reached the Round of 16 in the Texas Women’s Amateur before arriving at Old Waverly.
“It was definitely challenging, and my hands were pretty sweaty, so my caddie (brother Alexis) had to give me a towel every single hole just to keep them dry because a few times it slipped off my hands. Definitely challenging, but I think over the days I’ve kind of gotten used to it. I felt like my energy was really good all throughout the [two matches], so it was pretty good, yeah.” – Albane Valenzuela on the double-round match-play day in the sultry conditions
“In Wisconsin I was struggling with my wedges a little bit, so when I got back to L.A. (Los Angeles) I worked on those a lot, and my putting, as well. So far, both of those have improved here, and I’m ready for tomorrow.” – Caroline Canales on what’s changed in her game after missing the cut for match play in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago at SentryWorld
“In college, we play two rounds constantly, so it wasn’t that bad for me. I didn’t feel fatigued. I didn’t feel tired at all because we keep in shape, which is good for playing 36 holes.” – Aneka Seumanutafa on playing two match-play rounds in the heat and humidity
“Well, that was the hardest one out of [the Round of] 64, 32 and 16. I finished on the 18th hole in the first match, 19th hole in the second match [on Thursday morning], and we were joking, we were like, why don’t we go 20 on the last one. And as I was walking to the 20th hole, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done to myself.’ I hit three really good shots, and it ended up well.” – Megha Ganne on her come-from-behind, 20-hole win over No. 64 seed Emily Hawkins
“My biggest goal was be top 15, top 10 in stroke play, just be in a good position, be seeded well, and match play-wise, I’ve played pretty well in match play this year, so I was taking off the experiences from like East Lake Cup we play in and just kind of learning from that and using that here and just kind of taking it match by match and just seeing how it goes.” – Kenzie Wright on her expectations for her first U.S. Women’s Amateur
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.
The Social Scene
Winning the #USWomensAm is the pinnacle of amateur golf. Best of luck to all competing in the 119th playing this week! Catch the action of FS1 or on https://t.co/JQSZq1GEgU. pic.twitter.com/WomaOPMeLI— Jennifer M Song (@TheJenniferSong) August 7, 2019
That’s a wrap for the #uswomensam... earlier exit than I wanted but so many good things to take away. Congratulations to @AlbaneValenzuel on a great match👏🏻I wish you all the best for the rest of the week👊🏻 Thank… https://t.co/YNrGFWOoMX— Brynn Walker (@brynn_walker5) August 8, 2019
What a great run by Lauren Hartlage at the #USWomensAm this week! She tied for 3rd during stroke play and defeated her first match play opponent. We are so proud of her and how she represented our team and @uofl! Can't wait for September 9! #GoCards 🔴🏌️♀️⚫️ pic.twitter.com/Bm1ZuQzumU— UofL Women's Golf (@UofLWGolf) August 8, 2019