Women's Western Junior: Semifinals set for Friday
Vilda Westh Blanc (Paul Halfacre STLHighSchoolSports.com)
Vilda Westh Blanc (Paul Halfacre STLHighSchoolSports.com)

Vilda Westh Blanc couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift.

The now 18-year-old from Sweden punched her ticket to the semifinals of the 96th Women’s Western Junior at Greenbriar Hills Country Club on Thursday with a 20-hole victory over Jenna Madden of McKinney, Texas.

After going 3-up through the first four holes of her quarterfinal match, Westh Blanc watched her lead slowly dwindle until Madden tied the match on No. 17. They traded pars on Nos. 18 and 19 before Westh Blanc put a bow on her birthday with a birdie on the 20th hole to win the match and advance to Friday’s semifinal.

“I started off really strong today and didn’t have my mind on a playoff, but I’m really happy with how the day turned out.” Westh Blanc said. “There’s nothing better on a birthday than winning two matches.”

Westh Blanc, a Georgetown commit, said her first goal was to improve upon last year’s performance, when she fell in 20 holes in the Round of 16 at Prestwick Golf Club in Frankfort, Illinois. She avenged the early exit with a 2-up victory over Hadley Ashton, of Erie, Colorado, on Thursday morning before winning in extra holes in the afternoon.

Both wins came with a new caddie on the bag.

“I actually didn’t have a caddie in stroke play, but 38 holes will help you build a bond for sure,” Westh Blanc said. “He was really helpful in both of my matches keeping me focused and relaxed.”

Westh Blanc will face Suzie Tran – a 17-year-old from Poulsbo, Washington – in the semifinals on Friday morning.

Tran outlasted Brynn Kort, of Henderson, Nevada, with a birdie on No. 17 for a 3 and 1 victory in her quarterfinal match. The University of Michigan commit won in similar fashion in the Round of 16, making birdie on No. 17 to beat Yetong Qian of China 2 and 1.

On the opposite side of the bracket, stroke-play medalist Kennedy Swedick, of Albany, New York, found herself 2-down to Samantha Brown, of Westfield, Indiana, on the 14th hole in the Round of 16. Swedick proceeded to win the next four holes for a 2-up victory, sparking momentum that would carry into the afternoon.

The 16-year-old jumped out to an early 3-up lead in her quarterfinal match against Mingyu Zhang, of China, but Zhang responded, eventually tying the match with a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 17.

Swedick had an opportunity to erase Zhang’s comeback and advance to the semifinals with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th. The University of Virginia commit watched her ball break one foot toward the left, narrowly curling into the hole to win the match.

“It was such a relief to watch it fall because I thought for sure it was going to stay out,” Swedick said. “It was a great match and really stressful, but it’s the best feeling.”

Swedick will face Lisa Herman in the semifinals on Friday morning. Herman – a 15-year-old from Jenks, Oklahoma – defeated Taryn Cagle, of San Clemente, California, in the quarterfinals, 4 and 3.

Early on in Herman’s Round of 16 match against HaYoung Lee, of South Korea, it appeared Herman might not reach this position. Sitting three down to Lee on No. 6, Herman embarked on a nine-hole scoring spree, winning six holes to take the match 3 and 2.

“That run to close out my first match gave me a lot of confidence in the afternoon,” Herman said. “It feels good to be coming back tomorrow.”


Kennedy Swedick described her second round at the 96th Women’s Western Junior at Greenbriar Hills Country Club as “a rollercoaster.”

Six birdies, seven pars, four bogeys and a triple bogey populated the Albany, New York, native’s scorecard – good enough for a 1-over 72 and medalist honors. She posted an even-par 71 on Tuesday to finish at 1-over 143 for the 36 holes of stroke play.

“I knew I was capable of making birdies, so taking it shot by shot I knew that I could get birdies back even after the mistakes,” Swedick said. “My putting kept me confident it would all work out in the end.”

After making consecutive birdies to get to 1-under through 12 holes, Swedick made a triple bogey on No. 13. The misstep didn’t rattle the 16-year-old University of Virginia commit, who went on to make four pars and a birdie to get into the clubhouse with the lead after 36 holes.

Swedick leaned on her caddie to help her navigate the round when things weren’t going her way.

“When I let a few holes get away from me he did a great job of distracting me on everything but the golf,” Swedick said. “He said his favorite character from The Office was Kevin, and I thought that was interesting, so that started the bond and gave us a lot to talk about.”

At the end of Wednesday’s second round, the field was cut from 78 players to the top 16 for the match play portion of the event, which begins Thursday. The cut came at 9-over par, with Samantha Brown, of Westfield, Indiana, grabbing the final match play spot in a three-for-one playoff.

As the championship turns to match play, Swedick said she feels confident after winning the 2022 New York State Women’s Amateur and making match play at the 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior.

“I don’t think much about expectations,” she said. “I’m going to treat it like match play back home with my friends.”

Sayers Allen, a 16-year-old from Spring Branch, Texas, finished one stroke behind Swedick at 2-over par with rounds of 73-71. In opposite fashion of Swedick, Allen made 14 pars to go with two birdies and two bogeys Wednesday to make her second consecutive match play appearance.

After losing in the Round of 16 at Prestwick Country Club in Frankfort, Illinois, a year ago, Allen is hoping to make a deeper run this week.

“I’m feeling some confidence after making match play last year, but I didn’t make it far,” Allen said. “I’ve been working on a lot of things that worked so far, so I’m hoping it will help me these next couple days.”

Brynn Kort, of Henderson, Nevada, and Lisa Herman, of Jenks, Oklahoma, finished in a tie for third at 3-over par.

Kort, who also made match play last year, was the lone player to break par on Wednesday. The 15-year-old made three birdies in a 1-under 70, five strokes better than her 75 on Tuesday. Herman, 15, recorded a 3-over 74 after yesterday’s 71.

Rounding out the top five is last year’s runner up, Lisa Copeland – a 15-year-old from Naperville, Illinois – who finished at 4-over. Suzie Tran, of Poulsbo, Washington, finished in sixth at 5-over.

A group of three players finished in a tie for tenth at 6-over, including Hadley Ashton, of Erie, Colorado; Jessica Jolly, of Rockford, Michigan; and Mingyu Zhang, of China. Finishing in a tie for 10th at 7-over were Vilda Westh Blanc, of Sweden; Yetong Qian, of China; and Taryn Cagle, of San Clemente, California. The three players finishing in 13th at 8-over were HaYoung Lee, of South Korea; Reagan Folk, of Madison, Georgia; and Jenna Madden, of McKinney, Texas.

Four rounds of match play will determine the Women’s Western Junior champion. The Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches will be played on Thursday. The Semifinals will be played Friday morning, and the Final will be played Friday afternoon.


Birdies can be tough to come by on the undulating fairways and greens of Greenbriar Hills Country Club outside of St. Louis.

On a hot, windy afternoon, Lilly DeNunzio made four of them to post a 2-under 69 and take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the 96th Women’s Western Junior.

After recording birdies on two of her first five holes, the BYU commit’s momentum stalled with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 10. She recovered quickly, playing her final seven holes in 2-under par to finish in red figures.

The Henderson, Nevada, native did it without even thinking about her score.

“I usually just do a little three-hole match between me and the course,” DeNunzio said. “I think I played the course pretty well.”

She played the par-71 layout better than anyone else on Tuesday. DeNunzio was the only player in the field of 78 to break par as the wind picked up later in the day.

“It was pretty nice to get out and play early in the morning before it gets real tough,” DeNunzio said. "The rough and wind can make it hard to get closer to the pin even with a wedge in hand.”

Four players trail DeNunzio by two shots after 18 holes of stroke play.

Kennedy Swedick, a 16-year-old from Albany, New York, matched DeNunzio’s birdie total with four of her own. Swedick – the winner of the 2022 New York State Women’s Amateur Championship – was 2-under through 14 holes before bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 brought her back to even.

After her opening round, Swedick said she feels confident in her gameplan going into the final round of stroke-play qualifying on Wednesday.

“It’s a tough golf course that requires you to hit the fairway,” Swedick said. “I’m going to be patient and not always pull driver in order to get that first shot in play and have a good line to the green. There are birdies out there – you just have to put yourself in position.”

Playing in her first Women’s Western Junior, Lisa Herman – a 15-year-old from Jenks, Oklahoma – employed Swedick's fairway-first mentality on Tuesday. Herman made 14 pars to go with two bogeys and two birdies, good for an even-par 71.

“I wasn’t really trying to force anything, and I knew that if I stayed calm the birdies would come eventually,” Herman said. “I was just taking the easy iron shot instead of doing something that could possibly get me into danger.”

Joining Swedick and Herman in the tie for second are Taryn Cagle, of San Clemente, California, and Mingyu Zhang, of Beijing, China. Cagle, 16, started strong by making birdies on three of her first six holes before a 2-over back nine. Zhang, 16, recorded three birdies and three bogeys in her 71.

C.A. Carter – a 16-year-old from Lexington, Kentucky – is in sixth place at 1-over after carding a 72.

Four players are tied in seventh at 2-over, including Yetong Qian, of China; Sayers Allen, of Spring Branch, Texas; Jessica Jolly, of Rockford, Michigan; and Kathryn DeLoach, of Athens, Georgia.

Story courtesy Western Golf Association

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ABOUT THE Women's Western Junior

The The Western Golf Association (WGA) has partnered with the Women’s Western Golf Association to administer the Women’s Western Junior, which was first held in 1920. The championship features an outstanding field of competitors, many of whom go on to become top amateur and college players. Notable past champions include Cristie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972-74).

The field is comprised of top-ranked amateurs who are 18 years or younger and carry a handicap index of 9.4 or lower. The tournament begins with 36 holes of stroke play to establish 16 match play qualifiers.

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