(CHULA VISTA, Calif.) – Shannon Aubert, 21, of France, earned medalist honors by posting a near-record 36-hole total in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the par-72, 6,423-yard San Diego Country Club.
After playing in challenging conditions on Monday afternoon, Aubert who started on No.10, took advantage of her morning start with four birdies over her first six holes. Her first bogey came on the par-5 16th, but she quickly answered with a birdie on the 324-yard 17th. She would add three more birdies over her last nine holes, before the California winds picked up in the afternoon.
“It's definitely easier without the wind,” said Aubert, who helped her team win the 2015 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship and reach the semifinals this past season. “One less factor on this tough course. The greens were a tiny bit faster, so I rolled a couple putts a little farther back than I had anticipated. But, it definitely is a little easier to play, so that's why I think toward the back nine when the wind started picking up, that's when I started making less birdies and had to make some putts for par.”
Aubert’s 66 tied for the third-lowest 18-hole score in championship history. After her round, Aubert was unaware of her feats, despite having 14 birdies over the past two days.
“I didn't know that. That's very, very cool,” said Aubert. “It's nice to be part of something [like that]."
A member of the French national team, she will now be the No. 1 seed for match play, which begins Wednesday. Aubert also knows she can’t be satisfied with being medalist. All 64 players in match play begin with a fresh slate, and she needs to win six consecutive matches to hoist the Robert Cox Trophy on Sunday.
“I have today to cherish it, and then tomorrow realize it's a brand-new championship,” said Aubert. “Whether you finish first, 30th, 64th, you're in it, and it's back to square one, and it's just respecting the players and the golf.”
The 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association, is open to female amateur golfers with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 5.4. It consists of two 18-hole rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday.
The cut for match play came at 6-over 150 with 11 playing off for the final eight spots in the 64-player draw. After two playoff holes, Tatiana Wijaya, Tze Han Lin, Elizabeth Bose and Rinko Mitsunaga advanced, while Lois Kaye Go and Maria Balcazar were eliminated. Five others - Anne Taylor Hough, Mia Landegren, Latanna Stone, Chia Yen Wu and Samantha Hutchison - will return to San Diego Country Club at 7 a.m. PDT Wednesday to resume the playoff for the final four spots.
Julianne Alvarez, 21, of New Zealand, finished four strokes behind Aubert, while a pair of Southern Californians: Haley Moore, 18, of nearby Escondido, and Stephanie Lau, 20, of Fullerton, tied for third at 4-under 140.
Alvarez, a rising junior at the University of Washington who also played in the morning wave on Tuesday, carded six birdies and two bogeys in posting a 4-under 68 to share the second-lowest round of the day with Lau and Lauren Stephenson, 20, of Lexington, S.C. Playing in her first USGA championship, Alvarez began her birdie run on the 15th hole after opening with five consecutive pars. She added another birdie on the par-5 16th, then recorded four birdies against two bogeys on her second nine.
“My first birdie of the day, I didn't actually use my putter. I chipped in on [hole] 15,” said Alvarez, who helped the Huskies win the 2016 NCAA title. “And then on 16, I drained a 40-footer, so I was like, well, this is going to be a good day. And continued that rhythm on the [outward] nine and holed some pretty good downhill sliders, which can be pretty tough on this golf course."
Round 1 co-leaders Moore and 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion Kristen Gillman, of Austin, Texas, both struggled to match their Monday efforts in the challenging afternoon conditions that saw wind gusts of nearly 20 mph.
Moore, a rising junior at the University of Arizona, who advanced to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, had three birdies against four bogeys.
“I knew that there would be bogeys out there with this wind,” said Moore, who tied for second individually in the 2016 NCAA Championship. “I'd tell myself just to stay calm because there's a bunch of holes left. I came back with a birdie [on the par-5 eighth], which probably could have been an eagle, but then just stayed steady after that.”
Gillman shot 4-over 76 Tuesday, nine strokes more than her first-round 67. She shot 2 over on each nine with five bogeys and one birdie total.
After finishing even-par 72 on Monday, Lau started her second round with three consecutive birdies, which gave her a boost of confidence. The rising junior at Northwestern University finished with six birdies and two bogeys.
“I was just thinking about hitting good shots into the green,” said Lau, the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. “Knowing that yesterday I left some out there, I was excited to get back out and get some more birdies.”
Last year’s runner-up, Virginia Elena Carta, of Italy, was undeterred by some dizzy spells she faced earlier in the day and moved forward with rounds of 76 and 69 to finish at 1-over 145.
“I'm still dizzy. I'm not feeling very well,” said the 2016 NCAA individual champion. “But my caddie and I fought for a spot into the top 64. That was the goal, and then tomorrow starts a new tournament. We'll see. I'm excited for how I played today.”
The youngest competitor in both the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateurs, 12-year-old Alexa Pano, of Lake Worth, Fla., posted an even-par 72 on Tuesday to qualify for match play with a 1-under 143. In 2016, she failed to advance.
Pano, who advanced to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, isn’t worried about match play. She simply hopes her putting improves before her opening match.
“I might go practice some putting,” said Pano, an eight-time winner of the IMG Junior World Championship. “It's been definitely an issue for the past two days. But tomorrow is a new day, and maybe it'll be a bit better.”
Other notables to qualify include 2017 U.S. Girls' Junior champion Erica Shepard, of Greenwood, Ind., who posted a 3-over 147, and 2016 U.S. Women's Amateur medalist Mariel Galdiano, of Pearl City, Hawaii, who carded a 1-under 143.
The four mid-amateurs in the field, however, did not qualify for match play, including four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi (151). Other notables to miss the cut include 2015 Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan (164); 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief (151); 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion Mika Liu (153); and 2016 Ladies British Open Amateur champion Julia Engstrom, of Sweden.
The championship’s first hole-in-one in seven years was registered by Julia Gregg, of Farmer’s Branch, Texas, on the 189-yard third hole with a 4-iron.
The match-play rounds of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship will be broadcast on FS1 (Fox Sports 1). Coverage will be from 3-6 p.m. PDT Wednesday through Friday; Saturday from 4-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. Exclusive bonus coverage will be streamed live on usga.org on Thursday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30-11:30 a.m.