Paige Nelson (L) and Katherine Gravel-Coursol (USGA photo)
TARZANA, CA (April 30, 2018) - Nearly 18 hours after nabbing the final spot in the match-play draw in a five-hole playoff, Katherine Gravel-Coursol, 24, of Canada, and Paige Nelson, 23, of Farmers Ranch, Texas, eliminated medalists and top seeds Annick Haczkiewicz and Sydney Smith, 2 and 1, in the Round of 32 on Monday.
Darkness had enveloped El Caballero Country Club late Sunday when the Kansas State graduates parred the fifth extra hole to end what started as a 3-for-2 playoff. They returned to the San Fernando Valley club 12 hours later for their 8:30 a.m. PDT match against the Las Vegas teenagers, who had posted 10-under 134 in stroke play to earn medalist honors by two strokes.
Playing in uncharacteristically cool – temperatures hovered in the low 60s most of the day – and breezy conditions, Gravel-Coursol and Nelson jumped out to a 3-up lead through nine holes, and despite losing Nos. 15 and 16 to see a 4-up advantage trimmed to 2, Nelson drained a 9-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th hole to close out the match.
“We already fought our way through the playoff yesterday, so we knew we would have to fight again today,” said Gravel-Coursol. “It’s match play, so anything can happen.”
It is the first time in the short four-year history of the championship that the No. 1 seeds failed to advance out of the first round.
“Yeah, basically we just didn't have as many birdies as we did the last few days,” said Haczkiewicz, “and we were just struggling to get pars instead of trying to get birdies.”
Reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., and four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 39, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., each advanced with their partners.
Shepherd and Megan Furtney, 17, of Chicago, Ill., both of whom have verbally committed to attend Duke University in 2019, never trailed in registering a 3-and-1 victory over past Drive, Chip and Putt national finalists Alexandra Swayne, 18, of Maineville, Ohio, and Sarah Willis, 17, of Eaton, Ohio.
Stasi and Dawn Woodard, 43, of Greer, S.C., the oldest side remaining, held on for a 1-up victory over Charlotte Hillary, 15, of Cherry Hills, Colo., and Hailey Schalk, 16, of Erie, Colo. Woodard converted what she called a “capital L-O-N-G” birdie putt on 15 and Stasi followed with another birdie on 16 for a 2-up lead. After losing the par-5 17th to a birdie, Stasi parred the closing hole to clinch the win.
But the youngest remaining side wasn’t so fortunate. Avery Zweig, 11, of McKinney Texas, and Melena Barrientos, 14, of Plano, Texas were eliminated by Pepperdine University teammates Momoka Kobori, 19, of New Zealand, and Australian-born Hira Naveed, 20, of Malibu, Calif., 4 and 2.
The Round of 16 begins on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. PDT, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals in the afternoon. Those matches are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. The semifinals and finals will be contested on Wednesday. All matches begin on the first tee.
Two of the eight past national finalists in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship to qualify for match play advanced to the Round of 16: Leila Dizon, of Los Angeles, and Kynadie Adams, of Nashville, Tenn. They are partnering with Irene Kim and Rachel Kuehn, respectively.
The 21-hole victory by Floridians Izzy M. Pellot, 13, of Altamonte Springs, and Chloe Schiavone, 16, of Jacksonville over fellow Sunshine Staters Casey Weidenfeld, 15, of Pembroke Pines, and Jillian Bourdage, 16, of Tamarac, matched the longest in championship history.
Pellot is the youngest remaining competitor, while Woodard is the oldest.
Three of the top-eight seeds were eliminated.
Katherine Gravel-Coursol, 24, of Canada, on her side’s mindset (she is partnering with Paige Nelson) this week: “We want to win but we’re pretty laid back. We don’t put pressure on ourselves. We know we can play well.”
Sydney Smith, 18, of Las Vegas, Nev., on the challenging conditions: “The club selection was hard to figure out with the wind swirling.”
Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., on the tight match she and partner, Megan Furtney, had against Alexandra Swayne and Sarah Willis: “We were up the whole time, so it was never too like jittery close. We didn't give them too many shots. We always had birdie or par putts, so a pretty relaxed day.”
Furtney on the key point of the match: “I'd say I made about a 15-foot downhill putt on No. 2 for birdie to get us 2-up right away, and I think just from that point out, we were just hitting greens, and pretty much every time somebody [on our side] had a good look at birdie, which helped a lot. On the back side, Erica made a lot of really good putts that kind of helped keep us in a good position going into the last couple of holes.”
Haley Moore, 19, of Escondido, Calif., on her side’s strategy of playing El Caballero Country Club: “This course is pretty tough. [During] the two practice rounds, we were like, you have to be below the hole on a lot of these greens, and you have to be able to spin the ball. I think the thing that's been working with us is we kind of like hitting the same clubs off of the tees, and when one of us goes first or if we get on the green, then the other one plays aggressive. If not, the other one just tries to get on the green and then hopefully get par or birdie and then move on from there.”View results for U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball