CU’s Choi qualifies for her second straight U.S. Women’s Open; Cleveland’s Hollis also advances from The Ranch CC, but 2-time Open qualifier Kupcho struggles
by Gary Baines
University of Colorado golfer Robyn Choi has never competed in a USGA championship other than the one that’s considered by many to be the most prestigious tournament in women’s golf.
And now, to add to that oddity, Choi on Monday qualified for her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open.
“It’s the biggest tournament,” Choi said. “I feel like I’ve had a big jump. I feel like I’m missing the (USGA) in-betweeners. I think it’s weird.”
Weird in a good way, that is.
The CU sophomore shot rounds of 66-70 to earn qualifying medalist honors at The Ranch Country Club in Westminster with a 6-under-par 136 total.
Landing the only other available berth out of a field of 48 players on Monday was Jillian Hollis, a University of Georgia junior from the Cleveland area, who posted scores of 69-71 for a 140 total. (The qualifiers are pictured, with Choi at left.)
The result is that in two weeks, Choi and Hollis will be headed to one of the majors in women’s golf, this year set for Shoal Creek near Birmingham, Ala., May 31-June 3.
Choi, a 20-year-old from Australia, shot a bogey-free round in the morning, then after struggling somewhat on the front nine of the afternoon round, she played her final eight holes in 3 under par. For the day, she finished with 10 birdies and four bogeys.
“It’s a tournament I really wanted to go back to because I gained a lot of experience from it (last year),” Choi said of the Women’s Open. “I’m excited to play again so I can progress on and hopefully become a better player.
“Last year it wasn’t like ‘I have to get there’ (in the 36-hole qualifying tournament) because I didn’t have any expectations of myself. But because I made it last year it was something I really wanted to do again. It was definitely one of my main goals this year.”
Choi (left) missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open by seven strokes, and has set a goal to play on the weekend this year at the national championship. And she thinks she’s up for that jump. After often hitting her drives 20 or 30 yards short of other competitors at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, Choi has increased her swing speed and has picked up 20 yards or so on her drives.
That’s helped her move up to No. 88 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings.
Hollis, winner of four individual college titles in her three seasons at the University of Georgia, plans to forego her final year of NCAA eligibility and turn pro just prior to the Women’s Open. And she’ll do it coming off a strong spring in which she won twice in the college ranks — including on her 21st birthday — and qualified for her first U.S. Women’s Open.
On Monday, Hollis finished with seven birdies and five birdies. And she would have challenged for medalist honors had she not finished her 36-hole day by going bogey-bogey-bogey.
“Qualifying is definitely very sweet,” said Hollis, who will have full status on the Symetra Tour once she turns pro. “It means a ton. I love golf and the competition; that’s why I play. I love it so much. This is so neat to fight and grind for something — especially over 36 holes like this — and to make it through.”
Hollis punctuated her good play on Monday with a 90-yard chip-in for birdie on her sixth hole of the afternoon round.
Before going to the U.S. Women’s Open, both Choi and Hollis will head to Stillwater, Okla., this week to compete in the Women’s NCAA Championship Finals, which start on Friday.
Colorado State University golfer Katrina Prendergast, who recently paired with teammate Ellen Secor to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, landed the first alternate spot from The Ranch qualifier on Monday after rounds of 72-71 left her at 143.
Jennifer Kupcho (left) of Westminster, who qualified for the last two U.S. Women’s Opens and finished 21st at last year’s national championship, struggled on Monday — her 21st birthday — and failed to make it three in a row. Playing at a course at which she works during the summer and often practices, the U.S. Curtis Cup team member managed just two birdies in 36 holes while recording seven bogeys and one double bogey.
The recent winner of her second consecutive NCAA Regional tournament, Kupcho shot rounds of 74-75.
“To sum it up, I didn’t hit the ball well,” said Kupcho, the 2017 Women’s NCAA runner-up. “I can’t say I’ve ever seen myself hit the ball this bad. It was just all over the place. I couldn’t really do anything. It was a tough day, scrambling all around.
“It surprised me a little bit because I was hitting it so well at (NCAA) Regionals and I’ve been hitting it so well the three days I’ve been back (in Colorado). Then I get out here and can’t even hit the broad side of a barn.”
Asked what she was going to do for the remainder of her 21st birthday, Kupcho said she wasn’t certain. “But I’ll definitely have a drink, don’t worry,” she said with a smile.
Then it’s off to Stillwater for the Women’s NCAA Finals. And she doesn’t think there will be any hangover — no pun intended — from her day on the course Monday.
“I think I should be good,” she said. “Just forget about it. It was one bad day. You always have a bad day. Since I was playing well and hitting it well leading up to it, I’m not worried.”
U.S. Women’s Open qualifying tournaments have been held in Colorado each year since 2011. In 2018, 25 qualifying events are being contested worldwide, including 21 in the U.S.
U.S. Women’s Open Qualifying
At Par-71 The Ranch CC in Westminster
QUALIFIED FOR U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN
Robyn Choi, Australia 66-70–136
Jillian Hollis, Rocky River, Ohio 69-71–140
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Katrina Prendergast, Sparks, Nev. 72-71–143
Jessica Vasilic, Anaheim Hills, Calif. 71-73–144
For complete scores, CLICK HERE.