The U.S. Women’s Amateur never disappoints. It was, once again, a college-golf preview at San Diego Country Club this year. Here’s what I took out of it as amateur season becomes college season:
Chia Yen Wu is an eighth grader.
I teach eighth graders for a living, so I know that age group well. Wu’s sheer endurance in surviving an 11-for-8 playoff, turning around to take down a No. 2 seed (Julianne Alvarez) eight years her senior, then outlasting a past champion in this event (Kristen Gillman) is something you don’t see every day. I can’t wait to see her progress.
Lucy Li looks like the real deal.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a player who we first meet in a USGA championship as “that 11-year-old” really has staying power. There are so many 11- and 12-year-olds running around in amateur championships now (16 of the 156 players at San Diego Country Club were 15 or younger). This week, however, Li’s 6-and-5 defeat of Bethany Wu, a one-time semifinalist in this event and general match-play stalwart, really impressed me. Li made seven birdies. Wu never even had a chance.
Stanford wins the player count.
As always, the Women’s Amateur was a showcase for college golf’s top players. I always think it’s interesting when a college team can claim four or five players. But this year, Stanford had ties to six (even though that number includes 15-year-old commit Rachel Heck). It’s a great advertisement for the Cardinal, and says a lot about what their upcoming season could look like.
Can we talk about Albane Valenzuela?
This one is the real deal. A collegian, an Olympian, a real class act, and one of those Stanford players. She was graceful in defeat, and took down a whole lineup of college golf’s top players on the way to the final: Kent State’s Wad Phaewchimplee, Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight, Northwestern’s Stephanie Lau, USC’s Robynn Ree and UCLA’s Lilia Kha-Tu Vu.
Sophia Schubert is a first-class champion.
Schubert is kind of like the Hideki Matsuyama of women’s amateur golf. The focus of her interviews always seemed to be all about her putting struggles (specifically, speed and reads), yet she kept on getting it done. I think this quote about her University of Texas coach and caddie Ryan Murphy was my favorite: “I feel like I hold myself to a really high standard, and I am my biggest critic, and that sometimes is not very good. I mean, Coach, I think he thinks my swing was a little better than it actually was.”
It was refreshing to also see Schubert so appreciative of the opportunities that lay ahead with this victory. It was clearly a family victory for this thoughtful kid. I’ll watch Texas women’s golf with real interest this year, especially because the Longhorns are also adding freshman Agathe Laisne, who won the European Ladies Amateur earlier this summer. All of a sudden, Texas looks really good.