Aspiring stars flock to Los Angeles from all over the world in their quest for glory. Briana Chacon only had to travel 30 miles. The Whittier, Calif., native shattered the U.S. Women’s Amateur 36-hole scoring record, following her opening 66 with a sizzling 65 to earn medalist honors at Bel-Air Country Club.
Chacon’s two-day total of 131 is two better than the previous record, originally set by Mariel Galdiano in 2016 and matched by Lucy Li and Selin Hyun two years later. Andrea Lignell also shot 133 this year.
“Wow, I did not know that,” said Chacon, 21, a graduate student at the University of Oregon. “It's an honor and I'm just so thankful to be here this week with all my family and friends. I’m lucky that it's so close to my hometown, so I'm just really excited.”
Starting on the 10th hole, Chacon began with three consecutive pars, then rolled in birdies on three of her next four holes and went out in 31 – nearly 5-and-a-half strokes better than the scoring average on the more challenging back nine.
After the turn, Chacon eagled the par-5 first hole, then offset a bogey at No. 2 with a birdie at the par-3 fifth. A two-putt par on the ninth sealed the record.
Chacon’s record was nearly matched by Lignell on Tuesday afternoon, but the 22-year-old Swede settled for a 5-under 65 after a double bogey on No. 18.
The rising fifth-year senior from the University of Mississippi sprinted out of the gate with seven birdies over her first 15 holes but hit her drive into the bunker on the par-4 18th, eventually three-putting for a disappointing 6.
“Today was really solid,” said Lignell, who finished third at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April. “I was really good off the tee. I think I missed the fairway once and I just made a lot of those 10-to-15-foot putts that are really important to make if you want to shoot a low score.”
Gianna Clemente, 15, of Estero, Fla., continued her torrid summer with a 5-under 65 in Round 2 to earn the No. 3 seed. Clemente won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in April with partner Avery Zweig, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior last month and won the Junior PGA Championship last week.
On Tuesday, she bogeyed the 11th (her second hole), then made four birdies and an eagle the rest of the way.
“I started off with a bogey yesterday as well on my second hole,” said Clemente. “I just reminded myself that there's a lot of golf left. There are a lot of birdie holes left. I know that in my opinion, starting on the back is a lot more difficult. I made birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, then the eagle on No. 1 was pretty big to kind of keep the momentum going.”
Katie Cranston finished four back of Chacon, using a late front-nine run to earn the No. 4 seed. The 19-year-old from Canada made back-to-back eagles on Nos. 7 and 8, followed by a birdie on the ninth to power her 2-under 68 on Tuesday.
“It was crazy,” said Cranston, a rising sophomore at Auburn University. “The funny thing was after my round yesterday, those were the two holes, seven and eight, that I talked through with my coach here because I didn't really like my game plan. And then today, I don't know, everything went perfectly.”
Using a 58-degree wedge, Cranston holed out from 90 yards on the par-4 seventh hole, then hit a 5-iron to within 2 feet at the par-5 eighth for a kick-in eagle.
Others to advance to match play include Round 1 co-leader and UCLA rising junior Caroline Canales, reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Kiara Romero, 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Yana Wilson and the No. 4 ranked player in World Amateur Golf Ranking, Anna Davis.
The cut for match play came at 4-over 144. A 10-for-9 playoff to determine the last match play spots will begin at 7 a.m. PT on Wednesday. The competitors include 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Jensen Castle and Charlotte Cantonis, of Tampa, Fla., who made a 25-foot birdie on her final hole to join the playoff.
The Round of 64 will take place on Wednesday, with tee times beginning at 9 a.m. PT and continuing through 2:10 p.m. The Round of 64 will be broadcast live on Golf Channel from 3-6 p.m. PT.
Stroke-play medalists have had minimal success in the match-play portion of the championship in recent years. The No. 64 seed has knocked off the No. 1 seed six times in the last nine years, and only two medalists have advanced to the quarterfinals since 2010.
One of the biggest turnarounds in the championship belonged to Amanda Sambach, 20, of Pinehurst, N.C. The rising junior at the University of Virginia was 6 over through 16 holes, then closed with two birdies on Monday and made seven more birdies on Tuesday, firing a 4-under 66 to advance to match play.
For the second consecutive year, former UCLA golfer Aliea Clark, 27, of New York, N.Y., is the only mid-amateur (age 25 and older) to make match play. The two-time runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur shot rounds of 72-71.
Rachel Heck, 21, of Memphis, Tenn., advanced to match play for the fifth time in seven U.S. Women’s Amateur appearances. The two-time USA Curtis Cup Team member had limited preparation for this year’s championship due to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in March and 18 days of ROTC field training in late July.
Five members of the 2022 USA Curtis Cup Team advanced to match play: Heck, Rachel Kuehn, Megha Ganne, Latanna Stone and Amari Avery. Jensen Castle, the 2021 champion, could join that group if she survives the 10-for-9 playoff on Wednesday morning.
For the second consecutive day, Bel-Air’s back nine (+2.41) played significantly more difficult than the front nine (+0.68). Five of the six most difficult holes were on the back nine.
“He knows the course really, really well. We've been good friends with him and he's just been helping me so much this past week. I probably couldn't do without him.” – Briana Chacon on 2000 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and former Bel-Air caddie Greg Puga, who is her caddie this week
“One thing that college really helped me with is match play because other than college and at the U.S. Am a couple of years ago, I'd never really played in match play. So just kind of having some tools in my bag on how to play match play rather than stroke play, maybe be a little bit more aggressive, sometimes, not so cautious. But yeah, definitely both of those experiences have given me a lot of insight, but also a lot of confidence to kind of show me that I belong a little better out here.” – Katie Cranston on her experience with match play
“I really love match play more than stroke play. I do like knowing with match play, like if I need to make this putt, I can just try to ram it in or be a little more aggressive. That is how I tend to play anyway so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.” – Malia Nam on the change in formats, starting tomorrow
“When I played when I was 11, I don't think there was much expectation. It was just kind of a surprise to qualify. Now, I've changed as a player and as a person so much. I think the amount of experience I've gained since then has been really big and I've played so many USGA events since then. I feel like a completely different person for sure.” – Gianna Clemente on how she’s evolved since first qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2019
“I think L.A. has this aura about it that makes people excited to come. A lot of the USGA events are on the East Coast that I've played, so having it in L.A. is a special treat for us. I think everyone's really enjoying coming out here. I have gotten some questions on restaurants and fun things to do, like going to the Santa Monica Pier and stuff like that, so it’s been fun.” – Calabasas resident and rising UCLA junior Caroline Canales on having the championship in Southern California
“I was going to have my coach as my caddie but he needed to go on a recruiting trip so I just decided to go on my own. We do it in college every day, so I'm used to it.” – Andrea Lignell on carrying her own bag in Round 2
Michael Trostel is the USGA’s director of video storytelling. Email him at email@example.com