Georgians Huynh, Im win U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball title
Thienna Huynh (left) and Sara Im (USGA/Chris Keane)
Thienna Huynh (left) and Sara Im (USGA/Chris Keane)

Georgia residents Thienna Huynh and Sara Im outlasted Kaitlyn Schroeder and Bailey Shoemaker, 1 up, on Sunday at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico to win the 7th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Huynh, 18, of Lilburn, and Im, 17, of Duluth, become the second and third players from the Peach State to win this championship, joining Rinko Mitsunaga (Roswell) who won at Bandon Dunes in 2015 with Mika Liu in the event’s inaugural year. Huynh, a graduating high school senior who will enroll at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in the fall, also becomes the event’s second left-handed winner after Erica Shepherd in 2019.

Im, a high school junior, earned her second national title. In 2018, she captured the Girls 12-13-year-old division of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.

The victory also earned Huynh and Im, the 2020 Georgia Women’s Amateur champion, exemptions into this summer’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., and the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.

“It obviously means a lot,” said Huynh. “It's so surreal. [My mom] said on 18 green, ‘Can you believe that we're USGA champions?’”

Schroeder, 17, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Shoemaker, 17, of West Edmeston, N.Y., came into the 18-hole final on a tear, having played the equivalent of 31-under-par golf – with the usual concessions – through their first four matches, a total of 65 holes. They had averaged just over seven birdies per match, but could only muster four against Huynh and Im, who never trailed in the final.

“It definitely stings a little bit coming up short,” said Shoemaker, “but it was to one of our good friends [Im], and we definitely had a lot of birdies out there and that leads to a lot of confidence for us. We had the most birdies out there of any team (38 for the week), so we can say that for ourselves this week.”

Im’s chip-in birdie on the 399-yard first hole set the tone, and Huynh put the side 2 up when her short birdie putt on No. 3 was conceded. Shoemaker, a three-time New York State Girls’ Junior champion who has committed to the University of Southern California in 2023, rolled in a 20-foot birdie on the par-5 fifth to cut the deficit to 1 down, but their opponents won the sixth with a par and Huynh converted a birdie on the par-4 ninth for a 3-up at the turn.

Kaitlyn Schroeder (left) and Bailey Shoemaker
The two sides exchanged birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 before Schroeder, who has committed to the University of Alabama in 2023, and Shoemaker tightened things up with wins on 13 and 14. Shoemaker made a 12-foot birdie on the 344-yard 13th and her tap-in par on the challenging 408-yard 14th won the hole.

After Huynh-Im, the No. 7 seeds from stroke play, birdied the par-5 15th, Shoemaker delivered the most dramatic shot of the championship as she nearly aced the 135-yard 16th. The ball lipped out and the birdie was conceded. Huynh or Im were now just 1 up with two to play.

But pars on 17 and 18 were enough for Huynh and Im, a six-time winner on the American Junior Golf Association circuit, to claim the championship. Three of their five matches this week went to 18, and a fourth ended on No. 17.

“I was standing there [on the 18th green] with my hands over my head, like did this just happen?” said a relieved Huynh.

In the semifinals contested earlier on Sunday, Schroeder holed out from a greenside bunker on the par-3 16th hole to propel the side past pesky Texans Amelia Guo, 16. of Seabrook, and Sam Houston State signee Grace Jin, 17, of San Antonio, 2 and 1, Schroeder and Shoemaker were 8 under par over the 17 holes, including an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. Guo and Jin were 5 under.

“When they got an eagle and we made birdie, we weren’t mad because we were making those putts that we needed to make,” said Guo. “It’s not like we were making mistakes.”

In the other semifinal, Huynh and Im broke open a tight match by winning three consecutive holes to defeat New Albany (Ohio) High School teammates Kary Hollenbaugh and Anna Ritter, 4 and 3. Huynh and Im, who played 4-under-par golf, sandwiched birdies on Nos. 11 and 13 around a winning par on No. 12 to put the match away.

Hollenbaugh, 17, and Ritter, 18, who are headed to Ohio State and the University of Illinois, respectively, this fall, could only muster one birdie, winning the par-5 fifth hole. It was their first USGA championship, although they qualified for the 2020 championship that was canceled due to COVID-19.

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ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. It immediately became one of the USGA's most popular tournaments. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those women with a Handicap Index of 14.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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