Andrea Lee (USGA/Steve Gibbons)
Andrea Lee is playing her seventh U.S. Women’s Amateur this week at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. That’s a remarkable stat for a player who is just 20 years old.
Lee, who will be a senior at Stanford, looked every bit that experienced late Thursday afternoon when there was no one left to focus the cameras on but her and Alexa Pano. Lee hadn’t led all afternoon in her match with the 14-year-old. But at No. 18, 1 down and needing to pull off something miraculous, Lee converted a 12-foot birdie putt to force extra holes.
The two tied the next four holes before the longest match of the championship was finally decided when Pano failed to convert a 15-foot par putt after missing her tee shot into thick bermudagrass rough. When Pano made that costly bogey, it broke a 15-hole streak in the match of pars or better.
In the Women’s Am, you have to make birdies to survive.
“From 9 on, I played some of the best golf I think that I’ve played in a while,” said Lee, who earlier on Thursday defeated Brooke Matthews, 4 and 3, in the Round of 32. “I’m exhausted, but I played really solid today, and I’m proud of the way I handled it.”
Her prize? A match against former Curtis Cup teammate Lucy Li in the quarterfinals. Expect a match much like the one we witnessed Lee play against Pano, which is to say it will be a long display of nearly flawless golf.
Li, 16, will be playing in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year. Despite struggling with her putter early against Kent State’s Pimnipa Panthong, Li made five birdies against one bogey over her final nine holes, including the clincher on the par-3 17th.
“My putting has been getting a lot better,” Li said. “These greens are a little tricky for me, but I started rolling it a lot better today, so I feel good.”
Lee’s Stanford teammate Albane Valenzuela, runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Am, also advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Megan Schofill, 4 and 3.
In terms of experience – especially in match play – lump USC’s Gabriela Ruffels into the same category as Valenzuela and Lee. Ruffels, with USC coach Justin Silverstein on the bag, had a short day. She defeated Haylin Harris in the morning with three holes to spare and took down incoming Stanford freshman Brooke Seay in the afternoon by a 6-and-5 margin.
“I’m playing pretty well,” said Ruffels, who also won the North & South Women’s Amateur last month. “I think the scores don’t really reflect how tough it’s been. It definitely hasn’t been a breeze like the scores say, but this course is so hard, I think I’ve just been doing good with hitting fairways, hitting greens and staying consistent.”
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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