- USGA/Darren Carroll photo
From The Land of the Rising Sun, Saki Baba's
light is shining bright as day breaks in her home country of Japan.
After routing fellow 17-year-old Bailey Shoemaker of Dade City, Florida, 7 and 6, in Saturday’s semifinal at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., Baba didn't ease up on the gas pedal one bit, as she rolled to an 11-and-9 win over Monet Chun, 21, of Canada, to win her first USGA title.
The margin matched the third-largest in a 36-hole final in the event. Anne Quast Sander set record in 1961, beating Phyllis Preuss 14 and 13. Glenna Collett beat Virginia Van Wie 13 and 12 in 1928, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias routed Clara C. Sherman 11 and 9 in 1946.
Baba was 7 up through 14 holes and held the same lead heading into lunch. Chun cut the lead to 5 up through 21 holes, but Baba then won the next six holes and ended the match on the 27th hole to become the second golfer from Japan to win the Robert Cox Trophy, joining 1985 champion Michiko Hattori.
“It’s just amazing. I just can't believe it,” said an emotional Baba through a translator. “I was able to [play] my kind of golf. Yeah, everything just went smoothly.”
Just how dominant was Baba's performance at Chambers Bay?
According to the USGA, her 11-and-9 win was the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Women’s Amateur final since Anne Sander in 1961 and it was also the largest margin of victory for a player from outside the United States. Baba's 7-up lead after 18 holes was the largest in a U.S. Women's Amateur final since Anne Sander held a 12-up lead in 1961.
She played 106 match-play holes during the championship, which were tied for the second-fewest by a champion since 1973, matching Morgan Pressel (2005) and behind only Carolyn Hill (103) in 1979.
From the sixth hole in her quarterfinal match, Baba won 28 of the last 49 holes she played, losing only four in that span and in match play, her cumulative score was 24 under par, including 9 under in the championship match.
“If she made a mistake, lost a hole, it woke her up and she bounced right back,” said Beau Brushert, the Chambers Bay caddie who had Baba bags this week. “She didn't let it get her down. She's amazing. She's a lot of fun to watch.”
“If it wasn't for Beau, I don't think I would have been able to make it," said Baba. "He was a big help.”
Chun, the Canadian Women's Amateur champion who plays collegiately at Michigan, had a front-row seat for one of the most dominating performances in USGA championship history.
“Honestly, I was trying to match it up, but it was pretty amazing just to watch,” said Chun. “She was going for every pin, making every putt, and that's hard to match up."
Baba's win at Chambers Bay caps a summer that saw her make the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, where she tied for 49th and share medalist honors and reached the round of 32 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Club at Olde Stone.
As finalists, Baba and Chun are each exempt into the 78th U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in July 2023.
Baba also receives exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships, if eligible, the 2023 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, the 2023 Chevron Championship, AIG Women's British Open and Amundi Evian Championship (must be an amateur). She also receives an invitation to the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The USGA contributed to this report.
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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