Minnesota Golf Association

VanArragon to Meet U of M Golfer Curran in Finals at MGA Women's Match Play

June 18, 2020

By Nick Hunter
  PRIOR LAKE, Minn. – Entering the opening round of the Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship at The Wilds Golf Club Wednesday, Kathryn VanArragon’s name was certainly on a list of favorites in a deep field of 32 players.
But VanArragon, who became the youngest player to win the Minnesota Class AAA individual title as a seventh-grader and the youngest to claim the Women’s State Amateur the following season, has had anything but an easy journey to Friday’s final match, single-handedly knocking out some of the state’s best golfers.
After getting past Emily Doeden to open the championship early Wednesday, VanArragon overcame an early deficit to defeat University of Nebraska and former Red Wing standout Leah Herzog during the Round of 16.
During her senior campaign for the Wingers, Herzog had the best individual high school season on record by finishing the season at 40-under par, garnering 2019 Ms. Minnesota Golf honors along the way.
Facing a three-time state high school individual medalist and two-time MGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year in Sophia Yoemans during the quarterfinal round early Thursday, VanArragon birdied the second hole and would never trail during the match, going on to win, 3 and 2.
Reaching the semifinal round Thursday afternoon to square off against Bradley University golfer Taylor Ledwein, winner of both the Women’s Match Play and Women’s Amateur Championships in 2018, VanArragon dropped a number of clutch putts to reach the championship round with a victory, 3 and 2.
“Putting was pretty key this morning and this afternoon,” VanArragon said. “In match play especially, it’s important to make putts and make saves to help with confidence. Putting really well helps in any round, but it’s really been helping me this week.”
“It’s definitely been hard this week. I noticed walking up those hills around the ninth hole, it was getting harder and harder to walk the course,” VanArragon said Thursday as the field has faced humid and windy conditions for three consecutive days on an already difficult 6,100-yard, undulating layout. “I just tried to stay positive, keep concentrating and not pay attention to anything else.”
With a 2-up lead through eight holes Thursday, VanArragon found her rhythm with her putter at the ninth, sinking a 25-footer to extend her lead over the former New Prague High School star. Making several crucial saves of her own to keep pace, Ledwein rolled in a 6-footer at the 10th to pull within two, but VanArragon drilled a 6-footer of her own at the par-5 12th to regain a 3-up lead.
Trying to find her way back into the contest late, Ledwein nearly holed out for eagle from the 14th fairway, leaving herself a tap-in birdie and a chance to trim the deficit. VanArragon’s birdie opportunity sat on the front-right edge of the green, 15 feet away and she would drop her fourth birdie of the match to extinguish any chance for Ledwein.
“That was the first time this week that I was in the rough and I knew it was going to roll a little bit once it got to the green,” she said. “I knew I had to make it because she was so close. I didn’t put a lot of break on it but hit it pretty solid.”
VanArragon closed out the match at the 16th, 3 and 2, to advance to Friday’s final match against the University of Minnesota’s Grace Curran.
Curran, a native of New Lenox, Ill., who had a promising start to her freshman season for the Gophers by notching a top-10 finish at The Gold Rush in California in late February, cruised during the opening round by beating Claudia Kim, 6 and 5. Curran then won the final two holes of her Round of 16 match against Emma Welch to claim a 2-up victory.
Carding bogey on the opening hole of her quarterfinal match against University of South Dakota golfer Megan Munneke, Curran would play her next 13 holes in 2-under to advance to the semifinal round with a 5 and 4 victory.
Rolling in a pair of birdies against one bogey during her opening nine holes against 16-year-old Kate Strickland, Curran built a 3-up lead before Strickland came charging back with birdies at the 10th and 12th holes to pull within one.
Curran took control late by sticking her approach to a foot at the par-4 15th hole to take a 2-up lead. With Strickland wedging her approach inside three feet at the 17th, Curran dropped a 4-footer to capture a 2 and 1 victory and secured a spot in the final match against VanArragon.
“[Strickland] was very competitive and it was a very fun match—she’s a great player,” Curran said following her semifinal victory Thursday. “It was very back-and-forth and when made the turn and she made birdie on 10 and a birdie on 12, it was very impressive and I knew I was going to have to step up if I was going to beat her.”
Curran played in seven events for the Gophers during the 2019-2020 season and finished fourth on the team in scoring average. A four-year letter winner in high school, won the Illinois State Junior Amateur Championship in 2018.
“I’m trying to stay confident and play one hole at a time. There are a lot of good golfers out here, but if I play my game, I think I have a chance to win. I’m happy to be back competing because my spring season was cut short. It was disappointing because I thought our team, and myself, had some good momentum going.
“College golf has definitely gotten me used to walking these 36-hole days, it’s gotten easier the more I do it. It is a tough course to walk, though, but you just have to know that you’ll get through it, one foot in front of the other.”
Despite playing in her first state championship in Minnesota this week, Curran will face a familiar opponent in VanArragon Friday.
“I’ve known Kathryn for a while. Our parents know each other pretty well,” Curran said. “I know she is a good striker of the golf ball, but I think it comes down to who can get up-and-down and who makes more putts. Keep the ball in play and get some birdie chances, but I think it’ll come down to who putts better.”
After a slow start, former Minnesota State University, Mankato golfer and current Central University women’s golf coach Tabitha Kunst managed a 3-up lead over Greta McAurthur through nine holes and never looked back, claiming the championship match of the First Flight, 4 and 2.
The tee time for the championship match is set for 7:30 a.m. Friday at The Wilds Golf Club.


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