Minnesota Golf Association

Gopher Golfer Curran Comes Back Late to Defeat VanArragon at MGA Women's Match Play

June 19, 2020

By Nick Hunter
  PRIOR LAKE, Minn. – Despite hitting her tee shot into trees left of the first fairway to begin a playoff at the Wilds Golf Club Friday, University of Minnesota golfer Grace Curran recovered with a miraculous approach, stopping her ball within six feet of the hole and converted her birdie chance to defeat Kathryn VanArragon, claiming the fourth Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship.
“I was disappointed at the drive. I think I got a little nervous and quick with it. I had a pretty good lie and was trying to hit the green or come up in front,” Curran said about the start to playoff. “I was excited to see the result.
“The key for me [this week] was staying confident. There were a lot of good players and knowing that I haven’t played a golf tournament in a while, but neither has anybody else and we’re all excited to be here,” she said. “I’m happy [to win] here in Minnesota considering I go to school here. Everyone here has been so supportive and our coaches have been great this week.”
Following her win during the semifinal round Thursday, Curran said the final match against VanArragon would come down to the golfer able to navigate the putting surface best. Providing some late-round drama, Curran sank her birdie chance from 12 feet on the 17th hole to even the match late.
“The putt on 17 was big because I knew eventually, I was going to have to make a birdie if I wanted to win the match,” Curran said Friday. “[VanArragon] had a 10 or 15-foot putt for birdie and knew she had a good chance of making it. I knew I had to make that putt."
Curran, a native of the Chicago suburb of New Lenox, Ill., saw her freshman season for the Gophers cut short in early March after playing in seven events and finishing fourth on the team in scoring average. She collected her first top-10 finish at The Golf Rush in California in late February.
Getting off to a solid start during the final round Friday, Curran took a 2-up lead through three holes. Curran’s lead was trimmed at the fifth when she failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker before VanArragon carded a pair of birdies early on the back nine to swing the momentum of the match.
“The start to the match was awesome, it was nice to get a 2-up lead and some cushion for the rest of the match. I knew she was going to start dropping putts eventually. I knew I had to keep playing consistent and steady,” said Curran, “She did birdie 10 and 11, but the match was still square. I still had to compete and couldn’t let that bother me too much. I still had seven more holes to play and that’s what kept me going.”
Trying to find an opening back into the match, Curran missed a pair of makeable birdie opportunities at the 14th and 16th holes before she would sink a critical birdie putt at the 17th. Finding the bunker at the last, Curran was unable to save par, but VanArragon would three-putt from 20 feet to force extra holes.
“I’m definitely tired—it was a long week,” Curran said after playing six rounds in three days in challenging conditions all week. “Down the stretch the adrenaline gets going and something inside of you finds a way to keep going. You’re not really thinking how tired you are until after.
“We both hit the ball pretty solid for the most part. A few slip-ups here and there as golf works, but I felt she made a few putts making the turn that were huge. Her putts on 10 and 11 were amazing. If I was going to have a chance to win the match, I was going to have to make some putts down the stretch."
Cruising during her opening-round match against Claudia Kim, 6 and 5, Curran defeated Emma Welch, 2-up, to advance to the quarterfinals against Megan Munneke.
Finding herself down for the first time in the tournament to Munneke after a bogey on the first hole, Curran played flawlessly over the next 13 holes to earn a convincing victory, 5 and 4, to meet Kate Strickland in the semifinals Thursday. Curran took the early lead against Strickland and never looked back, going on to win, 2 and 1.
A disappointing finish for VanArragon, who found herself down early for the first time since the second round when she came from behind to defeat former Red Wing High School star Leah Herzog. VanArragon then ousted Herzog’s high school teammate Sophia Yoemans before knocking out another strong player in Taylor Ledwein Thursday.
Playing the 18th hole for the first time this week during the final match against Curran, VanArragon hit a spectacular shot to the left side of the green where she watched her short par putt to seal the victory glance off the lip of the cup. Missing the green on the playoff hole to the left edge, VanArragon chipped within three feet before Curran ended the match with birdie.
“It was solid, but it was a tough day because Grace is such a good player,” VanArragon said after the final match Friday. “I had some ruffles, especially at the beginning, but I got it together and it was a tough match. I can take a lot of positives from this week. It’s been a good week.”
VanArragon had hoped to add another admirable accomplishment to her young golf career this week as she would’ve likely become the youngest player to win a women’s state match play championship at 15-years-old. She finished off her seventh-grade season with an individual victory at the Class AAA—the youngest to do so—and became the youngest to win the Women’s State Amateur last season, shortly after turning 14.
“I was pretty consistent this week and thought I had a good mindset. I had a couple matches where I was 2-down after four or five and I was able to come back. This is a tough course to walk and being able to play 36 holes two days in a row and coming back to play 18 today gave me some mental and physical toughness.”
On Thursday, former Minnesota State University, Mankato golfer and current Central University women’s golf coach Tabitha Kunst won the 15th and 16th holes of her final match to run away with the championship in the First Flight, 4 and 2, over Greta McArthur.
The 2021 MGA Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship will be played at St. Cloud Country Club.

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