ELITE FIELD TO BATTLE FOR 111TH NORTH & SOUTH WOMEN’S AMATEUR CROWN
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – A year ago, former NCAA Champion and U.S. Amateur semifinalist Austin Ernst clipped Doris Chen, one of the top college players in the world, 2 & 1, to win the 110th North & South Women’s Amateur.
Since then, both players have continued on considerable career trajectories. Ernst qualified for and is now a full member of the LPGA Tour at just 21 years old. Chen, who was also the North & South Women’s runner-up in 2011, teamed with Southern Cal to win the NCAA Championship this season in her sophomore year.
While Ernst is playing golf for a living now (and she’s won nearly $89,000 in earnings after contending in the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic this week), Chen continues to rise up the amateur ranks. (Chen is ranked third in the world by GolfWeek.)
And now Chen is back for the 111th North & South and gunning for her first championship in a tournament that seems tailor made for her.
So Chen is the obvious favorite to win in 2013, right?
Because the 111th North & South Women’s Amateur field is…LOADED.*
(*NOTE: It’s loaded EVERY year. SEVEN of the last 10 champions are on the LPGA Tour, including Yani Tseng, who beat Morgan Pressel (the 2004 champion) in 2005 before going on to win six LPGA majors – and counting. Even just last season, Moriya Jutanugarn advanced into match play before running into Ernst. All Mo has done since? Won the LPGA qualifying tournament and so far has banked more than $203,000 in her rookie season. So, yeah, maybe you’ll want to come out and watch this week.)
The tournament begins on Tuesday with three rounds of stroke play on Pinehurst No. 4. The championship then shifts to Donald Ross’s famed Pinehurst No. 2, the host of back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014, as the Top 16 players vie for the championship in match play.
Here’s a look at just a few of the contenders in this year’s championship:
20, Bradenton, Fla.
Southern Cal, Junior
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Where do you start? OK, so she’s a two-time runner-up at the North & South. Good start. Even better? She’s qualified for and played in the last three U.S. Women’s Opens (2014 in Pinehurst, anyone?), making the cut last month. Better than that? No. 3-ranked amateur in the world. A member of the Southern Cal national championship team (more on that later), Chen won the 2012 Pac-12 Individual championship and finished 15th overall in the NCAAs in 2013. Last month, Chen was the co-medalist at the U.S. Women’s Public Links (more on that later as well), reaching the final before falling to Lauren Diaz-Yi. (More on that later, too. Beginning to sense a pattern at how strong this field is yet?) Chen also played in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, another LPGA Tour major. Chen also won the 2010 U.S. Girls Junior Amateur. Chen was fifth after stroke play on Pinehurst No. 8 last year. We could go on and on, but you get the picture. (Note: Chen is nursing a wrist injury, and will make a final decision on whether she will indeed be able to play.)
18, Levittown, N.Y.
College: Southern Cal, Sophomore
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: She’s the best collegiate player in women’s golf. Park had as dominant of a debut as possible in collegiate golf as a 2013 freshman, leading top-ranked USC (along with Doris Chen) to its third NCAA team title while winning four individual events en route to 2013 WGCA and Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year honors as well as the Honda Sports Award. Park capped her incredible freshman season by winning the 2013 NCAA Women’s Golf individual title by six strokes with a 10-under 278 (70-67-70-71). The win was her fourth of the season (tying a USC season record) and followed titles at the NCAA West Regional and the Pac-12 Championships, making her just the second NCAA woman to sweep conference, regional and NCAA titles in the same season. Park’s stroke average of 71.36 broke USC’s season record (71.55) and her four wins tied the school record shared by Trojan All-Americans Mikaela Parmlid and Irene Cho. An early enrollee who joined the Trojans in January, Park posted seven top 8 finishes and six in the top 3 in nine events. Park was also the co-medalist at the U.S. Women’s Publinx with…Doris Chen. Park has also played in the last two U.S. Women’s Opens. Park was the first girl to win the 2012 Nassau Boys High School Championship (winning by six strokes).
17, Milledgeville, Ga.
College: Rising freshman at Clemson
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: No. 2 ranked amateur in world according to GolfWeek…Enters North & South off 2-shot win at Women’s Eastern Amateur, which is played on the Kingsmill River Course in Williamsburg, Va., site of one of the season’s top annual LPGA Tour events…Has won three straight tournaments – Eastern Am, Western National Am and Georgia Women’s Match Play…Also has finishes of second, third and fifth this season…Made the cut at 2013 LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship, a major…Ranked only behind teen golfing sensation Lydia Ko and one spot ahead of Doris Chen, and is the United States’ top-ranked amateur, according to GolfWeek…Won medalist honors to qualify for U.S. Women’s Amateur…2012 U.S. Women’s Publinx runner-up.
18, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
College: Rising freshman at Virginia
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Well, because she beat Chen. And beat her soundly. Diaz-Yi was just 25th after the stroke play portion of the U.S. Women’s Publinx last month, but she throttled Chen in the 36-hole match play final 10 & 9. The margin of victory was the largest in the 37-year history of the event.
17, Orlando, Fla.
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: She’s one of the top juniors in the world, ranked 12th on GolfWeek’s junior girls ranking in July…Won the Florida Junior Tour at Brooksville in January by a staggering 12 shots…Qualified for the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at 14 years old and was the youngest player in that field…That qualifier was played at nearby Carolina Trace in Sanford…Made cut at 2013 U.S. Women’s Open…Has six top-5 finishes in last seven junior events, including the win and two runner-ups.
19, Riverdale, Ga.
College: Stanford Sophomore
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Stackhouse is one of the rising stars in women’s collegiate golf. She won twice (Juli Inkster Spartan Invite and the Peg Barnard Invitational) and was seventh or better in four other events. Qualified for the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open after winning her sectional qualifier. Finished third at the 2013 Pac-12 Championship as a freshman and was 14th at the NCAA West Regional and 29th in the NCAA Championship. Had eight top 10s this season and recorded eight of the nine lowest rounds for Stanford this year. Born in Charlotte, N.C.
College: Florida (senior season completed)
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: One of the top players in the SEC…Lendl reached the 2010 North & South semifinals and the Round of 16 a year ago… Youngest player to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at the age of 12…All-SEC Second Team in 2010, 2013…Won three times in 2012…Won the 2013 Dixie Amateur, beating Yueer “Cindy” Feng by four shots…Coming off 9th-place finish at Women’s Eastern Amateur…Daughter of tennis great Ivan Lendl.
College: UC-Davis (senior season completed)
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Three-time Big West Player of the Year led nationally ranked UC-Davis…Won the 2013 Big South Championship and was second in four other events…Also won the Golfweek Conference Challenge this season.
College: Notre Dame Junior
SHE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: She almost won the 2012 North & South, falling 3 & 2 to Ernst in the semifinals…Won the 2012 Big East Championship…Won twice this season (Briar’s Creek Invitational and Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate)…Finished 5th at 2013 Big East Championship…Appeared in 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Joining Chen, Lendl and Armstrong as one of six players returning this season after reaching the Round of 16 in match play a year ago: Georgia’s Kailey Walsh (4thin stroke play, reached quarterfinals), Columbia’s Michelle Piyapattra (T7, Round of 16); UNC Wilmington’s Lori Beth Adams (T5, reached quarterfinals). Also, Cary’s Sarah Bae (three-time N.C. Junior Player of the year, 4-A State Champion, 2010 North & South Girls Champion); Canada’s Brooke Henderson, just 15, made the cut at the 2013 U.S. Open, tying for 59th after firing a 1-under 71 in the first round.