2021 U.S. Women's Amateur (Tue. medal round) Aug 7, 2021 12:17:29 GMT
Post by philknj on Aug 7, 2021 12:17:29 GMT
I took a more direct route to Westchester Country Club in Rye, NY compared to past trips there. Let me give a hat tip to Google Maps and its street-level views, which really take the panic out travelling roads you’ve rarely or never seen before. I left at 4:55 AM and arrived at 6:40 AM, which was a perfectly acceptable pace for an 80-mile trip.
A volunteer showed me where to pick up a pairings sheet near the pro shop entrance and then I asked for the location of the restroom. He pointed the way and that’s when I went into the Men’s locker room. Wow, I thought Galloway National’s was big, but this one has two floors! I can see why it’s an occasional PGA Tour stop.
The bulk of the ’A’ list players were going out in the afternoon wave, so I made tactical choices in the morning ... checked out the range, the practice greens and poked around the pro shop. I also explored the swanky lobby areas of the apartment/hotel complex. There was a notice in a glass case announcing the nomination of a new member, which invited members give their opinion about this person to the club’s board ... but anonymous comments would not be accepted.
The pro shop was mostly clothing, shoes and souvenirs. It was quite small and cramped ... I didn’t see any clubs on display, but I’m guessing they have a separate area somewhere in that massive building for equipment sales and club fitting. They had a few high-end shirt brands there, including one I never heard of before, Holderness & Bourne.
After careful deliberation, I settled on starting the day at #10 with the threesome of Cindy Kou, Hailey Schalk and Tracy Lee at 7:53 AM. I could alternate between this group and the marquis group following them: Emilia Migliaccio, Brooke Matthews and Kennedy Swann.
I had heard of Kou before ... displayed no college affiliations, but I’ve since learned that she’ll be starting at Southern Cal in the fall. The other two were unknowns to me ... Schalk wore the uniform of the Colorado Buffs and Lee, the only player in the field with the ROK flag next to her name, wore the uniform of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Based upon body language, Kou did not look comfortable with how she was playing on her first nine. After one drive, she put both hands over her head while still holding the driver. It seems I missed her good golf as she finished with a 69.
Bespectacled Lee had a similar build and look to Jeong Jang, including the short shorts, but not the game. She was the shortest driver in the group ... had a sound fundamental swing, but probably not the horsepower to go beyond the amateur ranks with success.
Schalk came out the chute firing at flags like Arnold Palmer ... she hit the base of the flag on her approach at the short par-4 10th, which spun off the green, but still saved par. She was the longest driver in her group and kept firing ... didn’t always work, but I was thinking, “Who is this blonde?” She birdied the short par-3 14th, then stuffed an iron to within 4 inches from 178 yards downhill for another birdie. She had 100 yards into the par-4 17th green and knocked it stiff to four feet for another birdie. She had PXG 0311 T irons. She hammered her first two shots at the par-5 18th, leaving her about 70 yards remaining, but the ball seemed to be sitting down slightly in an old sand divot. That’s when Arnold Palmer turned into a Sunday hacker ... she decelerated and chunked it into the closest bunker and finished with a seven. By the way, the 18th fairway had drive measuring hash marks, similar to an LPGA event. The volunteer said that Corey Lopez had the longest poke on his clipboard, 290 yards.
I don’t have a smart phone and had no clue on Schalk’s score, so I hustled over to the big TV screen scrolling the overall scores in front of the pro shop. Holy crap, she was near the bottom! She must have shot in the low eighties on Monday. I guess that’s why she came out with guns blazing on Tuesday, but I couldn’t follow anyone who was +13 anymore!
I found opportunities to drop back and follow the more proficient group of Matthews, Swann and Migliaccio. Matthews could be crazy good in her upcoming redshirt senior season at Arkansas ... had a career-best 72.50 average in 2020-21 and played better than that here with the low Tuesday round of 66. You just have to pay attention when she’s playing ... if you’re scribbling a note or perusing the tee sheet, the ball will be gone before you know it, that’s how fast she is. She was gaming Srixon Z585 irons.
Swann finished her last season with Ole Miss in the spring and has the power for the pros, but not sure about the overall game. On Wednesday, a volunteer tracking drives said she drove it 260 on the uphill par-5 9th hole.
Migliaccio is making a name for herself NOT turning pro after exiting Wake Forest and interning at Golf Channel as a writer and on-course broadcaster. Being a career amateur might be the right choice ... her swing is ugly – short backswing with an extreme body dip through the impact zone, producing the shortest drives in her group. How short? The par-4 11th was playing at 424 yards, but it had a steep drop-off to the landing area. After her drive, she lasered the flag and told her caddie that she had 205 remaining. Her short game looks sound, but I think it would be risky burning up your inheritance trying to be the next Mo Martin on the LPGA tour.
After those two groups played the back nine, I took a break and checked out the practice areas. Tsubasa Kajitani showed up at the range around 10:15 AM, 3 ½ hours before her 1:45 PM tee time. I assume she had lunch built into her schedule, but that’s still a long day ... playing partners Megha Ganne and Rachel Heck showed up maybe 45 minutes later.
Titleist was the house ball brand at the range. The “regulars” were in blue mesh bags and the “x’s” were in yellow mesh bags. I think the “x’s” were more popular.
For most players, one weighted bat on the range would be enough, but Kajitani had three of them in different colors. She had her back to the range while stretching, but you could see her eyes and head following Rose Zhang as she walked behind the hitting area to a station at the far-right end. Zhang did something I never saw before ... started her warm-up by jumping rope for about three minutes.
A wood railing fence separates the driveway from the back of the range and Morgan Pressel and Cheyenne Woods were hanging over it watching the warm-up. An old-timer amateur, Clare Connolly, stopped her warm-up and came over to greet Cheyenne, reminding her that she had caddied for Woods at a tournament.
Speaking of old-timers, Ina Kim-Schaad showed up at the range dressed for golf’s red-carpet runway, as usual, with a huge visor, white knee-high socks, a white quarter-zip top, large round shades, and a dark skort with six large gold buttons in the front in two slanted vertical rows of threes.
Time to get back into the action and the player I wanted to see next was Erica Shepherd. She was going off at #10 at 12:32 PM with Rose Zhang and Sammie Dolce of Florham Park, NJ. I never heard of Dolce before ... she was a first alternate at the NJ qualifier, so I assume she was a late replacement for a much more prominent player. Dolce will have great memories of being in this group, although she was in over her head.
I recall Shepherd hitting overcooked left-to-right draws at the ANWA, but she was more in tune here, reeling off three birdies in her first five holes. Then much to my surprise, the wheels came off on the next two holes. No. 15 is a par-4 dogleg-right with a downhill second shot. Shepherd was in a good position in the left fringe, but hit a pull bullet about 50 yards right of the green. She walked off the distance to the green, flopped it on and two-putted for bogey. No. 16 is the downhill par-3 where Shepherd jacked it way right again and clunked her ball around for a double bogey.
As Shepherd’s group left the 16th green, a USGA lady gave them a clock warning, saying each player would be individually timed. I’m guessing Shepherd was the main culprit with her screw-ups on the last two holes. Then the lady got on her walkie-talkie: “Group 4 has been given a warning ... plus two ... and plus two.”
Shepherd straightened out, made a four on the par-4 17th and birdied the par-5 18th, which included a drive just past the 280 hash mark. If I recall correctly, she has the latest version of the Titleist AP1 irons.
Zhang was little bit off ... did not display the magic she had at the U.S. Junior Girls. At #11, she drove it into the right rough and made bogey. At the par-4 13th, she drove it into the right fairway bunker, then hit the lip with her next shot ... made bogey. She was also a little unlucky ... her third shot at #18 was a one-hopper off the flag that scampered away, but she still saved par.
Mike Whan showed up. I don’t think I ever saw him in person before ... all those LPGA events I attended, but I just don’t remember seeing him, ever ... I guess we travelled in different circles. He went into the pro shop and I followed him in.
Mike was talking with a woman volunteer who had been a golfer of some ability ... she said she played in several women’s ams and also the USWO more than once. I’m guessing she was in her late 30s, but I did not recognize her at all. She might have been a tour player somewhere, which prompted Mike to tell her this story about Samantha Richdale (paraphrasing):
About five years, I was playing golf at Bay Hill with a potential client and I shot 74, which is really good for me. Afterward, I checked my phone and called back Sam. She asked why I didn’t pick up her call and I said I was playing golf at Bay Hill, so I kept my phone in the bag. She said, “Oh, what did you shoot?” I said 74 and I figured she would say something like, “Hey, that’s pretty good.” Instead, she said, “You would have missed every cut.” I don’t think she meant to say it in a mean way. It was just a first reaction from a touring pro perspective, and it made me realize how tough it is out there.
A kid in a volunteer outfit told his friends that Golf Channel was going to pay him $250 per day starting Wednesday to be a forecaddie/spotter for the TV broadcasts.
I switched over to the front nine with a plan to watch Kajitani’s group, but that wouldn’t be for quite a while, so I checked out a variety of other players.
Had my first look at Stanford’s Aline Krauter at the par-4 2nd hole ... never heard of her before, but despite her small size she drove it 255. She was with Alessia Nobilio and Alyaa Abdulghany.
Nobilio had a UCLA bag (incoming freshman), but she wore a blue Team Italy uniform. It was probably daddy on her bag as they conversed in Italian. She has a habit of lightly blowing into the palm of her bare right hand before gripping the club. She games a variety of brands, including the latest XXIO forged irons. Alyaa played TaylorMade P790 irons.
The 4th hole is a par-4 with a blind drive over a mound. Krauter’s drive turned left towards who-knows-where. After all three players departed the tee box, I decided to stay at this spot and save my feet while waiting for Kajitani’s group to show up. It would allow me to see five others groups passing through and check out their bags (Grace Kim had Srixon XR7 irons and Allysha Mae Mateo had Srixon Z585 irons).
Much to my surprise, Krauter came jogging back out of nowhere holding her driver and ball for a reload at #4 and hit it to the same area! Fortunately, the volunteer forecaddie on a hill in the distance seemed to be waiting for it. Krauter started running back to her ball, disappearing around the cartpath to the right. A rules lady (I assume) saw this and yelled, “Do you want a ride?”, and started down the path in her cart. I guess this was permitted. I felt so bad for Krauter and was pleased to learn later that she made the cut, despite a triple at this hole.
Finally, I got to see the 2021 ANWA winner ... and was disappointed. Kajitani had trouble hitting fairways and greens from #4 thru #9, making four bogeys, one birdie and one par. The worst was the 6th hole, a downhill par-3 of only 128 yards where she dumped it into the left side bunker. She went home early with 77-77.
Megha Ganne looked quite respectable, played Even par on the last six holes, finished with 72. I was surprised to learn that she missed the cut by one shot, thanks to shooting 79 on Monday. She was a little unlucky when I saw her. Her approach shot at the short par-4 7th to a center-cut flag was all over the stick. However, it came down a little to the right and that was enough for it to run off the green. Instead of a great birdie chance, she chipped on and made par.
Rachel Heck looked like the real deal, drove it high and long ... on #4 she hit it 278, about 20 yards past Ganne and 30 yards past Kajitani. A woman of slight stature in a Stanford uniform was accompanying this group while chatting with a Ping gear rep (Heck plays Ping). Who was this woman? She looked so familiar and attractive! I didn’t know what Stanford coach Anne Walker looked like, but she seemed too young to hold that position ... and definitely too young to be Heck’s mother!
After returning home, I looked up Stanford’s program. Holy moly, how can I forget Maddie Sheils?! Talk about a premature senior moment. I watched her in the pro-am at Galloway two or three years ago. In fact, she looked at me a couple of times as if I were a familiar face ... well, I have been to the Shoprite/Acer event ten times since 2010.
Heck’s group finished at 6:15 PM, which falls into the USGA’s usual guideline of 4 ½ hour rounds. Four groups were finishing up their rounds, but I had no interest in watching those players, so I hung around the scoreboard area. When they finished, a long night was in the works as twelve players were tied for 63rd, but only two could advance to match play.
After presenting the low medalist medal to Rachel Kuehn, they announced the playoff would begin for three groups of foursomes at 7:15 PM at the 1st hole, 2nd hole and 18th hole ... and then the 18th repeatedly, if necessary. I could see this going into the next morning, just like 2016 at Rolling Green.
My preferred choices for winning the playoff were Southern Cal’s Malia Nam, who I thought about following earlier, but didn’t have the time and Jersey girl Kelly Sim (who is still gaming Epon AF-703 irons). They didn’t make it, but I’m glad it ended fast at the par-3 1st hole with exactly two birdies. The amazing part was that both birdie players were Kentucky Wildcats, Jensen Castle and Marissa Wenzler ... brief video:
A few of the players:
0:02 – Kelly Sim, Northwestern
0:08 – Latanna Stone, LSU
0:16 – Jensen Castle, Kentucky
0:21 – Malia Nam, Southern Cal
0:24 – Marissa Wenzler, Kentucky