Hannah O’Sullivan, Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, Kristen Gillman and Andrea Lee won their quarterfinal matches on Friday and reached the semifinals of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,297-yard, par-70 Nassau Country Club.
O’Sullivan, 16, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., will meet Henderson, 16, of Canada, in Saturday’s first semifinal match at 10 a.m. EDT. They will be followed by Gillman, 16, of Austin, Texas, against Lee, 15, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., at 10:15 a.m. The semifinal quartet of three 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old is the youngest in championship history.
Gillman recorded a stirring comeback against Su-Hyun Oh, 18, of Australia. Four down with six to play, Gillman made a 3-foot birdie at the par-4 13th to win the hole and begin her rally.
“That gave me some confidence in how I was hitting it, said Gillman, a junior at Lake Travis High School who will attend the University of Alabama in the fall of 2016. “I told myself that I just needed to get back to what I was doing the other day, just keep trusting in the shots, and just to never give up and keep fighting.”
With her confidence regained, Gillman won holes 15, 17 and 18 to square the match. She ultimately took the victory with a 15-foot birdie on the second extra hole.
“I just knew I had to keep trusting in what I was doing and just not second‑guess the line I picked out,” said Gillman.
Gillman won last week’s Junior PGA Championship in runaway fashion, shooting three rounds of 66 in earning an 11-stroke victory. Combined with Friday’s comeback win, Gillman is enjoying perhaps the best two-week stretch of her young career.
“I guess all the hard work I’ve been putting in throughout the school year is paying off, said Gillman. “The more I play in tournaments, the more I learn from that, and I just keep taking that to the next tournament.”
Oh reached the Women’s Amateur quarterfinals for the third consecutive year, and for the third time, she failed to reach the semifinals.
“Just can’t get over this quarters jinx,” said Oh, No. 8 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “It just didn’t work out. She played great down the stretch, and I just fell apart.”
In a matchup worthy of a championship final, world No. 2 Henderson eliminated third-ranked Alison Lee, 19, of Valencia, Calif., 1 up. Henderson, who earned low-amateur honors at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open with her tie for 10th, never trailed, but did not earn her first 2-up advantage until Lee missed her par putt at the par-4 12th.
“That was the first time where I was kind of like, you know, I can win this thing,” said Henderson.
Lee, the last remaining player of the six 2014 USA Curtis Cup players in the field, had the chance to cut her deficit and gain some momentum at the par-3 16th. But for the second time in the championship, the ball spun around the hole and heartbreakingly lipped out.
“I knew I had to do something. I only had three holes left,” said Lee, who will compete in LPGA Tour Qualifying School as an amateur later this month. “I gave it a good roll, but I hit it a little too firm.”
A 20-foot birdie at No. 17 brought Lee within one. But after Lee sent her approach at the 18th off the back of the green, she conceded to Henderson after she lagged her birdie putt close and Lee remained 10 feet away after her chip from the rough.
“That was my first match this week to (reach) 18,” said Henderson, who will represent her home country at next month’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Karuizawa, Japan. “Hopefully the next couple days if I’m up, they finish early, and if I’m down, then we go all the way.”
O’Sullivan cruised to an easy 5-and-4 victory over Grace Na, 21, of Alameda, Calif., the largest quarterfinal margin of victory. O’Sullivan, a rising junior at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, bogeyed the par-4 second hole to drop into an early deficit.
“I told myself I can’t lose,” said O’Sullivan, who is competed in her second Women’s Amateur. “I just kept pushing, and I stayed really even.”
After squaring the match with a birdie-4 at No. 4, O’Sullivan built a 3-up lead with wins at holes 6-8. She pointed to her winning birdie from 30 feet at the 12th as the moment that “sealed the deal.”
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” said O’Sullivan, who has verbally committed to the University of Southern California for the fall of 2016. “I’ve been playing really well this summer. Some of my results haven’t really shown it. It feels great to be able to come out and play really solid golf.”
In the final quarterfinal match, Andrea Lee never trailed en route to a 2-and-1 win over 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up Eunjeong Seong, 14, of the Republic of Korea.
Lee won four of the opening five holes to earn a quick 4-up lead. Seong battled back with wins at Nos. 8 and 9, but the duo halved the remaining eight holes, giving Lee the win.
“I don’t think that either of us really played to the best of our abilities today,” said Lee, who made the cut at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. “There were a lot of missed shots and missed putts. But I hung in there and made the putts that I needed to.”
All eight quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, to be held Aug. 10-16 at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. The winner and runner-up will receive exemptions into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, which will be conducted July 9-14 at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.
As the four semifinalists are all age-eligible, they will also receive exemptions into the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, to be held July 20-25 at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club.
The 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Results from the quarterfinal round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,297-yard, par-70 Nassau Country Club:
Hannah O’Sullivan, Paradise Valley, Ariz. (145) def. Grace Na, Alameda, Calif. (141), 5 and 4
Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, Canada (142) def. Alison Lee, Valencia, Calif. (140), 1 up
Kristen Gillman, Austin, Texas (145) def. Su-Hyun Oh, Australia (138), 20 holes
Andrea Lee, Hermosa Beach, Calif. (138) def. Eunjeong Seong, Republic of Korea (141), 2 and 1
Pairings for Saturday’s semifinal round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,297-yard, par-70 Nassau Country Club (all times EDT):
10 a.m. – Hannah O’Sullivan, Paradise Valley, Ariz. (145) vs. Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, Canada (142)
10:15 a.m. – Kristen Gillman, Austin, Texas (145) vs. Andrea Lee, Hermosa Beach, Calif. (138)