A Study Break and a USGA Championship for Prendergast, Secor
Katrina Prendergast (facing) and Ellen Secor celebrate their win (USGA photo)
Katrina Prendergast (facing) and Ellen Secor celebrate their win (USGA photo)

TARZANA, CA (May 2, 2018) - This time of year, the focus is on team golf. The NCAA Championship countdown has started, and Katrina Prendergast and Ellen Secor have just put together the ultimate – albeit non-traditional -- run-up to the start of the postseason. The Colorado State players are seven days removed from the Mountain West Conference Championship (where they both finished in the top 10) and due on the first tee for NCAA Regionals in five days, but in that short window they managed to win a U.S. Golf Association title at El Caballero Country Club.

Prendergast, a junior, and Secor, a sophomore, battled teens Yachun Chang and Lei Ye, both students at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. in the final match of the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball on May 2, making birdie on two of the final three holes to win the title. The college teammates played this event together last year, too, but made it only as far as the first round of match play.

This time, Prendergast and Secor skated through the first two rounds relatively easily, winning each match on the 16th hole. They continued that run in the quarterfinals, when they met the duo of Katherine Gravel-Coursol and Paige Nelson, the No. 32-seeded team that immediately knocked off the No. 1 seed in the first round. To get to the final match, the Colorado State players had to face college golf’s future in Erica Shepherd and Megan Furtney, two Duke recruits who wore their Blue Devil colors proudly.

Prendergast and Secor never trailed in a match until going 1 down to Chang and Ye on No. 7 in the final.

USGA championships are notoriously grueling with their double-round days, and it can take even more of a physical toll when you also happen to be in the middle of finals week. Prendergast and Secor are trying to keep that aspect out of their heads. In fact, they look at it as a good tune-up for the NCAA Regional.

“The biggest thing about regionals is you've got to putt really well and you've got to hit the tee ball really well, and that's what you have to do here,” Secor said after the quarterfinals. “If you don't hit it in the fairway, it's really hard to make those birdies, and if you can't putt well, you can't win holes. . . . I think that definitely carries over into what we need to do at regionals. It's definitely -- I hate to call it practice because this is also something that's so important to me.”

The Women’s Four-Ball doesn’t usually draw many college players. Arizona’s Haley Moore and Gigi Stoll, who lost to Shepherd and Furtney in the Round of 16, were two other notable collegians who made the trip to Southern California for this championship.

For college players, however, the tournament falls at an awkward time of the year. It can be difficult for a coach to send players to a USGA event in the lead-up to arguably the most important week of the season. NCAA Regionals determine which teams and players reach the national championship, and there’s certainly no guarantee. Only the top six teams in each of four regions advance, and top teams are often left on the outside looking in.

“I want to play for my team and represent my team as much as I possibly can,” Secor said, “so I think that's why we came here, too, just to kind of get good practice going into the regionals and play at a really awesome tournament.”

Colorado State head coach Annie Young may have had a little bit better perspective than most, considering she’s a former USGA champion. Young won the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Interestingly, it’s the event the USGA took off the competition schedule in 2014 when they created the Four-Ball.

Both girls have looked up to Young for that victory, and now they’ll be able to talk with her about an experience that few competitive golfers will ever know.

“It'll be cool to talk about the emotions running through our veins on those last four holes and what it was like for her,” Secor said.

Prendergast and Secor have been assigned to the NCAA Regional in Austin, Texas, for next week, and they’ll report over the weekend for a practice round. Their Colorado State teammates will not be joining them (they failed to qualify as a team), which is a shame considering the show these two put on at El Caballero.

“I think just keep the momentum going,” Prendergast said of next week’s game plan. “I mean, we've got two more days and we leave on Saturday, and you know, we might be individual competitors in the event, but we're going to act like a team.”

View results for U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball
ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. It immediately became one of the USGA's most popular tournaments. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those women with a Handicap Index of 14.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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