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U.S. Women's Amateur: who's in, how the USGA built the field
- USGA photo
- USGA photo

The month of July is typically a time when the USGA puts its Open championships in the rearview mirror and starts looking ahead to the heart of its amateur schedule.

But these are not normal times. COVID-19 has changed everything and the USGA is not immune. Ten of its 14 championships were canceled, while the Association’s two oldest amateur championships – the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Amateur – are being contested in their originally scheduled slots, albeit with smaller fields and strict protocols.

Because of health and safety concerns, the USGA had to make the difficult decision to cancel all qualifying and resort to an all-exempt field.

The U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., will feature a field of 132 competitors rather than the typical 156. Here’s a look at three of the 2020 exemptions:

Play-In Games

Under normal circumstances, the few big summer women’s events on the competition calendar provide an opportunity for players to raise their profile in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR). In 2020, some of these events are offering exemptions into the U.S. Women’s Amateur. The winners and runners-up of the Women’s North & South Amateur, the Women’s Western Amateur and Ladies National Amateur (formerly the Trans-National) all get into the field.

Three players managed to earn spots at Woodmont by virtue of their play in these events. Jackie Lucena, a University of California-Davis rising junior, reached the final of the 120th Women’s Western Amateur, falling to previously exempt player Brigitte Thibault, of Canada.

Two players earned Women’s Am spots in the 90th Ladies National Golf Association Amateur, formerly called the Trans-National, on July 29. Exempt player Rachel Kuehn, who also captured the Women’s North & South at Pinehurst three weeks ago, won by six strokes. University of Kentucky rising sophomore Marissa Wenzler and Southern Methodist rising junior Kennedy Pedigo shared second to earn their way to Woodmont.

The other finalist in the 118th Women’s North & South – Allisen Corpuz – was also already in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and didn’t need the exemption.

Ranking Expanded

Since 2012, the USGA has been utilizing the WAGR to help determine exemptions for its championships. For elite international players, it means not having to fly thousands of miles to play in a qualifier. Since adopting the criteria, the USGA has exempted the top 25 points leaders into the Women’s Amateur. That number was expanded to 75 for the 2020 championship, opening the door for players such as No. 49 Kaleigh Telfer, of South Africa and No. 65 Pilar Echeverria, of Guatemala, to get into the field.

Recognizing that the U.S. Women’s Amateur usually has a contingent of junior qualifiers, the USGA added a special WAGR category for the top 20 points leaders who don’t turn 19 prior to Aug. 9, the last day of the championship. One player took advantage of this exemption: incoming Stanford freshman Sadie Englemann.

2019 Performances

When Grace Summerhays left SentryWorld, in Stevens Point, Wis., after being eliminated in the Round of 16 of the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior, she was thrilled about the great run in her first USGA event. A week earlier, older brother Preston had won the U.S. Junior Amateur at Inverness Club, in Toledo, Ohio, so the family was already in a celebratory mood. Little did Grace know just how valuable that performance was last July. Under the revised exemption categories, any player reaching the Round of 16 in the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior got a spot in the field, making Summerhays one of nine players to get in strictly through that category.

A couple of U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champions, Meghan Stasi (4) and Lauren Greenlief (1) also made the field at Woodmont in a 2020-only category, thanks to being semifinalists in last year’s championship at Forest Highlands Golf Club, in Flagstaff, Ariz..

Another beneficiary was seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, who got into the field via her 2016 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur triumph. She is the only senior player (50 and older) in the field. Two years ago at The Golf Club of Tennessee, she advanced to match play, one month shy of her 57th birthday.

The list of 132 golfers currently in the 2020 U.S. Women's Amateur field can be found here.

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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