The No. 13 seed in match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur certainly turned out to be unlucky for Melanie Green.
That’s because her opponent Wednesday, No. 52 seed Rachel Heck, based on placing after two days of stroke play, was certainly not your typical No. 52 seed.
Heck, at No. 3 in the world amateur golf rankings, is the highest ranked player in the field. The Stanford junior, who won the 2021 NCAA championship as a freshman and helped the Cardinal win the team title this year, was on top of her game Wednesday.
That meant trouble for Green as Heck advanced to the round of 32 at Chambers Bay with a 5-and-3 victory.
A total of 32 matches were played Wednesday, all starting 90 minutes late because of dangerous weather in the morning.
Heck was ready for the start of her match, making about a 65-foot putt on the first hole for an eagle.
Heck, who was 2-over after two days of stroke play while Green was 5 under, never lost the lead after that.
Green made a birdie on No. 11 to cut Heck’s lead to 2-up, then had a better tee shot on the drivable par-4 12th. Heck had about a 65-foot putt, sharply uphill, and hit it to about 3 feet.
Green was also facing an uphill putt, but about 10 feet shorter. Her first putt didn’t get to the top of the ridge, and rolled back down to her feet. After two more putts without getting the ball in, she conceded the hole.
“I practiced that putt in the practice round and you have to hit it really hard to get it up that hill,” Heck said. “When I was about to putt, I was, ‘OK, whatever I do, make sure you get it up that hill.’ I even left it a little short and I thought I hammered it.”
Heck took a 4-up lead on the next hole after a fantastic third shot in the fescue above the green on the par-5 13th.
“We pulled the second shot really far left, and that was not the plan,” said Heck, who has her father, Robert, as her caddie this week.
“I thought if I can get (the third shot) 10 to 12 feet from the hole, I would be ecstatic.”
She got it within 10 feet, and made the birdie to go 4-up and two holes later she ended the match.
“I told my dad after the hole, these are the moments why I play golf, and this is so fun. I have this crazy shot in the fescue and I’m just going to hit a flop shot and see what happens. That kind of stuff is really fun to me.”
Heck is used to having fun on the course. She won six times as a freshman at Stanford, including the Pac-12 championship, an NCAA regional and the NCAA championship.
Last summer, she finished 35th in the U.S. Women’s Open.
She won twice more this season for Stanford, where she has earned All-American honors as a golfer and scholar for the second consecutive season.
Heck said she didn’t perform the way she wanted to in stroke play, but said it was “fun to reset and have a fresh mindset” going into match play.
Her confidence is high.
“I feel really good about my game right now,” Heck said. “It’s fun to have my dad on the bag, and we work super well together. Anything can happen, but we feel really confident.”
Green said she was not bothered that she drew such a tough opponent to start match play.
“It’s just how it happened; no worries,” said Green, a junior at South Florida who played in the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this year. “She’s a great player, and she’s super sweet too. Kudos to her. I wish her the best the rest of the way.”
Heck said it would “mean the world to her” to win this event, but she’s not looking too far ahead with potentially two rounds to play Thursday as the field will get cut from 32 to eight.
“I hope it’s a long day of golf,” Heck said.
- Lanna Stone, the top seed and co-medalist, lost 2-1 to No. 64 seed Julia Misemar, who won a playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot into match play.
- Jensen Castle, the defending champion and No. 15 seed, lost 1-up to No. 50 seed Aneka Seumanutafa.
- The two youngest players in the field, 13-year-olds Alice Ziyi Zhou and Anna Fang, each advanced. Zhou, a co-medalist and No. 2 seed, beat No. 63 seed Camryn Carreon 4 and 3. Fang, the No. 58 seed, beat No. 7 seed Taglao Jeeravivitaporn 3 and 2.