VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, NC (July 18, 2016) -- Kristen Gillman has already won the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Now she’ll try to win at Pinehurst.
Gillman, who defeated LPGA Tour star Brooke Henderson to win the 2014 U.S. Amateur in at Nassau Country Club, needed a birdie on 16 to narrowly win her Round of 16 match before romping past Anna Redding 7 & 6 in the afternoon to advance to the semifinals of the 114th Women’s North & South Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2 on Thursday.
It was a brilliant performance in a storied championship that has tested the world’s best amateurs. Gillman made three birdies in 12 holes against Redding, leading 3up through four holes and 6up through 9 to beat Redding, who earlier in the day had knocked off medalist and No. 1 seed August Kim 2 & 1.
“Anna’s a really good player, and she didn’t play badly,” said Gillman, who will begin her freshman season at powerhouse Alabama next month. “It’s just that I had three birdies in 12 holes, and on this course, if you get a birdie, you’re probably going to win the whole.”
She’ll play another top junior, Jennifer Chang, in the semifinal on Friday at 7 a.m. The fourth-seeded Chang is the highest remaining seed after the 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 seeds all fell in the Round of 16.
“I don’t know Kristen, but I know of her,” said Chang, of nearby Cary. “I know she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur. That’s some really tough competition, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Gillman, still only 18, is hopeful to add a Putter Boy to her already stuffed trophy case on the course that hosted the 1989 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
“The Women’s North & South is just a really great event,” she said. “It’s really prestigious and one of the biggest amateur tournaments. It’s always nice to play in the biggest events I can, and that’s what led me here.
“All the history – the U.S. Opens, Payne Stewart – it’s all here.”
But she’ll have to get by Chang, who’s been one of the steadiest players all week and has been comfortable on No. 2 in her second North & South.
“I feel like I’m at home, being only an hour away,” said the 16-year-old who has committed to play for Southern California. “I know the course very well, and I love Donald Ross. I have a lot of experience here.”
Katelyn Dambaugh has plenty of experience at Pinehurst now as well. The top-ranked player in the field when the tournament began, Dambaugh may be the 11th seed in match play, but she’s perhaps the most formidable player remaining. She’s also back in the North & South semifinals for the second consecutive year after cruising past another highly regarded junior, Yujeong Son, 5 &3 in the quarterfinals.
“It’s such a prestigious place, and it would be such an honor to win at a place like this with such great history.”
An All-American at South Carolina and the runner-up to win the Annika Award, given each year to the top women’s collegiate player, Dambaugh is playing her first tournament since the NCAA Championship. She began the week viewing the North & South as a tuneup for the upcoming U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“Might as well try to win it, right?” she joked.
Another rising junior stands in the way, though. Malia Nam, who took out second-seeded Maddie Szeryk in the Round of 16 3&1, hit her tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 17th to close out Jaclyn Lee 2&1 and advance to the semifinals.
This weekend, Nam will compete in the U.S. Junior Girls Championship, a USGA event.
“In the beginning, my goal was just to make match play,” said the No. 15 seed. “For me to make the semifinals, well, it’s unexpected.”
The Women’s North & South Amateur is the longest consecutively running amateur championship in the United States. North & South champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey as well as Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
As much as the North & South is a championship with a great past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Ten of the last 13 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour, three of whom have won major championships – Pressel, Tseng and as of Sunday, Lang, who won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open.
Editors Note: Story by Alex Podlogar, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club with permission