Four way tie for lead, Anika Varma and Meghan Royal in T14

Despite windy conditions at the Maridoe Golf Club, Anika Varma and Meghan Royal played with great composure to return an even 72

Anika Varma - Pic - Noah Montgomery

25 April 2021: With winds gusting to more than 20 miles an hour, the 127 competitors in the 6th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship field certainly had their work cut out for them in the first round of stroke play on Saturday at Maridoe Golf Club. Anika Varma and Meghan Royal played with great discipline to return an even 72 on their cards with the help of two birdies.

Anika Varma - Meghan Royal - Pic - Noah Montgomery
Anika Varma – Meghan Royal – Pic – Noah Montgomery

Anika and Meghan conceded an early bogey. At the 522 yards par-5 second hole, the duo took a six on their chin and moved on with stoic determination. A birdie on the par-4 sixth addressed the loss and the two young women went past the turn in 36 strokes.

After making eight straight pars, Anika and Meghan endured another bogey. This time, they took a five on the 15th hole, only to respond immediately with a birdie on the par-5 sixteenth hole to secure an even 72 in the opening round.

Four teams overcame the elements – which also included nearly an inch of rain on the eve of the championship – to post 3-under-par rounds of 69. That quartet of sides included the 2019 runners-up: Casey Weidenfeld, 18, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Jillian Bourdage, 19, of Tamarac, Fla., who lost two years ago at Timuquana Country Club in their home state to Megan Furtney and Erica Shepherd, a pair of Duke University teammates who did not return to defend their title this year.

Bourdage, a freshman at Ohio State, and Weidenfeld, who plans to enroll at Auburn University in the fall, carded six birdies in their round. Bourdage, the reigning national AJGA girls’ champion, was also runner-up in 2019 to Lei Ye in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

After not competing in Ivy League play since March 2020, a pair of Yale University golf teammates – junior Ami Gianchandani, 21, of Watchung, N.J., and sophomore Kaitlyn Lee, 19, of Scarsdale, N.Y. – also returned a card of 3-under 69.

Also at 3 under are the youngest side in the field: Gianna Clemente, 13, of Warren, Ohio, and Avery Zweig, 14, of McKinney, Texas. In 2018 at the age of 11, Zweig became the youngest player to make match play in this championship’s history (with partner Melena Barrientos), while Clemente became the third-youngest player to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship a year later.

Karoline Tuttle, 17, of Lake Mary, Fla., and Sophie Linder, 16, of Carthage, Tenn., who reached the Round of 16 in 2019, round out the group of sides at 3 under par. Linder recently finished T-6 at the Annika Invitational, while Tuttle earned Girls’ Player of the Year honors from the Florida State Golf Association.

Six sides posted rounds of 2-under 70, including 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief and partner Katie Miller Gee, both of whom are competing in their sixth U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, and their third straight as a side. They were the last side to earn a spot in the field, as alternates out of the Petersburg, Va., qualifying site.

The U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball championship is open to sides of female amateur golfers, each of whom must have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 14.4. The USGA accepted 425 side entries for the 2021 championship, which is the record number of entries for this championship. Entries closed on Sept. 9, 2020.

Yale University teammates Ami Gianchandani (left) and Kaitlyn Lee made four birdies against one bogey on Saturday. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

The Second Round

The 64 sides will play one additional 18-hole round of stroke play on Sunday, with play beginning at 7:30 a.m. CDT from the first tee. The top 32 sides advance to match play on Monday. The Round of 16 will be contested Tuesday morning and the quarterfinal round will take place in the afternoon. The semifinals and 18-hole final is scheduled to be contested on Wednesday.
Katherine Muzi, 20 of Newport Beach, Calif., is the only solo competitor in the field. Her partner, Crystal Wang, 20 of Diamond Bar, Calif., who plays for the University of Illinois women’s golf team, had a scheduling conflict with the Big 10 Championship.

Reagan Gray, 18 of Missouri City, Texas, had a difficult start to her 18th birthday on Saturday. Her only pair of golf shoes was locked in her rental car by the hotel valet. With no time to spare, she purchased new shoes ahead of her round from the Maridoe pro shop. Despite the setback, she and her partner, Jacqueline Nguyen, 17 of Houston, Texas, posted a 2-under 70 to share fifth position after Round 1 of stroke play.

There are 16 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalists in the field. The top three finishers in the Girls 12-13 division from last month’s championship at Augusta National are all in the field, albeit with different partners. Winner Yuna Wilson is paired with Rianna Mission; runner-up Lucy Yuan is paired with Anna Davis; and third-place finisher Avery Zweig is paired with Gianna Clemente.

The toughest stretch at Maridoe for the field in Round 1 was the trio of long par 4s after the turn: Holes 10, 12 and 13 played as the three toughest for the day by far. In fact, the field averaged more than 2 over par for those holes (14.14 strokes). No. 11 and No. 12 yielded just one birdie each and a total of 20 double bogeys, while three sides walked off No. 10 with a score of triple-bogey 7. There was a bit of a breather in the middle of the gauntlet: the 511-yard, par-5 11th played as the second-easiest hole for the day.

For the first time in U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball history the winning side will be exempt into the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur, as well as the 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior, U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, if age eligible.


Leading Scores

Ami Gianchandani, Watchung, N.J. & Kaitlyn Lee, Scarsdale, N.Y. 34-35–69
Jillian Bourdage, Tamarac, Fla. & Casey Weidenfeld, Pembroke Pines, Fla. 37-32–69
Gianna Clemente, Warren, Ohio & Avery Zweig, McKinney, Texas 33-36–69
Sophie Linder, Carthage, Tenn. & Karoline Tuttle, Lake Mary, Fla. 34-35–69

Lauren Clark, Orlando, Fla. & Kaitlyn Schroeder, Jacksonville, Fla. 35-35–70
Lauren Greenlief, Ashburn, Va. & Katie Miller Gee, Oakmont, Pa. 33-37–70
Paris Hilinski, Palm Beach, Fla. & Alexa Pano, Lake Worth, Fla. 36-34–70
Anna Davis, Spring Valley, Calif. & Lucy Yuan, San Diego, Calif. 36-34–70
Lauren Cox, Orange, Texas & Katie Finley, Ardmore, Okla. 35-35–70
Reagan Gray, Missouri City, Texas & Jacqueline Nguyen, Houston, Texas 36-34–70

Tiffany Cao, Midlothian, Texas & Chelsea Romas, Coppell, Texas 34-37–71
Loralie Cowart, Winston, Ga. & Ava Merrill, Johns Creek, Ga. 34-37–71
Thienna Huynh, Lilburn, Ga. & Sara Im, Duluth, Ga. 37-34–71

Vanessa Ho, San Diego, Calif. & Karen Tsuru, Carlsbad, Calif. 38-34–72
Madelyn Gamble, Pleasant Hill, Calif. & Hannah Harrison, Granite Bay, Calif. 34-38–72
Savannah Barber, Fort Worth, Texas & Alexa Saldana, Mexico 37-35–72
Meghan Royal, Carlsbad, Calif. & Anika Varma, Roseville, Calif. 36-36–72
Kim Benedict, Bonita Springs, Fla. & Kelli Pry, Tampa, Fla. 37-35–72
Sarah Beqaj, Canada & Britta Snyder, Ames, Iowa 34-38–72
Sarah Kahn, Windermere, Fla. & Samantha Vodry, Little Elm, Texas 36-36–72
Tiffany Le, Covina, Calif. & Kate Villegas, Arcadia, Calif. 35-37–72