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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Miller, Kan earn a ticket to U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship

   Two of the most decorated players in the history of PIAA girls golf proved to be a strong team at last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia at chilly Northampton Country Club in Easton.
   Katie Miller, winner of PIAA titles in 1999, 2000 and 2002 at Hempfield Area, and Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion after runnerup showings in 2008 and 2009 at Chichester, captured medalist honors with a 5-under-par 67 at the 6,119-yard, par-72 Northampton layout.
   It should be considerably warmer when the duo tees it up at the third edition of the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball beginning May 27 at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
   The 31-year-old Miller, a Jeanette resident, first ran into Kan when she was precocious 13-year-old battling the recent North Carolina graduate in the 2007 Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur Championship at Manufacturers Golf & Country Club. Miller would defeat Kan on her way to the title that summer.
   “I was impressed with her then and she was only 13- or 14-years old,” Miller told the GAP website. “I was a senior in college then and I just kept an eye on her since then. Last year, we started playing in stuff again after Aurora graduated and reconnected after that.”
   The day of the Four-Ball qualifier was the same day last week that I was following Conestoga’s Samantha Yao on her way to a runnerup finish in Class AAA at the PIAA Championship at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort near York. It was cold there, so I’m guessing it was even colder in Easton.
   None of which seemed to bother Kan, a 22-year-old Boothwyn resident, and Miller. They offset a bogey with three birdies on the front side and then Miller got it going on the back nine. She holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th after blasting out of a greenside bunker, dropped a sand wedge from a fairway bunker to kick-in range at the par-4 14th and added a third birdie on the par-3 16th.
   There was only one other berth to the U.S. Four-Ball available and it went to the pair of Caroline Curtis of Richmond, Va. and Riley Rennell of Columbia, Tenn., who will join the powerhouse Georgia program next fall. They posted a 1-under 71.
   The U.S. Women’s Four-Ball will be, by my count, Kan’s 11th USGA event. She admitted at this summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club that she needed some time away from the game after a stellar four-year career at Purdue in the spring of 2015. She survived a playoff to reach match play at Rolling Green before being ousted in the first round by South Carolina’s Katelyn Dambaugh, one of the top players in college golf.
   Kan said she had a lot of fun representing Pennsylvania in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship in September of 2015 along with then-Radnor senior Brynn Walker and former scholastic and collegiate rival Ellen Ceresko, a Penn State product. Team Pennsylvania finished third at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
   So Kan should enjoy the team aspect when she tees it up with Miller in the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball in Myrtle Beach.
   “Our games are perfect for each other,” Kan told the GAP website at Northampton. “We’re kind of opposites, our games in a way. I like to swing easier whereas she likes to swing more aggressively. My putting is more aggressive while she likes to play the break and die it in. She was on fire today. Basically, everything she saw, she made it.”
   The men’s and women’s Four-Ball Championships replaced the U.S. Public Links Championships, an event Kan qualified for four times, on the USGA calendar.
   Walker, a freshman at North Carolina, and former Council Rock North standout Madelein Herr, a freshman at Penn State, earned a trip to the inaugural U.S. Women’s Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes’ Pacific Dunes Course in Oregon in the spring of 2015. They were high school juniors at the time, but they proved to be a formidable team, reaching the semifinals before falling to Robynn Ree, a sophomore at Southern California, and Hannah O’Sullivan, who would go on to win the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
   Their semifinal run earned them a return trip to this year’s U.S. Women’s Four-Ball at the Tom Doak-designed Blue Course at Streamsong in central Florida where they reached the quarterfinals before falling to Pauline Del Rosario and Princess Mary Superal.
   So there is a little history of success for Pennsylvania gals in the short history of this event. Maybe Miller and Kan can add another chapter to that story.

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