U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
By David Shefter, USGA
Alexa Saldana (left) and Savannah Barber are one of two sides in the field at The Home Course to win this championship. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
The USGA’s championship season has arrived. Between now and early October, 15 national championships will be staged. And it all begins on Saturday when the 8th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship commences at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash., a public facility jointly owned and operated by the Washington State Golf Association and Pacific Northwest Golf Association.
Each of the 64 sides (128 players) will play two stroke-play rounds over the weekend with the low 32 sides advancing to match play on Monday. A side must win five 18-hole matches over a three-day period to win the title.
The two most recent pairs of champions are in the field, including defending champs Thienna Huynh and Sara Im, a pair of Georgia teenagers who won the title last April in Puerto Rico. Huynh just completed her freshman year at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, while Im is headed to Vanderbilt this fall.
Savannah Barber and Alexa Saldana, of Texas and Mexico, respectively, claimed the title in 2021 at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas. Both just completed their freshman year, Barber at the University of Oklahoma and Saldana at the University of Houston.
As Gonzaga University teammates Grace Lee and Taylor Mularski – the only side in the field from the home state – prepare to hit the opening tee shots of the 2023 competition on Saturday, here are 3 Things to Know about the championship:
There is no shortage of young talent competing at The Home Course. It starts with last year’s runners-up Kaitlyn Schroeder and Bailey Shoemaker. Schroeder, a three-time American Junior Golf Association All-American from Jacksonville, Fla., enrolled at the University of Alabama in January but didn’t compete in a spring tournament. She was the AJGA’s Player of the Year for 2022, winning the Girls Junior PGA Championship and the Rolex Tournament of Champions, and representing the USA in the 2021 Junior Solheim Cup. Shoemaker, a transplanted Floridian (born in New York) who made the cut in the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open (T-49), is set to play at the University of Southern California this fall. She also played in the 2021 Junior Solheim Cup, and she has competed in three Epson Tour events this year, finishing no worse than a tie for 30th.
Gianna Clemente, another transplanted Floridian (born in Ohio), was the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and then Monday-qualified for three LPGA Tour events late last summer. The 15-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® in the past year, checking in at No. 46 entering the championship. She and partner Avery Zweig, 16, of McKinney, Texas, reached the semifinals a year ago in Puerto Rico. Zweig won the 2021 Annika Invitational in Orlando, Fla., at the age of 14.
Anna Davis, 17, of Spring Valley, Calif., made headlines in 2022 when she captured the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The left-hander, who has committed to play at Auburn in 2024, followed up the ANWA victory by winning the 2021 Girls Junior PGA Championship and representing the USA in the 2021 Junior Solheim Cup. She is partnering with Kiara Romero, 17, of San Jose, Calif., who is headed to the University of Oregon this fall. Romero defeated medalist Saki Baba in the Round of 32 of last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, a month before the Japanese sensation captured the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
And Angela Zhang, 14, of Bellevue, Wash., survived a 4-for-2 playoff earlier in the week in Pittsburgh, Pa., to qualify for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. Her partner, Alice Ziyi Zhao, 14, of Irvine, Calif., shared medalist honors in last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay, a short drive from The Home Course.
Only one side can boast of competing in every U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball: Meghan Stasi, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dawn Woodard, 48, of Greenville, S.C. Even more remarkable is the duo has had to qualify for nearly every one of them. Then again, these are two of the more accomplished mid-amateurs of the last 20 years. Stasi owns four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles (tied with Ellen Port for the most) and competed on the 2008 USA Curtis Cup Team. Stasi was recently chosen by the USGA to captain the team that will look to retain the Cup next year at Sunningdale in England.
Woodard doesn’t own a USGA title but has been medalist in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur three times and is a three-time quarterfinalist. This is her 32nd USGA competition.
Fourteen sides in the field are comprised of current or past college teammates. The list includes the likes of golf powers Stanford, Wake Forest and South Carolina.
But the conference with the most duos might surprise a few: the Ivy League. Yes, the conference better known for Nobel Prize winners (495) than golf All-Americans leads the way with three, including a pair of teams from Yale.
The Bulldogs are represented by the sides of Ami Gianchandani, of Watchung, N.J., and Kaitlyn Lee, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; and Alexis Kim, of Irvine, Calif., and Sophie Simon, of Potomac, Md.
Dartmouth senior Samantha Yao, of Berwyn, Pa., competed in the 2021 championship with former Big Green teammate Kaitlyn Lees (who transferred to Georgetown), while last fall Yao qualified for the 2023 competition with Dartmouth junior Katherine Sung, of Palo Alto, Calif.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.
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