The only double-session day at the U.S. Women’s Amateur demands stamina, determination and poise in order to be one of the eight left standing at the end. Annabel Wilson of Ireland displayed all those qualities during a long Thursday at Chambers Bay to march into the quarterfinals riding a wave of confidence.
Wilson, 21 and a junior at UCLA, defeated Katie Li of Basking Ridge, N.J., 3 and 2, in the Round of 16 using a similar formula to the one she deployed in winning her Round of 32 match earlier today against Julia Misemer. In both instances, Wilson birdied the par-5 first hole and sprinted to early leads that allowed to her to survive rough patches in the middle of the rounds and secure a pair of victories.
“I like how I'm striking it. Then I'm rolling the putts in, so I'm confident in my game,” said Wilson. “We play a lot of match play with Golf Ireland, and I think what I've learned over the years is match play is all swinging momentum, and you can't let it get to you. You've just got to play your game.”
A fellow 21-year-old quarterfinalist finding her comfort zone is Lauren Lehigh of Loveland, Colo., a 4-and-3 winner over 14-year-old Mia Hammond of New Albany, Ohio. Lehigh, a junior at the University of New Mexico, played Chambers Bay in a collegiate tournament in April and cited the experience as “huge” in helping her get to know the nuances of this firm, fast layout.
Lehigh and Hammond were tied through nine holes, but a couple miscues from the Ohio middle-schooler allowed Lehigh to win four out of the next five holes to clinch the win. Lehigh is making her second U.S. Women’s Amateur start after missing the cut for match play in 2019 at Old Waverly Country Club in West Point, Miss.
“I finally made it back here this year, and my only goal was to make match play,” said a delighted Lehigh. “To make it this far is pretty unbelievable.”
Wilson’s opponent in the quarterfinals will be 18-year-old Princeton freshman Catherine Rao of Camarillo, Calif., who dispatched Annabelle Pancake of Zionsville, Ind., 4 and 3, despite continuing to deal with a back injury that has required on-site physical therapy.
“It feels unreal to make the quarterfinals,” said Rao. “I feel like with my back and everything, I feel so lucky to have been able to play this week, much less make it this far. I'm super happy.”
The longest match of the day, and of the championship so far, was the 21-hole Round of 16 battle between Brianna Navarrosa of San Diego, Calif., and Australian Kelsey Bennett. The 20-year-old Navarrosa and 22-year-old Bennett exchanged 11 lead changes, and neither player held more than a 1-up lead at any point.
Bennett sunk two clutch putts, one on the par-3 17th to extend the match and an 8-foot birdie putt on 18 to send the match to extra holes, and Navarrosa won the match on the par-3 third hole (21st of the match) with a par after Bennett hit her tee shot in the front greenside bunker and made bogey.
It was a major day for USC junior Navarrosa, who secured a big win over World No. 3 Rachel Heck in the morning before beating Bennett, who at No. 4 was the highest-seeded player remaining in the field.
“It hasn't sunk in yet,” said Navarrosa. “I play again tomorrow. I haven't made it this far, and I think my game is the best where it's been in a very long time, so I'm very happy with that.”
The remaining quarterfinalists are 21-year-old Monet Chun of Canada, a 4-and-3 winner over Julia Gregg of Farmers Branch, Texas; 17-year-old Saki Baba of Japan, who defeated Aneka Seumanutafa of Emmitsburg, Md.; 16-year-old Leigh Chien of Irvine, Calif., who was a surprise winner over World No. 13 Rachel Kuehn; and 17-year-old Bailey Shoemaker of Dade City, Fla., who defeated Amari Avery, 2 up.
The Quarterfinals begin at 2:30 p.m. PT on Friday. Golf Channel will broadcast live from 4-7 p.m. PT (7-10 p.m. ET).
“I really do enjoy match play. I played the North and South a few weeks ago and then played a couple match play events in Ontario, so that definitely did help. Then just this course, I think being able to use the slopes and making a couple putts is important.” – Monet Chun of Canada, on what she is enjoying about the experience this week.
“It’s my first time here. I watched the U.S. Open and I watched the highlights before I came. I'm from Ireland, and we have a lot of links play, and it's certainly very linksy. When I played the practice round, it kind of suited my eye, so it felt good.” – Annabel Wilson of Ireland, on her comfort level with Chambers Bay
“Physically it's a little taxing, especially out here. It's a tiny bit hilly. And then you add in injuries, it gets a little bit tough. But mentally, just keep up the snacks, the go-go squeezes, the fruit snacks, and when you're having fun, it really does go by fast. Just try to enjoy it while you still can.” – Catherine Rao, on the mental and physical challenges of a long week
“He’s actually a course caddie. His name is Chel. He's been incredible. The experience he's had on this course has helped – it’s been amazing having him on the bag. I'm actually staying with him tonight because I only booked my AirBNB through Thursday. I won yesterday, and I'm like, hey Chel, do you have a guest room by any chance?” – Lauren Lehigh, on how her caddie has been helping her this week