Barber & Saldana Win U.S. 4-Ball; Ledwein & Welch Reach Quarters
April 29, 2021
CARROLLTON, Texas -- A pair of 17-year-olds, Savannah Barber and Alexa Saldana, got into the match-play portion of the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball as the 26th-seeded team out of the 32 teams that made the cut. But Barber and Saldana dominated four of their five matches, and the championship match was one of them, as they defeated Jill Bourdage and Casey Weidenfeld 5&4 to claim the title.
Barber and Saldana are roommates at Crown Golf Academy in Arlington, Texas, which is roughly 30 minutes away from Maridoe Golf Club, the course where the Four-Ball was played. Barber, who is from Fort Worth, signed a national letter of intent to attend Oklahoma, beginning this fall. Saldana, who is from Mexico, is undecided about where she'll go to college.
Neither of them is in the top 1,500 of the World Amateur Rankings. That didn't seem to bother them any more than the fact that they were two of the youngest players in the field.
In qualifying, they posted a 1-over-par 145 (72-73), and they were 3 over par in their 4&3 Round of 32 victory over the seventh-seeded team of Tiffany Cao and Chelsea Romas. But they got better as the tournament progressed. They were 2 under against 23rd-seeded Vanessa Ho and Karen Tsuru, and 5 under against 31st-seeded Jensen Castle and Marissa Wenzler, as they won both of those matches 4&3, as well.
Barber and Saldana got their first -- and really their only -- test in the semifinals, against the youngest team in the tournament, 13-year-old Gianna Clemente and 14-year-old Avery Zweig. As young as they were, Clemente and Zweig demonstrated that they were one of the best teams in the field; they tied for medalist honors in the stroke play portion of the tournament with a pair of 69's and a 138 total. Nevertheless, through 10 holes in the semis, it looked like another 4&3 for Barber and Saldana, because they were 3 under at that point -- and 3 up. But they bogeyed the 11th and 12th to let their lead slip to 1 up, and they lost the 17th with another bogey. So they had to work overtime before finally prevailing with a birdie on the second extra hole, the 518-yard, par-5 11th.
Bourdage, a sophomore-to-be at Ohio State, and Weidenfeld, an Auburn recruit, looked like the favorites going into the final. They were seeded fourth, having qualified with a 139 (69-70), and they had finished second in this tournament two years ago. (There was no Women's Four-Ball in 2020, a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.) And Bourdage/Casey took a quick 1-up lead with a birdie at the 375-yard, par-4 first hole. The teams tied the next five holes with pars. Then Bourdage and Casey made two bogeys in a row, at the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth, losing both holes, and they never recovered. Barber and Saldana won the 10th (388 yards, par 4) with a birdie, and they expanded their lead to 4 up with pars at the 12 and 13th holes. Their birdie at the 164-yard, par-3 14th ended the match.
The Minnesotans in the 64-team field at Maridoe -- Taylor Ledwein and Megan Welch -- acquitted themselves well. They made it through the qualifying and through two rounds of match play before losing 3&2 to the top-seeded pair of Paris Hilinski and Alexa Plano. In doing so, they guaranteed themselves a visit to Puerto Rico next year, when the Women's Four-Ball will be played at The Grand Reserve Golf Club -- the first time a USGA championship will ever be played outside the U.S. mainland.
Ledwein and Welch, like Barber and Saldana, were among the eight teams that tied for 22nd place in the qualifying with a medal score of 145. It took 148 (4 over) to make match play, which makes it sound as if Ledwein and Welch qualified without much stress. Actually, the Bradley University teammates (Ledwein was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year last week) were on the bubble early in the second round, a result of their first-round 74 and two bogeys in the first four holes on Day 2. They played the last 14 holes in 3 under, thanks to birdies at the sixth (285 yards, par 4), 10th, 16th (470, par 5) and 17th (129, par 3) and only one more bogey, at the 14th.
As the 24th-seeded team, they faced ninth-seeded Lauren Clark and Kaitlyn Schroeder in the Round of 32. Ledwein, a fifth-year senior from New Prague, and Welch, a sophomore from Lakeville South, were 1 under and 4 up after 13 holes. Clark and Schroeder countered by winning three of the next four holes, two of them with birdies, before Ledwein/Welch secured a 1-up victory with a par at the 365-yard, par-4 18th.
Their Round of 16 match against the ninth-seeded team of Thienna Huynh and Sara Im went back and forth for the first nine holes. The two teams were both 1 over, and the match was even. That was when Ledwein and Welch took over, winning the next three holes with two pars and a birdie. Huynh and Im retaliated by winning the 13th with a par and the par-3 14th with a birdie, but Ledwein/Welch closed them out, 2&1, with a birdie at the par-3 17th.
By reaching the quarterfinals, Ledwein and Welch made themselves exempt for the 2022 Women's Four-Ball -- and a trip to Puerto Rico.
"We didn't even know that, actually, until we won this morning, and her dad said: 'Hey, it looks like we're going to Puerto Rico,' " Welch pointed out. "It means that even though she (Ledwein) won't be at college with me anymore, we still get to spent some time together."
Then Welch and Ledwein ran into Hilinski and Plano, who looked every bit the part of a top-seeded team. Welch and Ledwein were 2 under for 16 holes -- but Hilinski and Plano were 5 under. H&P took the first lead with a birdie at the second. Welch and Ledwein countered with a birdie at the fourth, but Hilinski and Plano birdied the sixth -- and took the lead for good.
The No. 1 seeds won the eighth with a birdie, the ninth with a par and made it three holes in a row with yet another birdie at the 10th. Welch and Ledwein responded with a birdie at the 11th and cut the deficit to 2 up with a par at the 12th, but Hilinski and Plano notched their fifth birdie of the match at the 13th to go back to 3 up. It seemed fitting that the match ended when the teams halved the par-5 17th with birdies.
The match that Hilinski and Plano lost to Bourdage and Weidenfeld resembled the other semifinal in that a big lead disappeared, and the issue wasn't settled until the 20th hole. In this one, Bourdage and Weidenfeld were 3 under and 4 up after 11 holes, but they were 3 over for the last seven holes of regulation. They, like Barber and Saldana, survived their semifinal match thanks to a birdie at the par-5 11th.
WOMEN'S AMATEUR GOLF
U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball
At Maridoe Golf Club
Par 72, 6,341 yards
Stroke play results (64 teams playing for 32 spots in match play)
T1. Paris Hilinski/Alexa Pano 70-68--138
T1. Ami Gianchandani/Kaitlyn Lee 69-69--138
T1. Gianna Clemente/Avery Zweig 69-69--138
4. Julian Bourdage/Casey Weidenfeld 69-70--139
T5. Lauren Greenlief/Katie Miller Gee 70-70--140
T5. Lauren Cox/Katie Finley 70-70--140
T22. Taylor Ledwein/Megan Welch 74-71--145
Round of 32
(1) Hilinski/Pano def. (32) Palacios/Rosenberg 3&1
(17) Barrientos/Heflin def. (16) Jan. Leovao/Jas. Leovao 19 holes
(8) Huynh/Im def. (25) Gamble/Harrison 1 up
(24) Ledwein/Welch def. (9) Clark/Schroeder 1 up
(4) Bourdage/Weidenfeld def. Kahn/Vodry 1 up
(13) Royal/Varma def. (20) Fischer/Kovelesky 2&1
(28) Chow/James def. (5) Greenlief/Miller Gee 6&4
(12) Davis/Yuan def. (21) Fernanda Martinez/Jose Martinez 3&2
(31) Castle/Wenzler def. (2) Gianchandani/Lee 2&1
(18) Bryan/Summerhays def. (15) Tiffany/Villegas 4&3
(26) Barber//Saldana def. (7) Cao/Romas 4&3
(23) Ho/Tsuru def. (10) Gray/Nguyen 5&4
(3) Clemente/Zweig def. (30) Stasi/Woodard 3&2
(14) Beqaj/Snyder def. (19) Simon/Skoler 4&2
(27) Cowart/Merrill def. (6) Cox/Finley 2&1
(11) Linder/Tuttle def. (22) Dunstan/Topiwala 4&3
Round of 16
Hilinski/Pano def. Barrientos/Heflin 3&2
Ledwein/Welch def. Huynh/Im 2&1
Bourdage/Weidenfeld def. Royal/Varma 4&3
Davis/Yuan def. Chow/James 2&1
Castle/Wenzler def. Bryan/Summerhays 1 up
Barber/Saldana def. Ho/Tsuru 4&3
Clemente/Zweig def. Beqaj/Snyder 3&2
Cowart/Merrill def. Linder/Tuttle 1 up
Hilinski/Pano def. Ledwein/Welch 3&2
Bourdage/Weidenfeld def. Davis/Yuan 5&4
Barber/Saldana def. Castle/Wenzler 4&3
Clemente/Zweig def,. Cowart/Merrill 1 up
Bourdage/Weidenfeld def. Hilinski/Pano 20 holes
Barber/Saldana def. Clemente/Zweig 20 holes
(26) Barber/Saldana def. (4) Bourdage/Weidenfeld 5&4