Grace Choi (U of M photo)
DALLAS, Texas. (July 28, 2016) -- Grace Choi and Julie Houston will face off Friday at 10:20 a.m. in the 95th WTGA State Amateur Championship Match after both college standouts won their Quarterfinals and Semifinals matches Thursday at historic Brook Hollow Golf Club.
Thirteenth-seeded Choi, a University of Michigan senior from Dallas, cruised to a 7-and-6 victory in the Semifinals against Trophy Club’s Maty Monzingo, the No. 9 seed and a senior at Texas State. Choi, who hasn’t trailed once in her four matches this week, jumped to a 6-up lead after six holes. She birdied the par-5 first and par-4 second to strike early against Monzingo. It was fairways and greens from there, and Choi orchestrated a textbook, stress-free victory.
“It just felt like a normal round of golf,” said Choi, who in 2013 won the UIL Class 4A State Championship and set records for both total score (8-under par) and margin of victory (12 strokes). “Maty is a really good player, and she hits it way past me. I just wanted to stick to my game and not get tempted to try and hit it out there with her.”
The Choi-Monzingo pairing was a rematch from last year’s Championship Match in the Consolation Bracket. Choi won then, too, 3 and 2.
“This year I wanted to qualify for the Championship Bracket and make it to the finals,” said Choi, a First-Team All-Big 10 selection last season. “I accomplished that, and I’m really looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
Choi defeated No. 5 seed Brielle Ward of Frisco, 3 and 2, in the morning Quarterfinals.
Houston, meanwhile, defeated the defending champion, Annika Clark from Highlands. A sophomore at UT-San Antonio, Houston scored a 2-and-1 victory after making four birdies during the Semifinals Match. Twice Thursday afternoon – on the par-4 third hole and again on the par-4 13th – Houston stuck mid-iron shots like darts inside of three feet.
“I was definitely hitting it really well,” said Houston, who defeated 19th-seeded Brooke McDougald from The Woodlands, 3 and 1, in the Quarterfinals. “I felt good about my putting, too. Annika was a great opponent. She was the best competition I’ve played in this tournament, and I knew I had to play my best to beat her.”
Houston has been riding a wave of confidence since early in the year when she won back-to-back college events for UTSA, the first in school history to accomplish the feat. She won Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Islanders Classic by three shots at 1-under 215 and Texas State’s All There August Challenge by one shot with 1-over 214.
“After those two wins, I knew I was at the same level as a lot of these girls I’ve been playing for a long time,” Houston said. “I know what it takes to win, and I know that I’ve done it. So I can do it again.”
Clark, a TCU sophomore, was upbeat in defeat.
“I’m really proud of myself for the way I played all week,” she said. “I never got ahead myself, and I played really well – even in this last match. I parred every hole on the back nine, I just didn’t convert enough putts to win holes.”
Early on Thursday, Monzingo provided the biggest shakeup of the week when she dispatched top-seeded Rylee Pedigo from Fort Worth in the Quarterfinals. Monzingo and Pedigo are good friends and played against each other last year in the first round of the WTGA State Am. Pedigo scored the victory in 2015, but Monzingo came out on top this time.
She had an indication it might be her day after she started the round with a bang. From 240 yards out in the first fairway, she holed out for double-eagle and a 1-up lead.
“I didn’t see it go in,” Monzingo said. “We saw it hit the front of the green, but when I got up there I didn’t see it. So I grab my wedges and started looking, but I couldn’t find it. Rylee’s grandpa said, ‘Check the hole.’ And it was in there.”
Monzingo said she might have been in a bit of shock because she proceeded to bogey the next three holes. “I settled down after that,” she said. “I hit a lot more fairways and my lag putting was good. I made a lot of 4-footers for par.”
Pedigo, a junior at Oklahoma, had longtime family friend and three-time PGA Tour winner J.J. Henry as her caddie in the Quarterfinals.
Clark defeated seventh-seeded Maddy Rayner from Southlake, 2 and 1, in the morning Quarterfinals. The two friends faced off last year at Ridgewood Country Club in Waco at the Championship Match of the 94th WTGA State Am when Clark triumphed. Clark said the mood Thursday was light as always between the competitors; they’ve played against each other for years dating back to junior golf.
“I wasn’t thinking about last year,” Clark said. “It’s a new course, a new set up, a new time. I was just glad to get to play with Maddy because we always have a good time together. We both played well. I was pretty consistent and tried to slow down and play one shot at a time.”
This year’s WTGA State Am is special for many reasons. Chief among them is the yearlong celebration of 100 years of Women’s Golf in Texas. Since January, the TGA’s Breaking 100 program has highlighted the impact and influence Texas Women’s Golf has had on the women’s game nationwide and internationally. The celebration culminates Nov. 1 with the Breaking 100 Gala at Houston Country Club, during which icons of the game Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie, Carol Mann and Sandra Palmer will be featured panelists in a unique presentation. Haynie was in attendance at the WTGA State Am on Wednesday and said she “thoroughly enjoyed” watching all the talented competitors.
While the Quarterfinals and Semifinals Matches progressed Thursday on the sublime, A.W. Tillinghast-designed Brook Hollow course, another big tournament was being conducted about 1,500 miles to the northeast. Like Women’s Golf in Texas, the PGA of America this year is celebrates its 100th anniversary. Also like the WTGA State Am, their biggest event – the PGA Championship – is being played this week on a Tillinghast course. Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey is the site of the year’s final major championship in men’s professional golf.
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