Muni He came up big after surviving a playoff for the last spot
SPRINGFIELD, Pa. – In a marathon of outstanding golf, No. 64 seed Muni He drained a 35-foot birdie on the 22nd hole and upset stroke-play medalist Mariel Galdiano in Wednesday’s first round of match play in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,259-yard, par-71 Rolling Green Golf Club.
Galdiano, 18, of Pearl City, Hawaii, held a 1-up lead throughout much of the match, but her bogey on the par-4 14th – the first bogey of the match for either player – brought He, 17, of the People’s Republic of China, back to all square. He took her first lead with a par on No. 17, but Galdiano’s clutch 12-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th sent the match to extra holes.
After the duo swapped pars on the first extra hole, He converted a quick, breaking 25-foot par on the second playoff hole to extend the match after Galdiano was already in with a conceded par. With the third hole also halved with pars, He’s putting prowess again rose to the occasion, as she converted a long birdie putt on the 22nd hole to advance to the Round of 32.
“My goal was really just to roll it near the hole because it's not an easy putt,” said He, who has committed to attend the University of Southern California in 2017. “It's a pretty slopey putt and a very decent break, but I just kind of had a target in mind and putted it toward there and let it roll near the hole. It just happened to go in.”
He reached match play after nailing a 22-foot birdie on the second playoff hole on Wednesday morning. She had a prime opportunity to advance in Tuesday evening’s first playoff hole, but three-putted for bogey to extend the playoff to Wednesday, claiming the final spot among five remaining players.
“Today, as I stood out there in the playoff, to get in really, I felt a lot better about my game, whether it was my putting, my stroke or my shots in general,” said He, who will face 2016 NCAA champion Virginia Elena Carta in Thursday’s Round of 32. “I think that's what kept the momentum going, made everything going for today.”
He, who didn’t make a bogey, played to the equivalent of 3 under par, while Galdiano played to 2 under. This marks the third consecutive year the No. 1 seed has been eliminated in the first round, following Angel Yin in 2015 and Bethany Wu in 2014.
“She played really well, obviously, and these things happen for a reason,” said Galdiano, an incoming freshman at UCLA. “It's just another learning experience for me.”
Dylan Kim notched the day’s quickest win, as the 19-year-old from Plano, Texas, earned an 8-and-7 win over Lauren Beaudreau, of Lemont, Ill. Kim, a rising sophomore at Baylor University, did not lose a single hole en route to her win, the championship’s largest margin of victory since 2014.
“I put it really close the first few holes, so I was hitting my irons really, really well,” said Kim, who is playing in her first competition since surgery to remove a benign tumor from her left hip in October 2015. “I'm putting well from that mid-range area, from 10 to 15 feet, so it was really nice to get some birdies in early.”
Lucy Li, the championship’s No. 2 seed, continued her strong play, winning four holes in a six-hole stretch and pulling away to a 4-and-3 victory over August Kim. The 13-year-old from Redwood Shores, Calif., will next face Australian Hannah Green, a 1-up winner over Tianyu Wang.
Eun Jeong Seong, 16, of the Republic of Korea, earned a 4-and-3 victory over Janet Mao. She is attempting an unprecedented U.S. Girls’ Junior/U.S. Women’s Amateur title sweep, having won her second consecutive Girls’ Junior last month at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. No player has won both titles in the same year.
It was a mixed day for the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, with three players advancing to the Round of 32 and three players eliminated. Andrea Lee, Mika Liu and Bethany Wu all won their Round-of-64 matches, while Galdiano, Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughn lost. Amanda Blumenherst, in 2008, is the last player to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and represent the USA in the Curtis Cup Match in the same year.
“I was struggling a little bit toward the end of the front nine, had a couple of three-putts coming in, but I came back strong,” said Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., who was runner-up to Seong at the 2016 Girls’ Junior. “I’m really happy with the way I played today.”
Six matches went to extra holes, the most in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur since 2011. Gabrielle Shipley, 22, of Hastings, Mich., needed a 6-footer that barely dropped in for par on the 21st hole to eliminate Tiffany Chan, who will represent her home country of Hong Kong, China, in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
“I read it when she was done, and I was pretty confident that it was inside left,” said Shipley, who won the 2016 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championship for Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich. “I hit it, and I had a feeling I didn't hit it hard enough, and then thankfully it just tossed in there at the end.”
Shipley will meet another formidable opponent in the Round of 32: 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinalist Mathilda Cappeliez, 18, of France. The incoming Wake Forest University freshman never trailed en route to a 4-and-2 win over Margaret Shirley-Starosto, at age 30 the oldest player to reach match play.
Kristen Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner, advanced with a 5-and-4 win over Annika Clark. Gillman will next face 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh, a 4-and-3 winner over Aurora Kan.
Defending champion Hannah O’Sullivan is not competing this week, as she played in last week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open on an exemption she gained by winning the Women’s Amateur. The U.S. Women’s Amateur champion traditionally receives an exemption into four major professional championships – the U.S. Women’s Open, the Women’s British Open, the ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship.
The match-play rounds of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1. Coverage will air from 3-6 p.m. EDT on Thursday and Friday, and from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Exclusive bonus coverage will be streamed live on usga.org on Thursday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon.