Wednesday morning started with eight dreams of being a USGA champion. The two semifinal matches both were competitive, with one of them going the full 18-hole distance.
Tiffany Le/Kate Villegas vs Angela Zhang/Alice Ziyi Zhao
Zhang/Zhao started the match on fire, birdieing and winning three of the first four holes to take a 3 Up lead. Le/Villegas quickly got one back on the par 5, 5th with a birdie. Le/Villegas birdied 9 to get to 1 Down before birdieing the par 5, 10th to tie the match. The silence became deafening as a spot in the Championship match was on the line. Zhang/Zhao was able to get a clutch birdie on 14 to get to 1 Up. Le/Villegas once again responded, birdieing 15 and the 16th holes to get to 1 Up. The sides parred 17, meaning the match would go the distance. Even Mt. Rainier needed to witness the last hole of the match. On 18, Zhao and Villegas both made the green while Zhang missed the green in the bunker short and right, while Le was short but had a good look to chip in. Zhang put her bunker shot to about 12 feet, then Le barely missed her chip. It came down to Zhao, just like on Monday. Zhao hit a good putt, but it lipped out, giving Le/Villegas a 2 Up win. The teens were in shock that the putt didn’t fall. Regardless of the result, their effort as 14-year-olds was remarkable. This won’t be the last time we hear both of their names. Angela Zhang will be headed to Bellevue High School next year to play golf.
Gianna Clemente/Avery Zweig vs Leigh Chien/Anna Huang
This match also got off to a blistering start. Clemente/Zweig erupted for a 4 Up lead thru 5 holes. Chien/Huang won 6 and 7 to get back to 2 Down before winning 11 just to be 1 Down. Clemente/Zweig won the next three holes to get to 4 Up thru 14 holes. On the 15th hole, Chien/Huang wasn’t able to convert for birdie and Clemente/Zweig was able to win 4 & 3. Their match started second but finished about 30 minutes before the other Semifinal.
The Championship match started about 40 minutes after the Semifinal matches concluded. It was a short turnaround for the two sides but they were ready to play. With a small gallery following, the two sides would battle it out, putting on an excellent display of golf.
Tiffany Le/Kate Villegas vs Gianna Clemente/Avery Zweig
The match started with another 1st hole birdie but this time it came via Le/Villegas, to take a fast 1 Up lead. Both sides had great opportunities on the next three holes but no one was able to win the holes. Le/Villegas was able to get a birdie on par 5, 5th to go 2 Up. At this point, Clemente looked very dejected, having missed some good birdie opportunities. The 6th brought pars for both sides but on 7, Clemente/Zweig won their first hole of the match with a par. That was answered by a birdie from Le/Villegas to get back up to a 2 Up lead. On 9, Zweig stuck her second shot close to the hole, giving her an easy birdie to win the hole and make the turn just 1 Down.
After both sides parred 10 and birdied 11, the 12th provided some drama. Le/Villegas both bogeyed, with Le’s bogey putt lipping out and Clemente securing the par and tieing the match. On the 13th, Clemente/Zweig had their mojo back with the two laughing their way up the fairway. Both sides had looks at birdie, but no one could convert and they headed to the 14th, all square. The shot of Avery Zweig’s life took place on that hole, after driving it over the par 3’s green, Zweig chipped in for birdie while Clemente missed it, having to deal with her ball in the water. Le/Villegas couldn’t answer the birdie and Clemente/Zweig went 1 Up for the first time all match. Clemente told Zweig on their walk to the 15th tee, “I want to see a replay of that cause, I was kinda busy.” Zweig tried her hardest to contain a smile, with her lips quivering in that effort, but a smile eventually broke free. She knew she just flipped the match on its head with a chip that had shades of Tom Watson in the ’82 U.S. Open.
Zweig on 15 followed up her spectacular chip with a second shot that was reminiscent of her second on the 9th hole, hitting it to about the same distance for birdie. She knocked that in and in 20 minutes, Clemente/Zweig went from tied to 2 Up. The sides tied on the par 5, 16th setting up the 17th where Le/Villegas had to win the hole to extend the match. Le and Villegas gave the hole a look with their birdie attempts but they were unable to make three, giving Clemente/Zweig the win.
Gianna Clemente and Avery Zweig would win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship 3 & 1. The winning moment can be seen here. They are the youngest winners of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Clemente qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur at age 11, and that record still holds up. Clemente and Zweig had their fathers caddying for them this week and were quick to mention and thank them in their speeches.
The champs received their gold medals on Wednesday, while also receiving custody of the trophy for one year. They each get a 10-year exemption to the Championship as long as the side remains the same, exemptions into the 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Girls Junior. Their names will also be engraved on the 2023 champions plaque that will forever live at the USGA Muesuem’s Hall of Champions.
What a week at The Home Course. From middle schoolers to a competitor in their 60s the Championship provided plenty of drama, thrilling moments, and two well-deserving champions. Professional golf is in a controversial place, unfortunately, and it is quite refreshing to be reminded that the amateur game is not.
Quote of the Day
“Dude, I’m tired.” – Patrick Clemente, Gianna’s father, and caddy, said that after the final hole.
For other information on the event, a link to the USGA website is here.
Thank you to all of you who followed along with this event. It was a great event to cover and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.