Danielson Medals While Minnesotan Burnham and Gopher Ciskowski Earn Spots at U.S. Women's Amateur
June 30, 2016
By Nick Hunter
FOREST LAKE, Minn. – After two quick bogeys to begin the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Qualifying at Forest Hills Golf Club, Casey Danielson stood in the fifth fairway with a tough decision to make.
She could play conservative and lay up with her 6-iron or go for the green in two and get back into contention by making at least birdie at the 478-yard par-5.
Danielson pulled her 3-wood from her bag and blasted her second shot 230 yards to within 12 feet where she would make eagle and go on to earn medalist honors Thursday, shooting even par 72 to qualify for her seventh straight U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
“I wanted to come in a play really steady, it’s been a month since I’ve competed and I knew that I had to be patient because it was going to be a little rusty,” Danielson said after qualifying. “I was a little nervous because it’s only one round so 18 holes can make or break it. I’ve qualified the last six times and this might be my last one so I felt a little added pressure on myself.”
Danielson, Osceola, Wis., would take a bogey on the ensuing par-3 sixth hole, but found her consistency for the remainder of the round, carding consecutive pars before sticking her approach at the 11th to ten feet and converted birdie to get back to even. She would then par the final seven holes to finish ahead of the field by two shots at 72.
“It was a pretty solid round—nothing too fancy—but I think I hit almost every green,” she said. “I probably had too many putts but the eagle at [No. 5] gave me a confidence boost.”
A soon-to-be senior at Stanford University, Danielson notched four top-10 finishes and ended the season as the nation’s 63rd-ranked golfer during her junior season. She finished tied for sixth individually at the national tournament in May, while Stanford lost to the University of Washington in the national championship match.
“Our team gets along really well so we have a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot about golf, my game and how to manage a course. It was really fun to give it another run at nationals. It was a great match, it didn’t go in our favor, but there’s nothing you can do about good golf,” she said.
Danielson has advanced to the match play portion of the national championship four times in her six appearances, with her best finish coming in 2011 when she lost during the quarterfinal round.
Joining Danielson at this year’s championship, which will be played August 1-7 at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa., will be Sarah Burnham, Heather Ciskowski and Gabrielle Curtis as all three finished tied for second at 2-over par 74, surviving a one-hole playoff to advance.
Burnham, Maple Grove, Minn., opened her round Thursday with a bogey at the third before answering with a birdie at the fifth to draw even. She would bogey the par-4 seventh, but turned at even par again after rolling in her birdie chance at the ninth.
Slipping back to 1-over par with a bogey at the 11th, a resilient Burnham bounced back by converting her birdie opportunity at the par-4 15th to remain even.
Spinning her approach off the front of the 17th green, Burnham would chip up and two-putt for bogey to fall to 1-over for the round before missing a short par putt on the 18th, carding a second straight bogey to finish at 74, advancing to her third consecutive U.S. Women's Amateur Championship.
“I was hitting my irons pretty pure but I struggled putting a little bit today, I had a couple three-putts,” Burnham said after qualifying Thursday. “Overall I thought I played pretty solid. It’s good to be going back.”
Burnham returned home from the 2016 World University Golf Championships in Brive, France on Tuesday where she was one of three players to represent the United States, finishing ninth individually and leading the Americans to a third-place finish.
“France was good experience but our team struggled,” she said. “I didn’t play well—it was a really short and tight course so I took a lot of penalty strokes for going [out of bounds], which I’m not used to getting.”
After advancing to the first round of match play in 2014, Burnham carded a 9-over par 153 to miss the cut by five shots. Burnham, who will begin her junior season at Michigan State University this fall, said her goal during this year’s championship is to advance to the Round of 32.
Ciskowski, a soon-to-be junior at the University of Minnesota, earned her first trip to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Thursday after her round of 74, a little over a week after winning the Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Four-Ball Championship with Gopher teammate Sabrine Garrison at Somerby Golf Club.
A native of Barrington, Ill., Ciskowski started slow during the qualifier Thursday, making two early bogeys before finding a groove with two birdies to close out the front nine to draw even.
Carding three bogeys over the first seven holes on the back nine, Ciskowski fell to 3-over for the round, but answered with a crucial putt at the 18th, rolling in a 20-footer for birdie to card 74.
“Overall today I thought I played pretty consistent,” Ciskowski said Thursday. “My tee shots weren’t really to my liking but I wasn’t in any bad places and I was able to hit greens in regulation and what I think helped me the most was being able to make some putts. Staying confident and staying calm is the most important thing in these qualifiers because you can get away from yourself.”
Competing in every tournament during the 2015-16 season, Ciskowski set a new school record for a single-season scoring average at 73.93, while notching two top-20 finishes.
“I came off a really good summer of golf last year so I came into this season ready to go and ready to compete. Our team was wonderful this year—I can attribute my great play to having fabulous teammates and enjoying my coaches,” she said.
“This is my first time qualifying—I’ve missed the cut by one or two the past two years so it feels great. It’s a little surreal so it may not hit me until tomorrow or maybe when I’m in bed tonight.”
Curtis, Eau Claire, Wis., earned a qualifying position Wednesday finishing tied for second at 2-over par 74 carding two bogeys and a birdie on the front side before carding another two bogeys and a birdie on the back.
Megan Furtney, South Elgin, Ill., finished at 2-over par 74 before making bogey on the first playoff hole to finish as first alternate, while Marissa Chou, Honolulu, Hawaii, finished as second alternate, shooting a 75 and prevailing in a one-hole playoff with Kenzie Neisen and Taylor Ledwein.