Sasaki runs away with PNGA Women's Am; Johnson gets revenge
Rino Sasaki and Gretchen Johnson (PNGA photo)
Rino Sasaki and Gretchen Johnson (PNGA photo)

Rino Sasaki of Japan defeated Jacqueline Bendrick of Mercer Island, Wash., 12 and 11, in the final match to win the 118th Pacific Northwest Women’s Amateur; while Gretchen Johnson outlasted Amanda Jacobs, both of Portland, 2 up, to win the 18th Women’s Mid-Amateur.

Both championships were held concurrently this week on the par-71 Arrowhead Golf Club in Molalla, Ore., and were conducted by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA).

In the Women’s Amateur, Bendrick had taken an early 1-up lead over Sasaki after three holes in the scheduled 36-hole match. But Sasaki squared the match on the fourth hole and didn’t look back, blitzing the back nine and holding a commanding 9-up lead after the morning round. Sasaki closed out the match with a birdie on the par-3 25th hole.

“It was a long week for sure,” Sasaki said afterward, holding the trophy. “In the stroke play (qualifying), I didn’t play too well. I don’t have too much experience with match play, so I was a little bit nervous at the start, but then I got the hang of it, and enjoyed the week.”

With this victory, Sasaki, a sophomore on the University of Washington women’s golf team, continues a summer of excellent play. She won the Washington State Women’s Amateur last month, and last week was the medalist in qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Sasaki’s teammate at the University of Washington, Julianne Alvarez, had also won the same championships in 2017.

“It’s an honor to do the same thing that Julianne did,” Sasaki said. “I’ve always admired her, and I got to spend time with her for two years before she graduated (this year), and I learned so much from her.”

To reach today’s final match, Sasaki, the No. 8 seed in the bracket, had defeated No. 1 seed Emily Baumgart, 5 and 4, in the quarterfinals, then beat 2017 PNGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year Susan Xiao 1-up in the semifinals. Bendrick had defeated 2018 PNGA Women’s Player of the Year Mary Parsons 2-up in the semifinals.

The Women’s Mid-Amateur final was a rematch of last year’s final, when Jacobs defeated Johnson, 4 and 2.

Johnson had been runner-up in this championship the past two years, and was looking to close the deal this year, competing against her good friend Jacobs. Along with winning last year’s championship, Jacobs also won in this title 2014 and 2016. She was the No. 1 seed last year, and earned that No. 1 seed again this year.

“This feels great,” Johnson said. “I’m still waiting for it to kind of sink in. To come out on top against a great competitor and player like Amanda feels really good. I hung in there and played steady all day, so yeah I feel really honored to come out on top.”

Johnson’s quest to finally win the title this year didn’t get off to a good start when she fell behind early in today’s scheduled 18-hole match, with Jacobs 3-up after the first five holes. But Johnson started chipping away at Jacobs’ lead, and dramatically squared the match when she aced the par-3 12th.

“I remember having to step back from the tee on the 13th hole to gather myself,” Johnson said. “I needed to kind of forget about the great thing that just happened and stay focused on the next hole.”

Johnson then grabbed the lead for the first time with a par on the 14th, but Jacobs squared the match on the 16th. Johnson would win the 17th and 18th holes with pars, and took home the trophy with a 2-up win.

Johnson’s path to this year’s final is impressive, as she defeated two PNGA Hall of Famers – Alison Murdoch 7&6 in the Round of 16, and Marcia Fisher, 4 and 3, in the semifinal. Fisher was playing on her home course of Arrowhead, which is owned by her family.

View results for PNGA Women's Amateur
ABOUT THE PNGA Women's Amateur

The Championship will be conducted in two stages:

Stroke Play – All players must complete the 36-hole stroke play qualifying in order to determine the 32 players who will advance to match play. In the event of a tie for the final qualifying spot(s), a sudden-death playoff will be used to determine the qualfiiers. In the event of a tie for the Qualifying Medalist, a sudden-death playoff will commence.

Match Play – The General Numerical Draw will be in effect. Single elimination match play, with a 36-hole Championship Final Match. All other matches are 18 holes.

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