Keep an eye on college golf's best at U.S. Women's Am
05 Aug 2018
by Julie Williams of

see also: U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, Southern Hills Country Club

The U.S. Women’s Amateur kicks off this week at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tenn., as the last hurrah before the college golf season begins next month. Sophia Schubert won’t be in the field to defend her title (she’ll make her professional debut the following week), opening the door for another player to make her mark. As usual, the field skews young in this championship. This year, the average age is 19.53, which is up from last year’s average of 18.86.

Here are six players to keep an eye on:

Kristen Gillman: Gillman won this championship in 2014 as a 16-year-old. It was the breakthrough victory for a player who went on to find a spot on the Alabama roster. Head coach Mic Potter calls her a perfectionist, in golf and in school, and it shows in Gillman’s game, even if she might seem very laid-back to a casual viewer. Gillman’s consistency makes her tough to beat in match play – she wears an opponent down. She put together a perfect 5-0 record at the Curtis Cup in June. There’s no doubt Gillman will go far in Women’s Amateur match play, but the question is whether she’ll find the magic she needs to go all the way for a second time.

Yealimi Noh: Without a doubt, Noh has been the amateur story of this summer. She doesn’t just win, she beats all odds while she beats all opponents. Her Girls’ Junior PGA victory came with a 24-under total that was four shots better than runner-up Rose Zhang. At the U.S. Girls’ Junior the next week, thick Northern California fog chopped up the championship schedule, leaving an abnormally long final day in which players had to finish the semifinals before they tackled the 36-hole final. Noh played 49 holes that day in beating Alexa Pano. Most recently, Noh won the Canadian Women’s Amateur by outdueling one of college golf’s strongest players, Arkansas’ Dylan Kim, in the final round.

Lucy Li: Five years ago, Li set a record as the youngest competitor in a Women’s Amateur at 10 years, 10 months and 4 days old. She has played in two U.S. Women’s Opens since then (2014, 2018), but most noticeably blossomed at this summer’s Curtis Cup, going 3-0-1 in the matches. Li seems to thrive in a team atmosphere, and went on to mimic that experience at the AJGA’s Wyndham Cup. Coming out of her shell may produce even better golf for the now 15-year-old.

Haley Moore: If confidence is what Haley Moore needed to play her best golf, then by this point in the summer, she should have her best game. Moore lit up (then teared up) when she clinched the winning point for her Arizona team at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Coaches and teammates described the 19-year-old as an emotional player, and you could see that on the course. Moore seemed to figure out how to translate that emotion into intensity, however. Since NCAAs, Moore won a Cactus Tour event, was runner-up at the California Women’s Open, and clawed her way to a T-17 finish at the Canadian Women’s Open after a less-than-stellar start. Don’t forget that a year ago, Moore was T-3 in Women's Am stroke play only to lose in the third round of match play.

Olivia Mehaffey: Mehaffey, of Northern Ireland, is fierce, and she demonstrated that earlier this summer at the Curtis Cup. Mehaffey battled hard to earn two and a half of GB&I’s three points. She was a freshman on the Arizona State team that won the NCAA Women’s Championship in 2017. Mehaffey also won the 2016 Irish Women's Open Stroke Play Championship and Welsh Ladies Open Stroke Play Championship. Match play will bode well for Mehaffey at the Women’s Amateur. She has the kind of grit that allows her to stage a comeback when a match looks all but over.

Jennifer Kupcho: The reigning NCAA champion plays with a calmness that seems to work for her on course. She’s another very consistent player that can lull an opponent to sleep with endless pars and birdies. Kupcho, 21, has the ability to go crazy low, as she displayed with an opening 65 at the NCAA Championship, and an opening 64 at the Canadian Women’s Amateur. Both rounds were course records. Get that going on the right day, and she'll be a tough match for any player in this field.

ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur

The U.S. Women's Amateur, the third oldest of the USGA championships, was first played in 1895 at Meadowbrook Club in Hempstead, N.Y. The event is open to any female amateur who has a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4. The Women's Amateur is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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