Erica Shepherd (L) and Megan Furtney (USGA photo)
TARZANA, CA (May 1, 2018) - Reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., and partner Megan Furtney, 17, of Chicago, Ill., played the equivalent of 13-under-par golf in winning a pair of matches on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals.
On another unseasonably chilly Southern California day – temperatures hovered in the 50s with wind gusts as high as 14 mph – Shepherd and Furtney, both Duke University commitments for 2019, registered eight birdies in defeating Pepperdine University teammates Momoka Kobori, 19, of New Zealand, and Hira Naveed, 20, of Australia, 2 and 1, in the afternoon quarterfinals.
Earlier in the day, Shepherd and Furtney eliminated University of Arizona teammates Haley Moore, 19, of Escondido, Calif., and Gigi Stoll, 21, of Tigard, Ore., by the same 2-and-1 margin. With the usual concessions for match play, the two sides combined for 10 birdies and two eagles.
“Yeah, it was a hard-fought match,” said Shepherd of the quarterfinal victory. “We had some good birdies. We had three birdies in a row [on Nos.] 8, 9 and 10, and the chip-in on 9, I think that was really the turning point where we knew we had good control of the match.”
Shepherd and Furtney will face Colorado State University teammates Ellen Secor, 20, of Portland, Ore., and Katrina Prendergast, 20, of Sparks, Nev., in the first of the two semifinal matches on Wednesday at 7 a.m. PDT.
The other semifinal match at 7:15 a.m. pits Southern Californians and No. 2 seeds Leila Dizon, 18, of Los Angeles, and Irene Kim, 17, of La Palma against Yuchan Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei, and Lei Ye, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, who opened stroke play on Saturday with a championship-record-tying 8-under-par 64.
Secor and Prendergast, who have qualified for next week’s NCAA Division I regionals in Austin, Texas, as individuals, were taken to the 18th hole for the first time in three matches in the quarterfinals by Kansas State graduates Katherine Gravel-Coursol, 24, of Canada, and Paige Nelson, 23, of Farmers Branch, Texas, before prevailing, 1 up. Secor holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th for what proved to be the difference, as the sides halved No. 18.
Ye and Chang, both students at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., broke open a tight quarterfinal match against future University of Oregon teammates Briana Chacon, 17, of Whittier, Calif., and Ty Akabana, 17, of Danville, Calif. The side made three birdies and a clutch par save on the inward nine in a 3-and-2 victory.
Ye, who has committed to attend Stanford University in 2019, stuck her approach on the par-4 11th hole to 10 feet to set up a birdie to go 1 up. She then made a 25-foot par save two holes later to maintain the side’s narrow lead. Ye had made a similar putt for birdie in the side’s 3-and-2 Round-of-16 victory earlier on Tuesday over Lauren Gomez and Olivia Yun.
Chang, headed to the University of Arizona this fall, closed out the match with 21-foot birdie putts at 15 and 16.
Dizon, a former Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist who is headed to the University of Pennsylvania this fall, and Kim, closed out their match against Chloe Schiavone, 16, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Izzy M. Pellot, 13, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., in dramatic fashion. Leading 1-up on No. 18, Kim, who has committed to attend Northwestern University in 2019, holed out from a greenside bunker to end the festivities.
Earlier in the match, Kim chipped in for birdie on No. 13 to give the side a 3-up lead. This ended a stretch of four consecutive birdies. Schiavone closed the gap with wins on Nos. 15 and 16, but after winning their first two matches in extra holes, they could not complete the comeback.
The semifinals and championship match will be contested on Wednesday. The semifinal matches will go off at 7 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., with the 18-hole final schedule for 1 p.m. All of the semifinalists are exempt into next year’s championship at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., provided the sides remain intact. The runners-up receive a three-year exemption and the champions earn a 10-year exemption.
The 21-hole Round-of-16 match won by Katherine Gravel-Coursol and Paige Nelson over four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi and Dawn Woodard equaled the longest in championship history. Izzy M. Pellot and partner Chloe Schiavone also went 21 holes in the Round of 32, and the inaugural championship in 2015 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort also produced a 21-hole match.
No mid-amateurs (25 and older) advanced past the Round of 16. Woodard, 43, and Stasi, 39, lost in extra holes, as did Cammie Bentley, 25, of Northport, Ala., and her partner Alison Hovatter.24, of Meridianville, Ala. Hovatter turns 25 on July 21.
Lei Ye, 16, of the People’s Republic of China on mindset for the semifinals: “Keep it simple. We made it all the way here. Let’s just enjoy ourselves.”
Ye on playing in the unseasonably cool weather after coming from Florida: “I didn’t bring enough layers. [My partner Yuchan Chang] did. I didn’t think it would be this cold.”
Irene Kim, 17, of La Palma, Calif., on holing out from a greenside bunker at 18 to seal the 1-up victory: “I kind of like aligned my ball to the hole, and I was like, I just have to follow through, and I did, and it went in.”
Leila Dizon, 18, of Los Angeles, Calif., on how being a Drive, Chip and Finalist in 2015 helped prepare her for this championship: “Tremendously. It was three years ago, but with Drive, Chip and Putt, I practiced my putting, chipping and driving nonstop, and that really helps with this course, especially because you have to have your drives in the fairway. You have to be able to putt, and you have to be able to chip, so those three aspects really helped.”
Megan Furtney, 17, Chicago, Ill., on the mentality of playing two matches in one day: “I think it helped a lot playing that second match, just already kind of having awareness of where the pins are and knowing how certain shots might roll off of different ridges.”
Ellen Secor, 20, of Portland, Ore., on how the side managed to pull out the 1-up victory: “I think staying within ourselves. We've never been down in this tournament, so the fact that we were really close to being 1-down, I don't think we ever got worried. We knew 16, 17 and 18 were gettable holes, so when it got to all square after 14, I put in my mind, this is a gettable course and we can beat this team on these last four holes. I think that's how we did it. Just down the stretch, I think we stuck with our game plan and kind of stayed within ourselves.”View results for U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball