Medals were handed out to a pair of sides late Thursday afternoon at Grand Reserve Golf Club for topping the 64-team field in the stroke-play portion of the 7th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship – but all four players know that much more is on the line starting on Friday.
“Being a medalist just proves to us that we really have a chance of winning,” said Leigh Chien, 16, who partnered with Anna Huang, 13. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into match play.”
Chloe Kovelesky, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Yana Wilson, of Henderson, Nev., both 15, who shared the first-round lead on Wednesday, overcame a double-bogey start to card a 3-under-par 69 for a 36-hole total of 10-under 134. A few groups later, Chien, of Irvine, Calif., and Huang, of Canada, posted a 68 to match that 10-under total. That was good enough for them to share medalist honors by one stroke.
Wilson, a two-time Drive, Chip and Putt national champion, and Kovelesky, a past DCP national finalist who qualified for the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, quickly shook off their opening blemish to register birdies on four of their next six holes.
“We did something that wasn’t very smart,” said Kovelesky. “I picked up my putt for bogey and then she three-putted, but we bounced back after that.”
Indeed, they did.
Battling through a second day of breezy conditions, the duo played 1-under golf – 10 pars and a birdie on No. 15 – over their final 11 holes to provide some momentum going into the Round of 32 of match play.
“As long as we’re inside the cut line that’s all that matters,” said Wilson, who is No. 53 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® and won the 2022 Hilton Garden Vacations Annika Invitational by holing out from the fairway for an eagle.
Although Chien, a high school sophomore, and Huang, a seventh grader, saw their bogey-free streak end at 29 holes with a 5 on the 404-yard 12th hole, the two past DCP finalists rebounded to birdie three of their last four holes.
“We got our momentum going on 15 and then just kept it up,” said Huang.
The two met at last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., where Huang was the youngest competitor, and then Huang’s family relocated from Canada to Southern California and joined Chien’s club, Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club.
Yilin (Angela) Liu, 16, of Irvine, Calif.; and Charissa Shang, 18, of Calabasas, Calif., made eight birdies en route to the day’s low round, a 6-under 66, for a total of 9-under 135. They shared third with a pair of 15-year-olds from New Jersey, Megan Meng, of Pennington, and Angelina Tolentino, of Mount Laurel, who shot a 67 in Round 2.
First-round co-leaders LoraLie Cowart, 19, of Winston, Ga., and Ava Merrill, 17, of Johns Creek, Ga., finished fifth at 8-under 136 following a second-round 71.
This is the first USGA championship being contested in a U.S. territory. The Puerto Rico Golf Association is one of 58 Allied Golf Associations supported by the USGA.
Match play for the 32 sides who advanced begins on Friday, followed by the Round of 16 and quarterfinals on Saturday. The semifinals and 18-hole championship match will be contested on Sunday.
“We were focused on not screwing up on the same hole, trying not to make many mistakes and keeping with our game plan.” – Leigh Chen on her philosophy with partner Anna Huang
“I don’t think we really knew what we needed, but we knew birdie was going to help. Because who wants to be in a playoff?” – Meghan Stasi on partner Dawn Woodard’s birdie on the par-5 18th hole that got them into the match-play draw
“I think we met our expectations. We’ve played together for a while. We’ve play played against each other. So for the limited amount of golf that both of us have had recently, we’re perfectly happy with 5-under  with this wind and these conditions.” – two-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Julia Potter-Bobb on advancing to match play with fellow Women’s Mid-Am champ Kelsey Chugg
“I think we’re both shaking the rust off. This is her second competitive round, and this is my fourth this year, so we’re still kind of figuring out how to play golf again. But we’re getting there.” – Chugg