Morgan Ketchum (Sea Island Women's Amateur Photo)
The final round of the Sea Island Women’s Amateur
produced a surprising champion on Thursday afternoon.
stole the show on the Georgia coast as she fired a career-best 63 over the last 18 holes on the par-70 Seaside Course at the Sea Island Golf Club to come from eight shots back and emerge with a one-shot victory at 9-under-par in the 54-hole tournament.
Ketchum, a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech, took the winner’s trophy away from Laney Frye
, who led by five strokes going into the final round, only to come up short once again as a late slide led to a 2-over 72 final round for her and forced the University of Kentucky All-American to settle for the runner-up spot at Sea Island for the third time in the three years of the Women’s Amateur at the five-star resort located in coastal Georgia.
“This is probably my biggest win ever, yes,” Ketchum said. “Hopefully, this will give me a lot of confidence going forward.”
The 63 in the final round by Ketchum, who is from Winston Salem, N.C., bested her previous personal low by two shots. She said she recorded the 65, which had been her previous low at a junior tournament in Charleston, S.C.
Her 7-under score, which included nine birdies, was also the second-lowest in the short history of the Sea Island Women’s Amateur. Frye posted the lowest score in the first three years of the tournament on Tuesday when she carded a 61 in the first round to jump to the top of the leaderboard.
Ketchum’s 9-under 201 winning score is actually the new low score by the champion in the first three tournaments. Hannah Levi
, the 2021 winner, shot 7-under in the inaugural event. Last summer, Kayla Holden won while shooting 2-under over the three rounds.
Ketchum shot 69 in each of the first two rounds this week before the big finish in the final round. She started fast with a birdie on the opening hole, but then Ketchum had back-to-back three-putts on the next two holes. Those mishaps only briefly stalled her momentum, however.
“After that, I was just like let’s see how many birdies I can make, and I hit a lot of approach shots really close and gave myself a lot of good looks,” she said.
She would proceed to make four more birdies in her next six holes to close out her front nine at 3-under for the day. Ketchum parred the first three holes on her outward nine, but then made her sixth birdie of the round at the par-4 13th hole to reach 4-under for the day. Ketchum wasn’t done making birdies, either.
After making par at No. 14, she would make three consecutive birdies at the par-5 No. 15, par-4, No. 16, and par-3 No. 17 to go to 7-under for the round and 9-under for the championship.
“On 15, I was maybe 90-something yards out and hit it to 12 feet,” Ketchum said. “On 16, I didn’t hit my drive where I wanted to, but it was still in a decent spot, and I hit it to maybe 15 feet. And then on 17, I hit it to 6 feet and made the putt.”
With one hole to play, she was suddenly within two strokes of Frye who had just made birdie at No. 15 to go to 11-under and was in the middle of the fairway at No. 16 after a solid drive over the marshland that intersects the hole.
Ketchum finished with a par at the last and walked off the green proud of her round but with hardly a thought of hoisting the winner’s trophy as Frye appeared poised to close out a wire-to-wire victory.
“I figured my chances of having a shot were pretty much non-existent,” she said, when asked about her approach to the final 18 holes. “So, I just wanted to see how many birdies I could make.
“I was surprised to get a (phone) call (about a possibly playoff), but anything can happen in golf. The last four holes are hard, but I really didn’t think it would be close.”
Frye played the first round bogey-free as she posted her 61 with seven birdies and an eagle. The rising senior for Kentucky played 17 more holes in round two without a bogey before making her first one on her final hole on Wednesday to end up shooting a 69 which extended her lead from four shots after round one to five going into the closing 18.
On Thursday, Frye made her second bogey of the week at the fourth hole, but made birdie at the par-4 No. 8 to get back to even for the day. She went to the back nine with the five-shot cushion she had to start the round.
Frye was steady early on the closing nine with five consecutive pars and then the birdie at No. 15 before faltering with bogeys on the final three holes with the win slipping away, too.
Her approach on No. 16 landed in the huge bunker protecting the front pin location, and she couldn’t get up and down for par. Frye’s tee shot on No. 17 rolled through the green. She putted her second shot past the hole and then saw about a 10-foot putt slide by the left edge, forcing her to settle for another bogey which dropped her into a tie with Ketchum as she went to the last.
Frye boomed a drive down the 18th fairway, but her second shot to the uphill green skipped off the putting surface and came to rest in a swell on the right side. With the hole on the opposite side of the large green, she pitched the ball across the green almost to the far edge and then left her par attempt that would have forced a playoff short of the cup.
After finishing with a third straight bogey, Frye walked off the green not knowing the final scores until her mother informed her as they met just as she came off the course.
Frye, who will play in the U.S. Women's Amateur
next month, finished at even-par last July while finishing two strokes back of Holden. Two years ago, she shot 3-under over the three rounds and was the runner-up to Levi by four shots while tying for second.
Ketchum said this was her final tournament of the summer. She will now look toward her second year at Virginia Tech, where she was co-medalist in her first season with the team at the Clemson Invitational, finished tied for eighth at the ACC Championship and tied for fourth at the NCAA Raleigh Regional.
“I played well at the end of our season in the spring, but haven’t played super well this summer,” she said.
Shannon Kennedy and Claire Vermette both tied for third at 6-under as they both shot 69 in the closing round on Thursday.
Mikayla Dubnik of Murrayville, Ga., was solo fifth at 5-under. A group of six players ended up tied for sixth at 4-under, including Kati Li, Chloe Holder, Alice Hodge, Andie Smith and Rylie Heflin.
The top 20 and ties receive an exemption into the 2024 Sea Island Women’s Amateur. The tournament will be moving to May next year. Tournament officials had already announced the date change well in advance of this year’s event.