HOUSTON – Two years ago, Linn Grant found herself in the penultimate group of the U.S. Women’s Open on Saturday as an amateur. The young Swede pulled it left off the first tee at soggy Shoal Creek and knocked it back in the fairway. Her father, John, walked over to a sprinkler head and peered down at the 89. He thought it looked shorter than that, but the yardage book also had a notation of 89. Total yardage was 112 yards. Linn flushed a wedge that landed 20 yards over the green.
Turns out the 89 was really a 68. The indicator lined had blurred out in the mud.
“I didn’t really recover from that,” said Linn of the crushing blow. “I don’t think he did, either.”
The now 21-year-old Linn and her dad get a second crack at it this weekend in Houston, where the Arizona State sophomore sits alone in second place at the Women’s Open, three shots back of leader Hinako Shibuno.
Kaitlyn Papp, a 22-year-old Texas native who has Longhorn coach, Kate Golden on the bag, holds a share of third.
Two more Swedish players, Ingrid Lindblad (T-14) and Maja Stark (T-20) are within striking distance. South Carolina’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (T-20) and Gabriela Ruffels of USC (T-29) round out the six amateurs who head to the weekend in Houston.
With no qualifying this year, the top amateurs in the world were guaranteed a start in the year’s final major. Of the 24 amateurs in this year’s field, 18 are ranked in the top 20.
Only one woman has ever won the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur, and that was France’s Catherine Lacoste in 1967.
“Linn likes records,” said Swedish national coach Fredrik Wetterstrand.
The drive into Champions Golf Club features a number of familiar-sounding roads. There’s Muirfield Village Drive, Shinnecock Hills Drive and Cherry Hills Road, the latter of which harkens back memories of amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang finishing runner-up to surprise winner Birdie Kim at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open.
The 75th U.S. Women’s Open certainly has a Cherry Hills vibe – minus the electric galleries – with the number of amateurs currently in contention.
“I think the biggest difference for amateur golf to professional golf is scoring,” said Champions member Stacy Lewis, whose husband Gerrod Chadwell coaches the women’s golf program at Houston. “Amateurs are used to grinding for pars and maybe even par wins a tournament.
“I think amateurs struggle more, or at least I did when I went and played a professional tournament when 25 under was winning, and that’s not your mindset.”
Two years ago, Wetterstrand said, Grant said “someone is going to win this tournament, why shouldn’t it be me?”
Grant held a share of fourth at the midway point at Shoal Creek but ultimately wound up in a share of 57th.
“She wants to take revenge this time,” Wetterstrand said.
Grant won the 2017 British Amateur Stroke Play at North Berwick 49 years after her grandfather, James Grant, won the Scottish Boys Championship on the same course. James left Scotland to become a golf instructor in Sweden. John Grant played well enough to earn a scholarship to West Florida and played professionally for a bit.
“I know if you look at her Wikipedia site, it says I’m a (teaching) pro,” said John. “I’m not. There is another John Grant who is a pro at that golf club.”
John, for the record, is a financial advisor.
Not many players have tour winners on their bag, but in Golden, Papp has a woman who shot 63 in the final round of the State Farm Classic to beat Annika Sorenstam by a shot.
“I’ve talked to (Kaitlyn) about staying patient,” said Golden, “and she’s actually done it.”
After shooting even par on the front nine at Cypress Creek, Papp birdied three of her last five holes to leap into third place, including a chip-in on the 17th. This marks the first time she’s made the cut in a major. Seven Texans teed it up this week and so far Austin’s Papp is low Texan.
Papp’s afternoon plans include a final term paper for her undergraduate degree. On Thursday, Papp found out that she’d gotten into grad school at Texas for the sports management program.
Certainly not the typical routine of a Women’s Open contender.
If there was ever going to be a time an amateur broke through again at this championship, 2020 might be it, with no grandstands and no fans. No $1 million check on the line either.
“I’ve been in contention this year and it’s so much different,” said Lewis. “It’s so much easier. Normally at these U.S. Opens you’ve got the 18th hole, massive grandstands. Down the first tee, it’s lined with people.”
The final group on Saturday will feature two amateurs and Shibuno, an effervescent pro who stunned the world last year by winning the AIG Women’s British Open in her major championship debut.
It’s 2020. At this point, nothing would be a surprise.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/11/amateurs-linn-grant-kaitlyn-papp-final-group-saturday-us-womens-open/