Jiwon Jeon (USGA photo)
KINGSTON SPRINGS, Tenn. (Aug. 11, 2018) – It’s an all-Alabama final at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but it wasn’t easy getting there. Saturday morning’s semifinal matches at the Golf Club of Tennessee went a collective six extra holes before the championship match between Kristen Gillman and Jiwon Jeon was set.
Gillman has been in this position before, having won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur. That was two years before she arrived in Tuscaloosa, and ever since she has been a leader for the Crimson Tide. Jeon, meanwhile, will transfer in for her junior season after winning an NJCAA national title (and four regular-season titles in Division I events) for Daytona State College.
Thus, Sunday’s final will be an old-guard vs. new-guard match-up. It will also be the first final featuring college teammates since Title IX was passed in 1972.
For Gillman, the past two matches have been all about the comeback. Opponent Kaylee Benton, who plays for Arkansas, was 1 up for most of the back nine until Gillman won the 18th hole with bogey. The 18th hole wasn’t pretty for either player – Benton had found a hazard off the tee and Gillman found it with her approach.
The same scenario had played out in the quarterfinals against Lucy Li, but Gillman had forced extra holes with a birdie. Gillman said she surprised herself with the nerves she felt facing extra holes on Saturday.
“Today I was even more nervous than I was yesterday, surprisingly,” she said. “But I hit the same club as I did earlier, and I knew there was a little bit more wind to my face, but with that pin, you can't go long, so I'd rather stay on the short side and just kind of put it up there close to kind of put pressure on her to have to make the putt to extend the match.”
She ended the match with a 25-footer for par and kept alive hopes of a repeat win. Should she pull that off on Sunday, the four-year span between her Women’s Amateur titles would be the longest span between titles since Margaret Curtis (she of Curtis Cup fame) won in 1907 and repeated in 1911. By the way, Curtis won again in 1912.
“I think it would mean everything to me because I know how hard it is to win,” Gillman said of the possibility of winning a second title. “It's a great accomplishment if I'm able to do it twice.”
Even though Gillman will face Jeon in the final match, it’s not as if there will be a lot of familiarity – or any at all. Considering that Jeon is a transfer, Gillman is completely unfamiliar with her game.
After 23 holes in the semifinals, Lauren Stephenson, another Alabama teammate, should be. Stephenson lost her 2-up advantage at the turn and spent much of the back nine trading pars with Jeon.
“I played well today,” Stephenson said. “I didn’t hit it as well as I did the past couple days, but I mean, I have nothing to complain about. I had one bad hole that cost me on 11 in regulation, but she played great, and she made a lot of really good putts. I mean, her putt on 18 to take it extra holes was really good.”
Jeon, who could become the fourth Korean-born champion, is making her U.S. Women’s Amateur debut this week. It’s a tournament she has always wanted to play, and now she has experienced every step of it.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really confident before I came here,” she said. “I was actually not going to play this tournament. But I came here, and then now my confidence got really rising. It’s like I’m 90 percent or more confident about my game right now.”
ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur
The U.S. Women's Amateur, the third
the USGA championships, was first played
at Meadowbrook Club in Hempstead, N.Y.
event is open to any female amateur who
USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4.
Women's Amateur is one of 14 national
championships conducted annually by the
10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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