SPRINGFIELD – It was one thing to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Amateur in the area you grew up and call home. But to complete the dream scenario, you’d want to make it to match play.
For Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion at Chichester, that dream became a reality as the sun was setting over the 6,259-yard, par-71 Rolling Green Golf Club Tuesday. For Jackie Rogowicz, the two-time District One champion and two time PIAA runnerup at Pennsbury, that dream may be slipping away, but it remains a possibility.
Both Kan and Rogowicz were involved in a classic USGA playoff with nine players vying for five spots in match play, putters at five paces in the dusk at the timeless William Flynn design. Kan was one of four players, including her former Purdue teammate August Kim, to survive the first hole of that test with a clutch up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the 186-yard, par-3 10th hole for a par.
Rogowicz and four others made bogey and will reconvene at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday with just one spot remaining to fill out the 64 players who will commence with the first round of match play not long after that survivor is determined.
Kan was among the early finishers Tuesday as she added a 2-over 73 to her opening-round 74 for that 5-over 147 total that would ultimately land her in the playoff. But it was nearly seven hours between her tap-in for par at the 18th hole and her tee shot at the par-3 10th.
“I hit a 7-wood and I yanked it just a little and it ended up in the bunker,” said Kan, who also reached match play and won two matches in the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Country Club of Charleston. “It was a tough bunker shot. I couldn’t see the flag, but I hit a good shot. It was a tough putt, a curler, right to left, three or four feet.”
She got it to fall, though, and then waited some more as the other five playoff participants played the hole, including the Big Ten champion Kim of St. Augustine, Fla. who was the rising star in Kan’s last two seasons at Purdue.
Kim got her par putt to fall after executing a tough flop shot from the right rough in front of the green. Abbey Carlson, a Vanderbilt recruit from Lake Mary, Fla., also emerged from Kan’s foursome with a two-putt par. The fourth survivor was another Big Ten standout, Northwestern senior Kacie Komoto from Honolulu, Hawaii who matched Kan’s effort with an up-and-down from the left greenside bunker, getting a tough 20-foot par putt to drop.
Rogowicz, playing in the trailing fivesome with Kim, also chipped from the left rough, but her eight-foot par putt slid by. Rogowicz, whose Penn State coach Denise St. Pierre followed her the entire way, will square off first thing Wednesday with Florida junior Taylor Tomlinson of Gainesville, Fla., Houston junior Megan Thothong of Dallas, Riley Runnell of Columbia, Tenn. and Muni He of China.
Many hours earlier another bunker shot had a lot to do with Kan still being around for the playoff. After making a bogey at the first hole to fall to 4-over to start her round, Kan, with younger sister Caprian carrying her sticks, found herself in the deep bunker fronting the 418-yard, par-4 fifth hole.
“That bunker is so deep, there’s stairs to take you down into it,” Kan said. “So, I took the stairs down, picked out a target and hit. Then (Caprian) started going, ‘Oh, oh …’ and then the people following us let out a cheer and I knew I’d made it.”
The birdie got her back to 3-over. Kan kept giving herself birdie opportunities and not converting. Then came a devastating blow. Her tee shot at the tough par-3 14th found a bunker, she blasted to 18 feet and three-putted for a double bogey.
“The bunker wasn’t a big problem, it was the putting,” Kan said. “It just seemed like the greens were slicker than (Monday). It was tough to get the line and the right speed all day.”
She had a brilliant par save at the 15th when her drive caught a tree and dropped straight down. She was forced punch out and then launched a wedge to the slope behind the front pin. She caught the slope and ended up with a tap-in for par.
A bunkered approach at the par-3 16h led to a bogey and she was 6-over with the two par-5s remaining, holes that can be had.
Kan got the one she needed when she rammed home a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th.
“I needed that, that was a good birdie,” Kan said. “It gave me a confidence boost. “
She gave herself a chance at the 18th, her approach leaving her a 14-footer for birdie. But she couldn’t get it to fall and a long afternoon of waiting ensued.
“It was tough just sitting there watching the scoreboard,” Kan said.
But ultimately Kan was in. She gets a date with the formidable Katelyn Dambaugh, the South Carolina senior left-hander who had rounds of 68 and 70 and was one of four players who finished tied for fifth in qualifying at 4-under 138.
While Kan was scoreboard-watching, Rogowicz, coming off a solid freshman season at Penn State, was in good shape to make match play following an opening round of 1-over 72 Monday. But some missed opportunities early and a string of four straight bogeys appeared to sink her chances.
But Rogowicz responded with a gritty tee shot to five feet at the par-3 sixth hole and made the putt for a birdie that got her back to 5-over. Finishing on the 544-yard, par-5 ninth hole, Rogowicz gave herself a chance to avoid the playoff when her approach left her with a good look at birdie from six feet. Her putt tickled the edge, but refused to fall.
Rogowicz finished with a 4-over 75 as she joined that group of nine that finished at 5-over 147.
One bonus that came from following Rogowicz’s group all afternoon was that it included 18-year-old Mariel Galdiano, a UCLA recruit from Pearl City, Hawaii who fashioned a brilliant 6-under 65 to claim medalist honors by two shots with a 9-under 133 total.
It broke the previous qualifying scoring record by two shots and tied her for the second lowest single round in qualifying, matching the 65 carded by 2007 PIAA champion Rachel Rohanna at Charlotte Country Club in 2010.
The six straight pars she opened the round with offered little warning for the explosion to come. She lit the fuse when she dropped in a 12-footer for birdie at the par-3 16th.
Galdiano’s approach at the par-5 18th left her 25 feet for birdie. She made it. At the first, she stuck it to five feet. Made that. Then it was four feet at two. That one went in. At the par-3 third, she hit it to five feet. You guessed it. That one went in, too.
Four straight birdies, each more impressive than the last, enabled her to overtake precocious 13-year Lucy Li, who had finished at 7-under 135 earlier in the day by adding a 3-under 68 to her opening-round 67.
Galdiano, No. 7 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, made tough par-saving putts at the next three holes before getting her sixth birdie of the day, dropping an 18-foot birdie try at the par-5 seventh. Her putting was so solid all day, it was surprising she couldn’t get a five-footer at the par-5 ninth to fall.
Galdiano was chosen to represent the United States in the Curtis Cup Match against a strong Great Britain and Ireland side in Dublin in June and it was easy to see why. That experience might have something to do with the fact that of the seven U.S. Curtis Cuppers in the field at Rolling Green, six are moving on to match play.
“When you’re in that situation with cameras on you and a big crowd cheering for GB&I, I had to learn to focus on myself,” Galdiano said.
The lone Curtis Cupper who did not reach match play was Sierra Brooks, runnerup to Hannah O’Sullivan at last year’s Women’s Amateur. But Stanford recruits Mika Liu and Andrea Lee, the runnerup to South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, UCLA sophomore Bethany Wu, Arizona State senior Monica Vaughn and Georgia sophomore Bailey Tardy.
Should Rogowicz survive the playoff Wednesday morning, her reward will be a 9 a.m. match with Galdiano.
Former Lower Merion standout Alessandra Liu, coming off an impressive senior season at William & Mary, just missed joining Kan and Rogowicz in the playoff as she posted a 1-over 72, which, combined with her opening-round 76, gave her a 6-over 148 total.
Recent Council Rock North graduate Madelein Herr, who will join Rogowicz at Penn State later this month, had a 78 Tuesday and finished at 153. South Jersey native Meghan Stasi, an eight-time Philadelphia Women’s Amateur and four time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, had a 78 Tuesday to finish at 157. And recent Unionville graduate and Georgetown recruit Kate Evanko bounced back from an opening-round 82 with a 77 Tuesday for a 159 total.
A couple of interesting opening-round matchups include NCAA champion Virgina Elena Carta of Italy against George sophomore Rinko Mitsunaga at 9:10 a.m., Li taking on Purdue’s Kim at 11:40 a.m. and a Pac-10 showdown between Arizona State’s Vaughn, the U.S. Curtis Cup team member, and Southern California senior Gabriella Then.