Kristen Gillman (Golfweek photo)
After a year of historic achievement in both the amateur and professional game, Kristen Gillman
of Austin, Texas is the AmateurGolf.com Women's Player of the Year.
The AmateurGolf.com Women's Player of the Year is awarded based on a point system earned through performance in major women's amateur events throughout the course of the year. The year, the 21-year-old Gillman topped a deep field of players from around the world after finishing 9th in last years points race.
Players of the Year
The highlight of Gillman's season came in August at the Golf Club of Tennessee, when she bested future University of Alabama teammate Jiwon Jeon to win her second U.S. Women's Amateur championship
. In so doing, she joined a decorated list of multiple winners of the championship, and became the first player in 50 years to go four years between wins.
Related: Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 3: Double clutch
“I think this one was a lot harder to win because after the first one I won [in 2014 when she was 16 years old], it was my first time playing, and so I was kind of new to it," said Gillman afterward. "But every time I come back now, I’ve always talked about how – like this week, I was the only champion in the field – it kind of brings a little bit more pressure along with it. But I think it also makes the victory a little sweeter, too.”
Gillman also picked up her first professional win in July when, as one of only three amateurs in the field, she shot 17 under par to win
the Japan LPGA Tour’s Century 21 Ladies’ Tournament.
In May, Gillman was the medalist in her U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier, and she took advantage of her opportunity the following month, making the cut and finishing tied for 27th in the championship at the Shoal Creek Club in Alabama.
Her performances representing her country were equally impactful. Gillman was one of three members to represent the U.S. in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Ireland. Finishing fourth individually, Gillman helped bring home the Espirito Santo Trophy for the first time in 20 years
She clinched the winning point in what turned out to be a historic rout in the Curtis Cup, as Team USA scored the largest margin of victory
in tournament history at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, N.Y.
She was also a member of the victorious USA Palmer Cup team
who prevailed in France over their International counterparts.
At the University of Alabama, Gillman did not register any wins in 2018 but was a constant presence toward the top of leaderboards. She finished the year 3rd at the SEC Championships, 4th in the NCAA East Regional, and 7th in the NCAA Championships, helping her team get all the way to the final match before being upset by the champion Arizona Wildcats.
Other top ten finishes included the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, and the Schooner Fall Classic. She had three other finishes in the top twenty.
Later in the fall, Gillman began to pursue her goal of attaining LPGA Tour status for 2019. She advanced through the second stage qualifier in Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla., which put her in the field for Final Qualifying in Pinehurst in November.
Final Women's POY Points Standings, 2018
There, she finished 13th in the brutal eight-round qualifying tournament to earn her LPGA Tour status, and was faced with the difficult decision that many top college players have to make
: finishing out the college season or turning pro immediately.
Turns out the decision had been made before she even stepped foot in Pinehurst.
"I decided before the tournament that if I earned my pro card, I’m going to join the tour," Gillman told the Austin American Statesman. "I’m going to finish out my college degree, but after this past summer, and the success I had, I felt like I was ready to take that next step, and I think it is the right time to take that leap."
And so Gillman's amateur career ended and her pro career began.
Finishing as the runner-up to Gillman was Jaclyn Lee of Canada, the Big Ten Women's champion for Ohio State, who also attained LPGA Tour status for 2019 and turned pro. NCAA champion Jennifer Kupcho (Denver, Colo.), Pac-12 champion and U.S. Women's Open low amateur Patty Tavatanakit (Thailand), and Maria Fassi (Mexico) rounded out the top five.
Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Women's Rankings
| Complete 2018 Points List (928 players)