Rachel Heck survived a 19-hole thriller against Brooke Matthews to reach the quarterfinals at Westchester Country Club. (Darren Carroll/USGA)
The upsets – at least according to seed – remained in vogue on Thursday at the 121st U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. But the world’s No. 2 player successfully managed all of the turbulence at Westchester Country Club, even when it appeared her championship run was about to end.
Stanford University sophomore Rachel Heck
, 19, of Memphis, Tenn., showed why she was the college player of the year with a come-from-behind, Round-of-16 victory in 19 holes over Brooke Matthews
, of Rogers, Ark., to continue her march toward joining Vicki Goetze (1992) as the second player in history to win NCAA Division I individual and U.S. Women’s Amateur titles in the same year.
Heck, whose 69.72 stroke average in the COVID-19-shortened season of 2020-2021 was the lowest ever in women’s college golf history, was 2 down with two to play against the University of Arkansas standout before winning Nos. 17, 18 and 19. Heck’s 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th forced extra holes and a two-putt par on the par-3 19th secured her spot in Friday’s quarterfinals. A relieved Heck raised her arms over her head after the knee-knocking, 4-foot par putt fell in the hole.
“I think that's what this tournament is all about,” said Heck, who lost in the Round of 16 last year to eventual champion Rose Zhang as the No. 1 seed. “You expect to have these kinds of matches. Really high pressure. My hands are shaking, my heart is beating so fast, but that's what's fun about it.”
For the first two rounds of match play, Heck hardly broke a sweat, going 13 holes on Wednesday and needing only 12 holes on Thursday morning to defeat Australian Grace Kim, 7 and 6, in the Round of 32.
But this Round-of-16 encounter between two players in the top 40 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® lived up to its marquee billing. Neither player led by more than a hole until Matthews birdied the par-4 15th and won the par-3 16th with a par to go 2 up after Heck failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker. Matthews, however, opened the door for Heck with a bogey on 17, setting the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
Heck, who became the third-ever player to sweep conference, regional and NCAA individual honors, converted her birdie putt on the par-5 18th and watched Matthews’ 12-footer just slide left of the hole. And when Matthews failed to get up and down for par after missing the green on the 176-yard 19th hole – Westchester’s first hole – it opened the door for Heck.
“I think it's super important to stay mentally [strong], and I think my dad (Robert) and I really did that today,” said Heck of the on-course bond she has with her caddie/father. “You know, never giving up. She would drain a long putt, [but] we're still in it. We're not going to get too down on ourselves.”
The quarterfinalists earn exemptions into the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
USA Curtis Cup captain Sarah Ingram has been on property this week doing some final scouting for the upcoming Match against Great Britain & Ireland Aug. 26-28 at Conwy Golf Club in Wales. Five spots remain available, but if the champion is American and not currently on the team, she automatically earns a spot. World No. 1 Rose Zhang, world No. 2 Rachel Heck and world No. 11 Allisen Corpuz were selected last month based off their position in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR®.
After being eliminated by Brooke Seay
in the Round of 32, recent Wake Forest graduate Emilia Migliaccio
, who is serving as a Golf Channel intern this summer, changed roles and worked as the on-course reporter for Seay’s Round-of-16 match against Katie Cranston. Migliaccio then interviewed Seay following her 2-and-1 win.
Pearl Sinn-Bonanni, the 1988 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, paid a visit to Westchester Country Club on Thursday with her husband, Greg, who is from the Metropolitan New York area. Sinn-Bonanni, who also won the now-retired U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 1988 and ’89, is one of three females to have won two USGA titles in the same calendar year (Jennifer Song and Eun Jeong Seong). The Southern California resident also played on the victorious 1988 USA Curtis Cup Team.
The run for No. 64 seed Marissa Wenzler
came to an end on Thursday with a Round-of-32 defeat to Hailey Borja. Wenzler, the winner of last month’s Women’s Western Amateur, knocked off medalist Rachel Kuehn
in the Round of 64. She was bidding to become the first 64th seed to win a USGA title since seeding began in the mid-1980s.
Yu-Chiang Hou registered the largest margin of victory of the week, an 8-and-7 decision over Bibilani Liu in the Round of 32. The record for an 18-hole match is 10 and 8, which has been achieved four times, the last in 1954.
Brooke Matthews holed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to eliminate University of Pennsylvania sophomore Elle Nachmann
in the Round of 32. Nachmann was coming off an upset of defending champion and world No. 1 Rose Zhang
Friday’s quarterfinal matches are set to begin at 1 p.m. EDT with Peacock streaming the action from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday at 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., with the 36-hole championship match on Saturday at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Golf Channel has live coverage on the weekend from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
by David Shefter, USGA
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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