Rachel Heck won the first four holes against Therese Warner, then hung on in a rollercoaster match that set the tone on a day when many of the top seeds were threatened, but advanced in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, including defending champion Gabi Ruffels.
The No. 1 seed in the Women’s Amateur had lost in the Round of 64 in four of the past six years, but Heck, 18, of Memphis, Tennessee, seemed to dismiss any thoughts of an upset in the early going. She remained 4 up through 11 holes, but Warner won the 12th and 14th, then drained a 50-foot birdie putt on the 17th to extend the match to the final hole.
“Neither of us gave anything away, I just got off to a hot start,” said Heck, who sank birdie putts of 20 feet and 35 feet on the first two holes. “I expected her to make a run and come back, which of course she did. We both had a lot of fun out there. It was a crazy match.”
In Heck’s 2-up victory, there were 11 winning birdies (with typical match-play concessions) and the players halved just four of the 18 holes at Woodmont Country Club.
Defending champion Ruffels was 1 down through eight holes, but surged back by winning five of the next seven holes in a 3-and-2 win over Rajal Mistry.
“It was a little bit of a shaky start,” said Ruffels, 20, of Victoria. “It took me a while to kind of get into it, but I was really happy with the way I finished.”
The most dominant performance of the day belonged to Zoe Antoinette Campos, 17, of Valencia, Calif., who won nine of her 13 holes in a 7-and-5 victory over Pimnipa Panthong. Other convincing wins were turned in by Kaleigh Telfer, 22, of South Africa, who birdied eight of her first 11 holes to overwhelm Talia Campbell, the only mid-amateur to make it to match play, 6 and 5. Rose Zhang, a Stanford commit from Irvine, California, dispatched Anna Morgan, 5 and 3.
“It was a little bit of a shaky start. It took me a while to kind of get into it, but I was really happy with the way I finished.” - Gabi Ruffels.
Zhang, 16, sank a 30-foot birdie putt to halve the opening hole against Morgan, and never trailed after a conceded eagle on the par-5 third.
“I felt like I played more solidly compared to the previous two days,” said Zhang, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior. “I just kept the momentum going and it turned out to be a really smooth round for me.”
Other winners included 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lei Ye, first-round co-leaders Rachel Kuehn and Riley Smyth, Courtney Dow, who rallied from 4 down to beat Catherine Park in 20 holes and Queenslander Emily Mahar, who claimed a 1 up win over Micheala Williams.
The third Aussie to qualify for the match play, Kirsty Hodgkins, went down 4 & 2.