Pair of Wildcats, Hou and Castle, in duel for Women’s Am Crown

By on August 8, 2021 0

Pair of Wildcats, Hou and Castle, in duel for Women’s Am Crown

Jensen Castle continued his remarkable run in Saturday’s semifinals with a 19-hole victory over Rachel Heck. (Darren Carroll / USGA)

Cinderella still dances at the Westchester Country Club.

Jensen Castle junior of the University of Kentucky, the No.63 seed who survived a 12-on-2 playoff Tuesday to advance to match play, knocked out the No. 2 world and reigning NCAA champion Rachel Heck in a 19-hole semifinal thriller on Saturday afternoon to earn a spot in Sunday’s 36-hole championship game of the 121st US Women’s Amateur Championship.

Castle, 20, of West Columbia, SC, will face another Wildcat, University of Arizona All-American Yu-Chiang (Vivian) Hou, 20, of Chinese Taipei, for the right to add his name to the list of legends on the Robert Trophée Cox.

Hou, the Women’s Golf Coaches Association’s 2020 freshman of the year, survived Michigan State’s sophomore Valentina Rossi of Argentina, 2nd ahead, in the another semi-final.

If Castle wins, she would be the third No.63 seed to win a USGA title, after Clay Ogden (2005 US Amateur Public Links) and Steven Fox (2012 US Amateur). She is the first University of Kentucky golfer to reach the final.

“I always forget I’m the 63rd seed,” said Castle, who has struggled with a rib injury most of the summer. “I feel like the seeds are irrelevant once you are in match play. It’s everyone’s game. I’m just glad the doctor said I can play.

His opponent for the championship game, Hou, is also recovering from an injury. A partially torn labrum in his left hip has prevented Hou from playing competitive golf since the NCAA ended in Scottsdale, Ariz. In late May. But she’s clearly rediscovering her pace and is now Arizona’s first golfer to reach the championship game since her head coach Laura (Myerscough) Ianello in 2000 at the Waverly Country Club in Portland, Oregon, where she lost to Marcy Newton. , 8 and 7.

Heck, 19, of Memphis, Tenn., Who wanted to join Vicki Goetze (1992) as the only player to win the NCAA and US Women’s Amateur titles that same year, looked set to join her rival from the Pacific-12 Conference in the championship game. She had a 2-point lead over 15 holes after hitting a 35-foot chip stroke for a birdie.

But after finding a bunker on the green on the 16th par-3 that led to a bogey (Castle doubled for one by winning), Heck suddenly found himself with a precarious lead of 1 with two to go. The two tied No.17 and Heck reached the closing hole of par 5 in regulation time. With Castle in the par, Heck, who missed his birdie attempt, had a 4 foot par to close the game. Heck, a rising sophomore at Stanford University, put the putt wrong for just her second bogey of the game.

“I thought she won,” Castle of Heck putt said at 18. “I couldn’t believe she missed it. When I knew she gave me that opportunity, I was like ‘Alright, I made a birdie [No. 10] sooner I will birdie again, and I chased it. “

With new life – and self-confidence – Castle, with honor and added adrenaline, made a drive just before the green and to the right of a bunker on the 274-yard 19th green. Heck took his drive slightly to the left of the raw green.

Playing first, Heck’s shot stopped 12 feet from the flag. Castle, whose ball was in the intermediate cup, missed 15 feet. It looked like Heck had the upper hand. Focused on the laser, Castle executed the birdie putt perfectly, but showed no emotion. Heck still had a chance to continue the game, but the ball hit the right back end of the hole and went out.

“It’s tough, but I mean, I played a good hole in the playoffs,” said Heck, who will then travel to Wales to represent the United States in the Curtis Cup squad, from August 26 to 28. “She hit the putt, and I don’t know how I missed it. It was a good shot. “

Hou, who briefly held first in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking® / WAGR® before dropping to her current position of 21, had not played the 17th and 18th holes since the last round of stroke play on Tuesday. That wouldn’t be the case against left-hander Rossi, as it was a close game throughout.

Hou took a lead of 2 with a 12-foot birdie over No.10, but errors on No.13 and 15 – she misdirected the latter in the fescue leading to a double bogey 6 – a allowed Rossi to equalize the match.

On # 17, Rossi’s approach from the fairway crossed the green into deep rough. Two strokes later, she finally conceded Hou’s par to go down 1 on the downside. On the 18th, Hou split the fairway but Rossi pushed his drive to the left. After hitting, Rossi hit his third shot just over the green. Seeing that his opponent was facing a difficult fourth shot, Hou could have taken the conservative lane by playing in the middle of the green. Instead, she aimed to death with a pitching wedge 96 yards, stopping the ball 5 feet from the flag.

When Rossi hit his fourth and missed his fifth hole, Spartan conceded the hole and the game.

“I’m not nervous, but I knew there was nothing I could do if it was because of my bad shot,” Hou said of her emotions ahead. “So I’m just trying to focus more on my shot by shot and trying to hit the greens and then get back to my normal routine.”

And after

Sunday’s 36-hole championship game will begin at 8 am EDT and resume after a noon break around 1:30 pm Golf Channel has live coverage starting at 2 pm ET.


Both finalists are exempt from the 2022 Women’s US Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Resort in Southern Pines, NC, June 2-5. The champion also enjoys exemptions for the next 10 US Women’s Amateurs, while the runner-up earns a three-year exemption.

Three tees were significantly advanced to the semi-finals. The seventh par 4, with one of the most difficult green complexes on the west course, was 285 meters, or 24 meters less than the posted distance. The 10th hole in par 4 only played 274 yards, or 28 yards more than par, and the 16th in par 3 played 23 yards shorter (168 yards).

Yu-Chiang (Vivian) Hou became the fourth University of Arizona golfer to qualify for the championship game, but hopes to be the first to win the Robert Cox Trophy. Besides Laura (Myerscough) Ianello’s loss in 2000, Marisa Baena (1996) and Annika Sorenstam (1992) also lost in the 36-hole final.

Hou may be the third University of Arizona golfer to win a USGA title in 2021, joining Jim Furyk (US Senior Open) and Sorenstam (US Senior Women’s Open).

Ianello plans to come from Arizona to watch the final. It was a promise she made to Hou after reaching the quarter-finals.

A victory for Jensen Castle would secure him a place in the 2021 Curtis Cup USA squad which will seek to retain the cup in Wales from August 26-28. World number 1 Rose Zhang, Rachel Heck and Allisen Corpuz have already been named one of WAGR’s top three Americans. The rest of the eight-woman squad are expected to be named in the coming days.

by David Shefter, USGA

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