By Alex Podlogar
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, North Carolina – Not only can Kristen Gillman rely on her own winning experience on Pinehurst No. 2, she can also follow the advice of someone else who knows a thing or two about Donald Ross’ masterpiece.
Gillman, the defending Women’s North & South Champion, cruised through two matches on a long, hot and humid Wednesday in the North Carolina sandhills to move two steps closer to becoming the first player to win back-to-back North & South Amateurs since Beth Bauer pulled it off in 1998-99. With wins of 7&6 in the Round of 32 and 3&2 – punctuated by a 14-foot birdie on 16 – Gillman advances to the quarterfinals of the 115th playing of the historic amateur event.
“It’s been really cool so far,” said Gillman, who was the medalist following Tuesday’s round and is a past U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. “I’m enjoying it right now, and it’s definitely great to be back in Pinehurst.”
It was on No. 2 in 1999 when Stewart famously made a dramatic 15-foot par putt to beat Phil Mickelson by one shot and win the U.S. Open. At the time, Stewart was coached by Chuck Cook, who now also coaches Gillman, who was an All-American in her freshman season at Alabama.
And while Gillman certainly can remember her march to the 2016 Women’s North & South Amateur title, she’s also had a little extra help, thanks to Cook.
“He showed me Payne’s yardage book from the 1999 U.S. Open,” said Gillman, of Austin, Texas. “And it’s amazing to look at. He had marked all of these spots on where it was best to be, but even better, he marked spots where you absolutely didn’t want to be, and had those areas scratched out. There’s a lot of history in that book, but it’s helpful, too.”
Gillman may have to lean on the book more if she’s to navigate a very difficult half of the bracket. Her next match is against a determined Anna Redding, who probably boasts the most experience at Pinehurst. The 2013 Girls’ North & South Junior champion, Redding, a junior at Virginia, is playing in her fourth Women’s North & South and finds herself making another deep run in a tournament that means so much to her.
“Since I won the Junior, winning the Women’s North & South makes it mean a little extra than just the title of the Women’s North & South,” said Redding, who is from nearby Concord. “There’s just so much incredible history here and to make my mark once…I’m just trying to do it again. To have my name on that wall in the building is…well, it would mean a lot.”
Redding rolled to a 5&4 win in her morning match, but struggled to find her game in the afternoon against Stephanie Lau. But Lau struggled as well, allowing Redding to grind her way to a 2-up lead through 9 despite shooting 39.
But Redding closed well, making birdie at 16 and then draining a 30-foot putt on 17 to close out the match.
It was a finish that Redding needed as she looks ahead to a quarterfinal rematch with Gillman, who beat Redding 7&6 in the same round in 2016.
Redding admitted being excited about a second chance against Gillman.
“I’ve been kind of waiting and ready for it,” she said. “I’m really excited to play her again. We’ve both got another year under our belts, and I’m excited about the golfer I’ve become over this past year. So I’m actually looking forward to it, whatever the outcome. I’m ready to play her again.”
Possibly looming in the semifinals could be 2015 Women’s North & South Runner-up Beth Wu, who rallied from 3-down through 8 holes in her Round of 16 match Southern Cal’s Allisen Corpuz. Wu came alive just in time, making birdies at 9, 10, 11 and 12 to take control of the match. A beautiful pitch to 2 feet on 16 led to another birdie to keep a 1-up lead, and Wu had her birdie conceded on 17 after a Corpuz bogey.
“I had a mental shift; I started the match as a bit of a hothead,” Wu, of Diamond Bar, California, admitted. “I had to take a breath and just remember the things I learned at school from my coaches and psychologists. It was good to come back like that.”
Wu will face Gillman’s Alabama teammate Lakareber Abe in the quarterfinals while Julienne Soo, who upset No. 2 seed Jaclyn Lee in the Round of 16, will take on Isabella Fierro. Aneka Seumanutafa, who won the 2017 Girls North & South Junior just last week, also advanced to the quarterfinals and will face Duke’s Sandy Choi.
The Women’s North & South Amateur is the longest consecutively running amateur championship in the United States. North & South champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey as well as Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
As much as the North & South is a championship with a great past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Eleven of the last 15 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour, four of whom have won major championships – Pressel, Tseng and Lang, who won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. 2011 Women’s North & South Champion Danielle Kang won her first major championship recently at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The Women’s North & South has drawn the top amateur women from around the country and is the longest consecutively running women’s amateur championship in the country. Its first championship was played in 1903.
115th Women’s North & South Amateur
July 12, 2017
Round of 32
Pinehurst No. 2
No. 1 Kristen Gillman d. No. 32 Hannah Wood, 7&6
No. 17 Lois Kaye Go d. No. 16 Jennifer Chang, 2&1
No. 8 Anna Redding d. No. 25 Virginia Green, 5&4
No. 9 Stephanie Lau d. No. 24 Malia Nam, 4&3
No. 4 Beth Wu d. No. 29 Ashley Sloup, 5 & 4
No. 20 Allisen Corpuz d. No. 13 Gina Kim, 7&6
No. 28 Jessica Spicer d. No. 5 Jackie Chulya, 1up
No. 21 Lakareber Abe d. No. 12 Brenna Lervick, 2&1
No. 2 Jaclyn Lee d. No. 31 Kennedy Swann, 4 &3
No. 15 Julienne Soo d. No. 18 Ellie Nachman, 19 holes
No. 7 Isabella Fierro d. No. 26 Marisa Messana, 6&5
No. 23 Molly Skapik d. No. 10 Olivia Cason, 5&4
No. 30 Isabella Skinner d. No. 3 Yujeong Son, 4&2
No. 19 Sandy Choi d. No. 14 Haylee Harford, 1up
No. 6 Aneka Seumanutafa d. No. 27 Alice Chen, 4&3
No. 22 Jillian Hollis d. No. 11 Martha Leach, 7&6
Round of 16
Pinehurst No. 2
No. 1 Kristen Gillman d. No. 17 Lois Kaye Go, 3&2
No. 8 Anna Redding d. No. 9 Stephanie Lau, 2&1
No. 4 Beth Wu d. No. 20 Allien Corpuz, 2&1
No. 21 Lakareber Abe d. No. 28 Jessica Spicer 4&2
No. 15 Julienne Soo d. No. 2 Jaclyn Lee, 2&1
No. 7 Isabella Fierro d. No. 23 Molly Skapik, 1up
No. 19 Sandy Choi d. No. 30 Isabella Skinner, 3&1
No. 6 Aneka Seumanutafa d. No. 22 Jillian Hollis, 4&3
July 13, 2017
Pinehurst No. 2
No. 1 Kristen Gillman vs. No. 8 Anna Redding, 7 a.m.
No. 4 Beth Wu vs. No. 21 Lakareber Abe, 7:08 a.m.
No. 15 Julienne Soo vs. No. 7 Isabella Fierro, 7:16 a.m.
No. 19 Sandy Choi vs. No. 6 Aneka Seumantutafa, 7:24 a.m.
Pinehurst No. 2
July 14, 2017
Pinehurst No. 2