This has been a year of firsts at the USGA. In June, The Los Angeles Country Club hosted its first U.S. Open, marking the end of a 75-year hiatus of the National Open being contested in the City of Angels.
In early July, the U.S. Women’s Open went to iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time. The seaside venue had hosted six previous U.S. Opens, but this was the initial foray for the women’s major championship.
Now, a U.S. military layout will host a national championship for the first time with the 74th U.S. Girls’ Junior set to be staged on the U.S. Air Force Academy Eisenhower Golf Club’s Blue Course.
The 156-player field will be treated to a gorgeous Rocky Mountain setting as well as a challenging 6,788-yard, par-72 layout designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr. A record 1,677 females under the age of 19 applied to compete in the championship. And by Saturday afternoon, one young lady will etch her name on the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy alongside some of game’s legends, including Mickey Wright, JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Nancy Lopez, Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee and Rose Zhang.
One unique scenario to having a championship in a military setting is every day at 4:45 p.m. local time, play will be stopped so the base can play Retreat and the National Anthem. All of the players and officials were notified prior to the competitions, so the minor delay won’t come as a surprise.
Logan Hale, of Colorado Springs, the only player from the state in the field, will have the honor of hitting the opening tee shot on Monday at 7 a.m. MT.
Here are 3 Things to Know going into the competition:
Only three players have managed to successfully defend their titles since the championship’s inception in 1949: Judy Eller, Stacy and Eun-Jeong Seong, the latter achieving the feat in 2015-16. Yana Wilson, of Henderson, Nev., has a chance to add her name to that small sorority. The 16-year-old rising high school senior, who has verbally committed to attend the University of Oregon in the fall of 2024, certainly has the chops to produce a rare double. She made the cut in the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April and captured the junior portion of the Americas Mizuho Open at Liberty National in June.
The No. 46 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® and 2021 USA Junior Solheim Cup competitor also was the runner-up in this year’s Rolex Girls Junior Championship and captured the 2022 Annika Invitational by holing out a wedge approach for an eagle to defeat Anna Davis in a playoff.
Gianne Clemente, the player Wilson defeated in the final last year in Kentucky, also returns to the Girls' Junior fresh from winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball title in May with partner Avery Zweig.
A remarkable nine competitors are coming off playing in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. While none made the 36-hole cut, all got the experience of playing against the world’s best female players under the most challenging of conditions.
Lauren Kim, 18, of Canada, who is headed to the University of Texas this fall, and Ting-Hsuan Huang, 18, of Chinese Taipei, who will play for UCLA in the fall, both came within a stroke of making the cut, posting 7-over 151s. It was Kim’s second consecutive appearance in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Davis also made her second straight appearance in the championship. The left-hander from Spring Valley, Calif., who is committed to attend Auburn University in 2024, shot 9-over 153 along with Pepperdine rising sophomore Jeneath Wong, of Malaysia, who also is in this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Other U.S. Girls’ Junior competitors to play at Pebble were Wilson (exempt from 2022 Girls’ Junior win), Farah O’Keefe, 14-year-olds Angela Zhang and Kaili Xiao, and Chizuru Komiya.
Some might do a double take when they see the scorecard yardage is 6,788 yards, the longest ever for this championship. But one also to consider that the Air Force Academy sits more than a mile high at 6,788 feet. That means the golf ball will travel much farther in the thin air than if the competition was being contested at sea level.
Players likely will need to factor in 10 percent more distance for every shot. So a 100-yard wedge shot is likely to travel 110 yards and a 300-yard drive will go 30 yards longer on average.
During the practice rounds, expect the competitors to figure out what their actual yardages will be for each club in the bag not named a putter.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.