Rose Zhang and Alexa Pano (USGA photo)
The 72nd U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship begins on Monday with 13 countries and 33 states represented in the 156-player field. They will vie for the prestigious Glenna Collett Vare Trophy at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., which is hosting its third USGA championship and first since Brian Harman won the U.S. Junior Amateur here in 2003.
With temperatures expected to be in the low to mid-90s all week, it will be a battle of endurance as the champion and runner-up will likely play more than 150 holes over the next six days. After 36 holes of stroke play, the field will be reduced to the top 64 for match play starting on Wednesday. The championship will conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
Thirteen players will be competing in at least their third U.S. Girls’ Junior, with Zoe Antoinette Campos and 2018 runner-up Alexa Pano each making their fourth appearance. Faith Choi, of Frederick, Md., has the honor of hitting the first ball of the championship at 7 a.m. EDT Monday.
Here are 3 things to look for as we head into stroke play:
Rose Zhang, the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking®, is back in Maryland with her sights set on another USGA title in the Old Line State. Eleven months ago, Zhang outlasted Gabriela Ruffels in 38 holes to win the 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club, just six miles from Columbia.
Zhang, 18, has competed in three major championships in the last year, including a tie for 11th in the 2020 ANA Inspiration. She is coming off a missed cut in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club. Her stellar junior career has also included a tie for third in this year’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, as well as appearances on victorious USA Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams.
The Irvine, Calif., native and incoming Stanford University freshman will look to become the eighth player to win both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Girls’ Junior. If she does, it would mark the first time a player has won them in that order. Zhang begins her quest on Monday at 2:21 p.m. EDT off No. 1.
The Future is Now
Players who make deep runs in the U.S. Girls’ Junior tend to have strong pro careers down the road – sometimes very soon down the road. The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Yuka Saso, was the medalist and advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 Girls’ Junior at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis. A year after Hye-Jin Choi was a semifinalist in the 2016 Girls’ Junior, she nearly won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as a 17-year-old amateur, sharing the lead on the 70th hole before finishing second, two strokes short of Sung Hyun Park.
Seven players have won the Girls’ Junior and the Women’s Open – and the list is impressive. In addition to Saso, it includes four LPGA Hall of Famers (Amy Alcott, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Inbee Park and Mickey Wright), six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy and 2018 Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn.
As the week unfolds, remember these aren’t just the best amateurs age 18 and under – they may be winning majors before the next presidential election.
Speaking of our Commanders-in-Chief, Columbia has a strong connection to residents of the nation’s Oval Office. A century ago, when the club hosted the 1921 U.S. Open, President Warren G. Harding attended both days (the championship was 72 holes played over two days at the time) and awarded the trophy to winner Jim Barnes. It is the first and only time a sitting President has handed out the U.S. Open Trophy.
Since then, 15 of the 18 U.S. Presidents have played golf and many have teed it up on the grounds of Columbia. One, President Barack Obama (2009-2017), maintains a residence in Washington, D.C., and is a member at the club. The 44th President penned a welcome letter to all 156 contestants in this year’s field that was in their lockers upon arrival.
Referring to his home club, Obama writes, “I’ve played it more times than I will admit … I can’t wait to tune in this weekend to watch you tackle it.”
“So between your practice swings and green reading, take a moment to stop, look around and savor the experience. Because no matter what happens on the course, this is a week you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
Inside the Field
The average age of the 156 U.S. Girls’ Junior competitors is 16.4.
Anna Huang, at 12 years and 7 months, is the youngest player in the field. The championship’s oldest competitor is Laney Frye, of Nicholasville, Ky., who will turn 19 on Aug. 14. There are 41 18-year-olds in the field.
Field breakdown by age:
12: 1 players
13: 3 players
14: 16 players
15: 15 players
16: 28 players
17: 51 players
18: 42 players
There are 13 countries represented in the championship: Australia (1), Barbados (1), Canada (9), Chile (1), Colombia (2), Hong Kong (1), Mexico (4), Paraguay (1), Peoples Republic of China (2), Philippines (1), Singapore (1), Thailand (1), United States (130).
There are 33 states represented in the championship: Alabama (1), Arizona (2), Arkansas (1), California (30), Colorado (1), Florida (10), Georgia (2), Hawaii (4), Illinois (3), Indiana (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (2), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (1), Missouri (2), Nebraska (1), Nevada (3), New Jersey (4), New York (3), North Carolina (5), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (9), Texas (15), Utah (1), Virginia (3), Washington (4) and Wyoming (1).
There are three USGA champions in the field: Savannah Barber, 17, of Fort Worth, Texas (2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball), Alexa Saldana, 17, of Mexico (2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball), and Rose Zhang, 18, of Irvine, Calif. (2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur).
There is one USGA runner-up in the field: Alexa Pano, 16, of West Palm Beach, Fla., finished runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Sister Act:Molly Smith, 16, and Morgan Smith, 17, of Westford, Mass., represent the lone pair of sisters in the field this year. They both advanced from the Hyde Park, Mass., qualifier on June 22.
Two players are in the top 100 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® as of July 7:
No. 1 – Rose Zhang, 18, of Irvine, Calif.
No. 87 – Alexa Pano, 16, of Lake Worth, Fla.
Players in the field with the most U.S. Girls’ Junior appearances (includes 2021):
4 – Zoe Antoinette Campos, 18, of Valencia, Calif.
4 – Alexa Pano, 16, of Lake Worth, Fla.
3 – Jennifer Cai, 18, of Irvine, Calif.
3 – Caroline Canales, 18, of Calabasas, Calif.
3 – Iris Cao, 17, of Duluth, Ga.
3 – Faith Choi, 18, of Frederick, Md.
3 – Bailey Davis, 18, of White Plains, Md.
3 – Caroline Hwang, 18, of Orlando, Fla.
3 – Caris Kim, 18, of Los Altos, Calif.
3 – Alexsandra Lapple, 16, of Pinehurst, N.C.
3 – Julia Misemar, 17, of Overland Park, Ky.
3 – Isabella Van der Biest, 18, of Kingsport, Tenn.
There are nine current college players in the field:
--Camille Boyd, 18, of Seattle, Wash. (Univ. of Washington)
--Jennifer Cai, 18, of Irvine, Calif. (Northwestern)
--Laney Frye, 18, of Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky)
--Lion Higo, 18, of Australia (Pepperdine)
--Alice Hodge, 18, of Larchmont, N.Y. (Florida State)
--Caroline Hwang, 18, of Orlando, Fla. (Pepperdine)
--Caris Kim, 18, of Los Altos, Calif. (Princeton)
--Camila Madariaga, 18, of Mexico (Lynn University)
--Olivia Yun, 18, of Carlsbad, Calif. (Univ. of Southern California)
There are 22 players who have signed national letters of intent to play college golf in fall 2021:
--Lana Calibuso-Kwee, of Wailuku, Hawaii (Texas A&M)
--Zoe Antoinette Campos, of Valencia, Calif. (UCLA)
--Caroline Canales, of Calabasas, Calif. (UCLA)
--Kara Carter, of Kingsport, Tenn. (Xavier)
--Reagan Cheney, of Ardmore, Okla. (Oklahoma City Univ.)
--Faith Choi, of Frederick, Md. (Ohio State)
--Bailey Davis, of White Plains, Md. (Tennessee)
--Jacee Fields, of Fort Worth, Texas (Southern Miss)
--Lexanne Halama, of Knoxville, Tenn. (Univ. of Illinois)
--McKenzi Hall, of Las Vegas, Nev. (UNLV)
--Rylie Heflin, of Kennett Square, Pa. (Duke)
--Grace Holcomb, of Wilmington, N.C. (UNC-Greensboro)
--Kennedy Knox, of Seattle, Wash. (Univ. of Washington)
--Antonia Matte, of Chile (Baylor)
--Lauryn Nguyen, of Seattle, Wash. (Northwestern Univ.)
--Drew Nienhaus, of St. Albans, Mo. (Penn State)
--Lisa Marie Rudometkin, of Wesley Chapel, Fla. (Univ. of San Francisco)
--Mayumi Umezu, of Waimea, Hawaii (Univ. of Hawaii)
--Isabella Van der Biest, of Kingsport, Tenn. (Alabama)
--Natalie Vo, of San Jose, Calif. (Univ. of Colorado)
--Tatum Walsh, of Midlothian, Va. (James Madison)
--Rose Zhang, of Irvine, Calif. (Stanford)
There are 12 players in the field who have competed in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club:
--Kynadie Adams, 15, of Nashville, Tenn. (2015, 2016)
--Kate Bennett, 15, of McKinney, Texas (2017)
--Leigh Chien, 15, of Irvine, Calif. (2016)
--Molly Hardwick, 17, of Nashville, Tenn. (2014)
--Isabella McCauley, 17, of Inver Grove Heights, Minn. (2017, 2018)
--Julia Misemer, 17, of Overland Park, Kan. (2015, 2019)
--Ali Mulhall, 16, Green River, Wyo. (won 14-15 Division in 2021)
--Alexa Pano, 16, of West Palm Beach, Fla. (2014, won 10-11 Division in 2016, won 12-13 Division in 2017)
--Kennedy Swedick, 14, of Albany, N.Y. (2017)
--Yana Wilson, 14, of Henderson, Nev. (won 12-13 Division in 2019, won 12-13 Division in 2021)
--Kelly Xu, 17, of Claremont, Calif. (2014, 2015)
--Avery Zweig, 14, of McKinney, Texas (2016, 2018, 2020)
Four players in the field competed in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.
--Amari Avery – MC
--Isabella McCauley – MC
--Karoline Tuttle - MC
--Rose Zhang – MC
View results for U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur
ABOUT THE U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur
The Girls Junior Amateur is one of 14
championships conducted by the USGA.
event is open to female golfers who have
reached their 19th birthday prior to the
of competition and whose USGA Handicap
Index does not exceed 9.4. 36 hole
play qualifying from which 64 players
to match play. Regional qualifying held at
around the United States.
View Complete Tournament Information