Mika Liu (right) and Rinko Mitsunaga
advanced with two wins on Tuesday
by Beth Ann Nichols
BANDON, Ore. – The final four teams at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball are made up of eight teenagers. This could easily be an AJGA invitational.
But don’t let that stat fool you. This event didn’t feel like a glorified U.S. Girls’ Junior or Act II of the Women’s Amateur.
This championship felt like a breath of fresh air rolling right off the Pacific Coast.
“The only thing we can complain about is that we didn’t win,” said Meghan Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Champion.
Stasi, 36 and Dawn Woodard, 40, were one of two mid-am teams to advance to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Four-Ball. They gazed at the whales off the 13th hole on Pacific Dunes and took note of the drone flying over their heads. (A Fox Sports toy.)
Woodard, a mother of three, noted that a team event is the ideal way for mid-ams who are busy with career and/or family to get back into tournament golf without as much pressure.
“They don’t have to card their own score,” said Woodard. “They can do it with a friend and make a trip out of it.”
Because this championship fell in between NCAA regionals and the national championship, top college players weren’t able to participate. That certainly helped further the mid-am cause.
Katie Miller, 29, works in pharmaceutical sales during the week and helps at her family’s Dairy Queen franchises on the weekends. She usually plays golf in the morning on Saturdays and then scoops ice cream later in the day.
“Sometimes I scrub the floor on my hands and knees, literally,” said Miller, whose mom once fired her as a teen for doing something silly like refusing to fill the spoon bin.
Miller, 30, was recruited by Amber Marsh Elliott to play college golf at UNC. Marsh Elliott, 46, was her Four-Ball partner and they fell in the quarterfinals to a couple hot-shot teens headed to USC.
Marsh Elliott opened the match with a 1-foot birdie putt and Miller followed on the second hole from 2 feet to take an early 2-up lead.
But it wasn’t enough to hold off the strong pairing of Hannah O’Sullivan and Robynn Ree.
“You just don’t see weaknesses,” said Marsh Elliott. “They just hit the ball ... just the sound of it. It’s like tour quality.”
Marsh Elliott turned pro but lasted only nine months.
“It was the lifestyle,” she said.
Marsh Elliott, the 2003 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am champion, was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2006 at age 37 when her son, Justin, was 17 months old. She had a bi-lateral mastectomy two years later and was able to put the disease behind her.
“It puts life in perspective that your health is everything,” she said. “That 5-foot putt doesn’t mean a whole lot in the scheme of things. Maybe it’s important right here, but not for life.”
Miller competed briefly on the Symetra Tour. She ran seven half-marathons in two years while waiting to have her amateur status reinstated.
Playing 36 holes in one day wasn’t a worry. Marsh Elliott, however, said it had been awhile since played more than two days of consecutive golf, let alone two rounds in one day.
“This is more golf than I’ve played all year,” she said.
Their most impressive victory of the week came in the Round of 16 when Marsh Elliott hit Miller’s wedge by accident. The pair’s caddie made the mistake on the seventh tee, when he put Miller's wedge in the wrong bag. Both players use Ping irons but Miller plays with steel shafts while Marsh Elliott uses graphite. Marsh Elliott noticed the mistake after she hit Miller’s 60-degree wedge on the seventh hole and notified a rules official.
They went into the seventh hole 1 up in the match and walked to No. 8, 1 down. The team posted bogey to lose the hole outright and then the state of the match was adjusted to reflect the one-hole penalty, which was independent of the score on that hole. (Rule 4-4b)
The veteran players brushed off the improbable error and went on to win against Megan Carter and Lauren Lightfritz, 2 up.
“I feel privileged to have gotten to play in the inaugural championship,” said Marsh Elliott.
Miller joked that she put on extra eye cream this week because she’d be playing alongside players half her age.
Marsh Elliott was thrilled to hear one player’s dad guess she was still in her 30s.
The week began with players taking selfies at the player banquet with 70-year-old Taffy Brower, the oldest player in this national championship. On Tuesday, the event said goodbye to 12-year-old Lucy Li, the tutu-wearing prodigy who counts Mickey Wright among her mentors and likes to knit.
The first Women’s Four-Ball has been rich in feel-good stories and breathtaking views.
A couple of teens will win tomorrow. But it won’t feel old.
BANDON, Ore. — Only eight teams remain as quarterfinal matches are underway at Pacific Dunes.
The most notable result of Tuesday morning's round-of-16 matches was the defeat of Lucy Li and Kathleen Scavo, the four-seeded team who fell to Mika Liu and Rinko Mitsunaga, 2-and-1. The winning duo led the whole match, going three-up as early as hole 7.
Four-time USGA champion Meghan Stasi and her partner Dawn Woodard knocked off six-seed Lila Barton and Marissa Mar, 3-and-1. Stasi has captured the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur on four occasions, most recently in 2012.
Medalists Athena Yang and Kendall Griffin had a hard-fought match against Maria Fassi and Maria Balcazar, winning one-up with a halved par on the par-five 18th hole. And after winning the first 10 holes in Monday's match, two-seed Hannah O'Sullivan and Robynn Ree closed out Abby Portyrata and Lauren Greenlief rather quickly, as well, making three straight birdies from holes 11 to 13 to win 7-and-5.
As 15 of 16 higher seeds advanced to the round-of-16 on Monday at the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball, the 10-and-8 victory by two-seeded Hannah O'Sullivan and Robynn Ree was the highlight of the day.
Rarely do you see such a lopsided defeat in match play, but on Monday, the future USC teammates won 10 holes in a row to knock out Lynn Thompson and Janie Klare.
"I think we always dreamed of winning 10-and-8 but I don't know if I ever thought it would happen," O'Sullivan told the USGA.
"We would've been happy with 5-and-4," Ree said.
The pair were four-under through 10 holes at Pacific Dunes in their opening match, after shooting 66-68 in stroke play qualifying to secure the No. 2 seed, one shot back of medalists Athena Yang and Kendall Griffin of Florida.
Their first round match came against Carol Robertson and Corrie Myers, and was won with a par on the par-three 14th hole at 5-and-4. They'll face another pair of junior golfers — Maria Fassi of Mexico and Maria Balcazar of Bradenton, Fla. in Tuesday morning's second-round match.
Other notable victories on Monday included 12-year-old Lucy Li and her partner Kathleen Scavo defeating Eden Anderson and Shannon Wolfe 5-and-4, as well as top-ranked junior golfer Angel Yin and Muni He going 4-and-3 against Tara Fleming and Alicia Kapheim.
Live coverage of Tuesday's quarterfinals will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 4 p.m. PDT.
View results for U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Golf Championship