A disappointed Anika Varma. Pic: USGA
Aug 6: Anika Varma bounced back strongly in the last six holes of her second round, but still fell one shot short of getting a chance to qualify for the match play segment of the US Women’s Amateur Championship in Rockville, Maryland. The second round which was played on Wednesday after play on Tuesday was called off due to a hurricane, was played in extremely tough conditions and the course was very tight as only seven players were under par after 36 holes.
The Indian teen golfer, Anika, who is based in Sacramento, is the first Indian to play the US Women’s Amateur Championship. She had a rough first nine on the back stretch of the Woodmont Country Club, as she gave away two bogeys and two doubles after starting from the tenth.
That cost her heavily even though she found three birdies on fourth, fifth and eighth holes against one lone bogey on seventh over in the last six holes. A birdie on ninth, her closing hole, would have got her into a play-off to determine the final spots in match play. She finished at four-over 76 for a total of seven-over 151.
Sixteen players at six-over went into a play-off for six spots as Anika was stranded at seven-over.
Despite not qualifying for the next stage, it was a great experience for Anika as the conditions were very tough and demanding. She ran out of holes as she settled into her game.
Three other players of Indian origin got into the 64 who get to compete in match play. Indian-American Megha Ganne (71-76) was T-26, while Indian origin players South Africa’s Kajal Mistry (81-69) and Gurleen Kaur (78-72) of US, came through the play-off.
Rachel Heck, who made the cut at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as a 15-year-old, took the medallist honours as she topped the stroke play section with rounds of 69-71.
Her 36-hole total of 4-under 140 made her one of just seven players to break par in stroke play, the fewest since 2014.
Heck, 18, is competing in her fourth consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur. On Wednesday, she birdied four of her first eight holes and was one of three competitors in the 132-player field to post consecutive sub-par scores.
Three players finished two strokes behind Heck at 2-under 142 – Phoebe Brinker, Valery Plata and the fourth-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Emilia Migliaccio. First-round co-leader, Rachel Kuehn, rebounded from a tough start to earn the No. 8 seed.
Playing with Kuehn, defending champion Gabriela Ruffels bogeyed two of her first three holes, but played her final 15 holes bogey-free. Three birdies coming in led to a 1-under 71 and earned her the No. 6 seed in her title defence.
Other notable players to make the match-play field include first-round co-leader Riley Smyth, 2019 U.S. Women’s Open low-amateur Gina Kim and 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur semi-finalist Megha Ganne.
The biggest turnaround of the day belonged to Kajal Mistry. The 19-year-old who represented South Africa in the 2018 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship tied the low round of the day with a 3-under 69 – an improvement of 12 strokes from her opening 81. She then survived a 15-for-6 playoff with a birdie on the first playoff hole (the eighth hole on the course) to punch her ticket into match play.
The Round of 64 is scheduled for Thursday. Due to Tuesday’s round being postponed, the Rounds of 32 and 16 will be played on Friday, and both the quarterfinals and semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday. The 36-hole championship match will take place on Sunday.