CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Delisa Schubert had her phone out from the first hole to the 18th at San Diego Country Club, sending videos and pictures back to husband Bill in Knoxville. It was Delisa who signed up Sophia for a 30-minute golf lesson at age 3 years, 11 months. She wanted her two girls to have an activity in which they could bond with their father.
Bill, a home builder, normally lives and dies with every shot in person, but he’s on a tight deadline with his latest project and has missed the biggest week of his youngest daughter’s golfing career. When Delisa called him after the semifinal round, Bill was crying. She’d been crying, too.
“Maybe he’ll surprise me,” said Sophia. “I kind of have a feeling he might, but we’ll see.”
Schubert, a 21-year-old senior at Texas, has advanced to the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur in her first appearance and will meet Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela in Sunday’s 36-hole final. It’s the first all-college final at the Women’s Am since 2008, when Amanda Blumenherst (Duke) defeated Azahara Munoz (Arizona State).
Every day Schubert’s mom tried to get her to a take a photo with the striking Robert Cox Trophy, but Sophia wouldn’t do it.
“No, if I win it all, I’ll hold it,” Sophia told her.
Sophia also banned herself and mom from posting any photos or videos on social media for the week. Delisa, an outgoing, ball-of-fun type of mom if there ever was one, said it’s killing her not to share the roughly 400 photos she has taken this week. (That could be an exaggerated number, but then again maybe not.)
On Friday evening at In-N-Out, Sophia tried to watch the playoff between good friend Lauren Stephenson and 13-year-old Chia Yen Wu on her cell phone. Her father was Facetiming them the TV coverage, but he kept putting down the phone at the wrong time.
Sophia saw enough though to get the picture – the eighth-grader who won the longest 18-hole match in USGA history (30 holes) was the real deal.
In Saturday’s semifinal, Wu held a 1-up lead going into the back nine when Schubert kicked things into gear. Birdies on Nos. 11-13 gave her a 2-up advantage with five to play.
The relentless Wu, a survivor of three playoffs this week, managed to stretch it to the 18th hole, where Schubert outdrove her by 50-plus yards. Schubert then hit a pitching wedge from 122 yards to within 3 feet to secure her spot in the final.
Texas coach Ryan Murphy is on the bag this week, and he’s not shaving until his player wins it all. When asked if match play suits Schubert’s personality, Murphy said she’s no Patrick Reed.
“She’s strong mentally,” he said. “She’s not fiery. She’ll beat you, and she’ll smile right at you when she’s doing it.”
Sunday’s final could be a ball-striking clinic if these two bring their best. Valenzuela, who is also playing in her first Women’s Am, was nearly flawless on the back nine against UCLA’s Lilia Vu, defeating her 3 and 2. The 2016 Olympian has a chance to become the first Swiss player to a win a USGA title.
“She doesn’t have any weakness,” said Vu of Valenzuela. “That’s what I think is the best thing. She hits it straight, far, she hits it on the green, and she putts well, so there’s really nothing to it.”
Valenzuela, who has younger brother Alexis on the bag, came up one stroke shy of winning last week’s European Amateur near her home in Switzerland. In match play, she’s had quite a bit of success playing in European team events – she won all her matches at the Vagliano Trophy in June – but has never made it further than the Round of 32 in an individual competition until this week.
“Sometimes I would approach those tournaments with kind of some fear,” said Valenzuela, “but now I realize fear doesn’t bring you anything. The best defense is attack, so that’s what I keep telling myself.”