U.S. Women’s Amateur preview
When: Aug. 9-15
Where: Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club
What the rankings say: Eight of the top 20 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and six of Golfweek’s top 10 junior players.
The scoop: The usual cast is gone. No more Alexis Thompson. Defending champion Jennifer Song won’t be around to defend her title. Kimberly Kim, never a player to count out when the flag goes up at a USGA championship, will not make a run at a second title.
Could a mid-am win?
Some of the best amateur women in the game have turned professional in the last few months, but that doesn’t mean there will be any shortage of contenders for the U.S. Women’s Amateur title next week.
When it comes to a headliner in this field, it’s tough to argue against NCAA champion Caroline Hedwall. She also plans to shed her amateur status in the near future, but not before a return trip to North Carolina, site of her national championship victory in early May. Hedwall will arrive in Charlotte fresh off earning low amateur honors at the Ricoh Women’s British Open (heck, she was the only amateur to even make the cut).
Jennifer Song, 2009
Amanda Blumenherst, 2008
Maria José Uribe, 2007
Kimberly Kim, 2006
Morgan Pressel, 2005
Jane Park, 2004
Virada Nirapathpongporn, 2003
Becky Lucidi, 2002
Meredith Duncan, 2001
Marcy Newton, 2000
As a summer of amateur events draws to a close, expect Lisa McCloskey to contend for the yet-elusive USGA title, and this time with maybe even a little more fire. McCloskey lost to incoming Arkansas freshman Emily Tubert in the final match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, contended at the U.S. Women’s Open before her she incurred a two-stroke penalty when her caddie took an illegal cart ride and most recently lost to Cydney Clanton in the North & South final. If McCloskey is looking for redemption, this is the week to get it.
Clanton, playing in her home state yet again this summer, might just be getting warmed up, however. Auburn will be looking to lean on this long-hitting senior when the fall season starts, especially after the graduation of Candace Schepperle (also in the field in Charlotte). Imagine the momentum a Women’s Am title could provide for the Tigers.
Other college players that could make a rumble? North Dakota State’s Amy Anderson, the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, belongs on that list, and so does Curtis Cup and UCLA star Stephanie Kono. SEC champion Marina Alex, of Vanderbilt, should be hungry for revenge this year after falling in the first round of match play in 2009. Then there’s Danielle Kang, twice a USGA medalist, but never a USGA champion.
Among the pre-college crowd, Victoria Tanco proved her grit two weeks ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, overcoming the oppressive North Carolina heat (not to mention opening with an 80 in stroke-play qualifying) to reach the quarterfinals. WAPL champion Tubert, who is straddling the line between junior and college player as she prepares for her first year at Arkansas, also has the game to contend. Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, the sisters from Thailand famous for both their consistent play and relentless work ethic, can’t be overlooked.
As for Jessica Korda? Recall, if you will, the Curtis Cup, where the 17-year-old won her singles match, then combined with Alexis Thompson to win two more matches and halve a third. Enough said.
Who’s going to win: Considering that the Women’s Amateur field reads like a who’s who of college golf (but then again, doesn’t it always?), picking a winner could be tricky. Last month’s final match at the North & South Women’s Amateur might just have provided a glimpse into the future, however, as Clanton won the battle over McCloskey. Clanton spent much of the past year atop the college rankings. McCloskey, who will transfer from Pepperdine to USC this season, has already proven this summer that she has the game to go all the way in Charlotte.
On our radar: After blindsiding the U.S. Girls’ Junior field just two weeks ago in Pinehurst, N.C., it’s not unreasonable to think that Doris Chen could deliver another championship performance. With her steady, often mistake-free play, the 17-year-old could become the first player in history to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same calendar year, and just the seventh player of all time to own both titles.
Short shots: Youngster to keep an eye on next week? That would be 12-year-old Hannah O’Sullivan. If the name sounds familiar it’s because O’Sullivan qualified for the San Francisco City Amateur in February as an 11-year-old, only to find out she was too young to play. Last month, she became the youngest winner in the 64-year history of the California Junior Girls State Championship. . . . Sure Caroline Hedwall will get her share of recognition next week, but Hedwall isn’t the only reigning national champion in the field. Nova Southeastern senior Sandra Changkija also holds that distinction after winning the Division II title last spring. . . . She isn’t eligible for a possible repeat, but one recent winner at least has a family tie to the field. That would be 2005 champion Morgan Pressel, whose little sister Madison, a sophomore at Texas, will play in Charlotte. . . . For any who think the future of the women’s game is in peril, check out this stat: The number of entries for the U.S. Women’s Amateur exceeded 1,000 for the first time in history this year. It’s the third USGA women’s championship in 2010 to boast such a flood of entries, and the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Girls’ Junior also had more than 1,000 entrants vying for a spot.