Rachel Heck (USGA Photo)
Before this week, Rachel Heck had only played one competitive round since last October. Now she’s two matches away from winning the biggest title of her career.
Heck was relentless at Bel-Air Country Club on Friday, winning six consecutive holes in an 8-and-6 triumph over Catherine Rao, the largest U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinal victory in 51 years. The rising senior at Stanford is on to the semifinals at this championship for the second time in three years.
“I definitely have not had a match that smooth in my seven U.S. Amateurs,” said Heck, 21, of Memphis, Tenn. “I was really proud of how I was able to play super smoothly today. Everything got shaky towards the end of yesterday, I was hitting some loose shots, but I really felt refreshed today and super confident in my game, so it was nice to feel like that.”
Since falling 2 down through three holes in her Round-of-32 match against Rin Yoshida, Heck has played 40 holes, winning 21 and losing just three.
The dominant stretch could make most fans forget that the 2021 NCAA individual champion was sidelined for several months due to surgery in March and spent 18 days in field training for Air Force ROTC in late July.
Heck will face fellow 2022 USA Curtis Cup teammate Latanna Stone in Saturday’s first semifinal match. Unlike yesterday, when Stone stormed back from a 5-down deficit, the graduate student at LSU had a more conventional victory on Friday.
Starting at No. 5, she won five holes in an eight-hole stretch to take command of her quarterfinal match against 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Thienna Huynh. Stone closed with a par at the 16th to win, 3 and 2.
“I think my brain is clicking; the motors are running,” said Stone, 21, of Riverview, Fla. “I just have a different mindset this week. I'm just like, we're going to have fun. I've never even made it this far before. This is my [sixth] Women's Am. It's a big accomplishment. I'm just so grateful for it. Not taking any moment for granted. I know I played in some big events, but this is pretty cool.”
The other side of the bracket will pit smooth-swinging University of Michigan fifth-year senior Hailey Borja against gritty Auburn University graduate student Megan Schofill.
Borja was tied in her match against Kyra Ly through nine holes, then pushed ahead with winning pars on the 10th and 11th holes. She made a 12-foot par save on the 12th, then poured in a 20-foot birdie putt to extend her lead to 3 up with four to play. She closed out the match with an up-and-down for par on the par-3 16th.
“My putting really saved me today,” said Borja, 21, of Lake Forest, Calif. “With these greens, you have to be really creative, and I think that's what I'm really good at with my putting. I may not have the best stroke, but I think being creative out here is what's really important.”
The fourth match of the day lived up to the billing, with Schofill edging 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Anna Davis in a battle of two players ranked in the top 25 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Schofill, the world No. 21, birdied the par-5 first hole to take a 1-up lead over No. 5 Davis, then the duo tied the next 13 holes before Davis squared the match with a conceded birdie at the par-4 15th. Schofill regained the lead on the next hole when Davis made a bogey after her tee shot caught the front bunker at the par-3 16th, then closed the match with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
“A lot of great golf between the two of us,” said Schofill, 22, of Monticello, Fla. “Really tough match when you're playing against anyone left in the field right now. Feels great to be able to see the hard work and play a really great round of golf and be able to get the job done.”
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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