CHARLESTON, S.C. – An NCAA champion, a USGA champion and the World No. 2 amateur fell Friday in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Only four players remain – Doris Chen, Yueer Cindy Feng, Alison Lee and Emma Talley – for Saturday’s semifinals. Let this serve as a primer:
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School: Alabama (sophomore)
Road to semifinals: Lydia Choi, Tatiana Wijaya, Maria Fassi, Su-Hyun Oh
About: Talley had a pro-Tide crowd, and a loud one, in her corner Friday as she trudged through her toughest match of the week against Oh, the No. 2 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Talley never was able to get more than 1 up on Oh, but Oh never got more than 1 up on Talley either. Talley won on the 19th hole as fans and camera crews crowded the fairway.
“This is what you dream for,” Talley said in her thick Kentucky accent. “This kind of atmosphere.”
Talley was a second-team Golfweek All-American as a freshman, and owns the biggest margin of victory from this week. She defeated Wijaya, 8 and 7, in the second round of match play.
Talley, a lighthearted player, likes her mental state this week. She arrived in Charleston feeling adequately prepared for this championship, and has been able to stay relaxed on the course. If she’s tempted to get riled up, she and dad/caddie Dan sing a few lines of “Cruise,” a popular song by Florida Georgia Line.
This is her 10th USGA championship, and her third U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“The U.S. Opens were a big experience,” she said. “I got to learn from the best out there.”
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UCLA (incoming freshman)
Road to the semifinals: Dawn Woodard, Katelyn Dambaugh, Alexandra Harkins, Katelyn Sepmoree
About: This week marks Lee’s 15th USGA championship, but the semifinals are the farthest she has ever advanced at a U.S. Women’s Amateur. Lee was runner-up a year ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
When Lee originally scheduled her travel plans to and from Charleston, she had booked a departing flight for Saturday evening. A member of the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team, Lee had decided to fly straight to Denver for that event. There’s a player dinner on Sunday evening and a Junior Amateur on Monday.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Lee said with a laugh on Friday. For now, the flight remains unchanged.
Lee has succeeded at the Country Club of Charleston because of so much match-play experience, particularly her trip to the Girls’ Junior final. The course also sets up well for Lee, a laid-back player whose mother Sung Kim pushed her bag around the course on Friday.
“I think my approach shots, that’s been the key this week,” Lee said.
Lee is Golfweek’s top-ranked junior girl.
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Yueer Cindy Feng
School: Junior golfer, not committed
Road to the semifinals: Saki Iida, Emily Collins, Casie Cathrea, Annie Park
About: On paper, Feng was outmatched Saturday in the quarterfinals by reigning NCAA champion Annie Park. Feng, an often-overlooked player but solid ball-striker, prevailed with a 6-and-4 victory.
“I played well today,” Feng said after the match. “I was able to make all the putts I needed to make.”
Starting at No. 7, Feng won five consecutive holes, no small feat against Park, one of the longest hitters in the field. Feng got comfortable on the greens early in the week and points to that as the key to her success. She said she hit surprisingly few greens on Friday, but didn’t keep the stat.
“I like the greens here,” Feng said. “I feel comfortable putting on them.”
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School: USC (junior)
Road to the semifinals: Erynne Lee, Kacie Komoto, Minjee Lee, Lauren Diaz-Yi
About: Chen had arguably the toughest path to Saturday’s semifinals. Erynne Lee, a UCLA foe, took Chen to the 18th hole in the first round before Chen defeated Kacie Komoto, 3 and 2, the next day. Chen then had to face back-to-back USGA champions in Minjee Lee (2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior) and Lauren Diaz-Yi (2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links).
Friday’s quarterfinal match against Diaz-Yi was a rehashing of the WAPL final from earlier this summer, one that Chen lost, 10 and 9. Chen simply burned through all of her energy stores too quickly that week. She redeemed herself Friday with a 4-and-3 victory.
What Chen lacks in distance off the tee she makes up for in short-game prowess. She also is an extremely focused player who doesn’t show a lot of emotion on the course. Her calm demeanor could be a blessing in Saturday’s pressure situation. It will be her fourth trip to the semifinals in USGA events.