In match play, all you are guaranteed is that day’s match. You can believe you will advance to the next day, but you truly don’t know for sure until the last putt drops… or it doesn’t. 

That’s how it went for me in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship held at Old Waverly Golf Club in Westpoint, Mississippi. 

It all came down to the 18th hole. I had gotten to the round of 32 and had a gut feeling that this was the championship I would walk away victorious with the Robert Cox Trophy in my hand. I was up against Albane Valenzuela, a standout player from Switzerland. I lead the match all day until the 17th hole. Albane caught fire in the final stretch of the match birdieing three of the last four holes. I stood on the 18th tee one down, knowing I would need a birdie or luck to go my way. 

The last hole at Old Waverly is one of the prettiest yet most challenging. Off the tee, there is water all down the left side cutting in on the right just by the landing area. On the others side of the fairway from where the water cuts in sits a bunker positioned to shrink the landing area.  The ideal shot for me was to take a three wood and hit a fade working away from the water and landing just short of the bunker. 

I had hit that shot perfectly all week. I walked up to the tee in total confidence that I could dominate this difficult hole. They say golf is a game of confidence, and maybe that is why I striped the three wood right down the middle with a baby fade just as I had planned. Meanwhile, Albane landed her ball in the back of the bunker, leaving herself a difficult downhill lie. I still knew I would need a good shot into the back right pin and to drain a putt for birdie. Once I saw Albane’s lie, I knew I was in a better position, and it would be difficult for her to get it on the green. She hit first and hit an outstanding shot landing about 40 feet from the pin. I executed a perfect fade eight iron right into the pin, leaving me a downhill 12-foot birdie putt. 

My dad and I read the putt, and it was a double breaker. We were trying to establish the predominant break and the best line to start the ball on. I hit the putt on my line, and it broke left at the start just as I had expected but never broke back. I watched it slip past the hole, finishing right next to Albane’s tap in par putt. 

Match Highlights Minute 3:40

Just like that the emotional match had come to a close and my final run for a U.S. Women’s Amatuer Championship was over. I gave Albane a hug, congratulated her, and we both acknowledged what a fun match it was. Albane exhibited true sportsmanship, and it was the most pleasant match I had ever played. I rooted her on for the remainder of her quest for the championship. She fell just short, losing to Garbielle Ruffels In the final match.

Next, I hugged my dad, who was caddying for me, and as my eyes watered, I said, “what a run.” We both looked at each other, thinking, what do we do now? I expected to continue to compete, and when your mind is in such an emotionally intense zone, it is hard to flip the switch and realize you are done and can now relax. 

I went to the locker room, packed up my stuff, put everything in the car and my dad and I made our way through the cow pastures of Mississippi to the booming music city of Nashville, Tennessee, to catch a flight home. 

I still couldn’t believe it was over. Since my first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 2014, I have dreamt of winning the prestigious event, and now all my opportunities were over. I knew the following summer I would be turning pro and no longer eligible to play.

If there is one thing I have learned from my time in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is that you never know what the next day is going to bring. It’s taught me always to strive to relish the moment I am in, do the best where you are, and expect the unexpected. 

Those lessons have never been more applicable for me than the world we live in today. Right now, I thought I would be playing my first summer as a professional preparing to go through LPGA Q School in August, October and November. 

As I mentioned in my last blog, due to the changing circumstances from COVID-19, I will be returning for a fifth year to UNC-Chapel Hill and will remain amateur for the summer. 

Last week, the USGA announced the extended exemption criteria for this year’s championships since there is no longer qualifying. I opened the email, scrolled down a few lines, and saw “Round of 32 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship”. 

Just like that, my dream was reborn. The U.S. Women’s Am has taught me a valuable lesson that I can apply to the rest of my life. You can’t predict what the next day, month, year or decade will bring, so always continue to work hard and have faith that everything happens for a reason. 

Currently, I am working hard to prepare for this year’s event. As I’ve learned in the past, I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’ll be working my hardest to give myself the best chance to have that trophy in my hands come the end of the week. 

So I guess the moral of the story is the best gift we are given is today. Live your dream today while chasing the ones that lie in your head at night.  

U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships Through the Years