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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Owen J. Roberts' Sager earns a trip to U.S. Women's Amateur

   Maddie Sager finished her high school career at Owen J. Roberts in fine fashion, chasing home Radnor’s Brynn Walker for a runnerup finish in the 2015 PIAA Class AAA Championship at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York County.
   Sager will be joining Walker in the field for the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur next month at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif. after firing a 1-over 71 Monday in a qualifier administered by the Middle Atlantic Golf Association at Kenwood Golf & Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
   I got word of Sager’s accomplishment while waiting out a rain delay during my duty as a caddy for Penn Charter senior Brian Isztwan in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Christman Cup at Stonewall’s North Course Thursday. Stonewall is in Owen J. country.
   I go back to January of 1979 in that area when I joined the sports staff of The Mercury in Pottstown. I’m almost certain Sager, coming off a solid freshman season at Seton Hall, will be the first Owen J. Roberts product to tee it up in a U.S. Women’s Amateur. I can’t remember ever hearing of a male or female from Mercury country making a U.S. Amateur, although I’m sure if I’m wrong about that, I’ll hear about it.
   Suffice it to say, it hasn’t happened a lot. Word around Stonewall – OK, it was one of my fellow Stonewall loopers checking out her Facebook page – was that Sager left the driver out of the bag and hit 14 fairways to finish tied for second with Youngin Chun, an American Junior Golf Association standout from Gainesville, Fla. via South Korea at the 6,051-yard, par-70 Kenwood layout.
   Sager played in 10 events with two top-10 finishes as a freshman at Seton Hall. She was joined on the Pirates roster by another District One standout, Sammie Staudt of Coatesville.
   There was a little heartbreak at Kenwood for Agnes Irwin senior Kaitlyn Lees, who lost in a playoff for the last of the four available tickets to the U.S. Women’s Amateur after finishing in a tie for fourth with Alex White of Lompoc, Calif., who recently wrapped up an outstanding collegiate career at Brigham Young University, at 2-over 72.
   Lees, who is headed this week to the Girls Junior PGA Championship at The Country Club of St. Albans in St. Albans, Mo., is the first alternate for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Lees is also the first alternate out of a qualifier at Silver Creek Country Club for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, which tees off July 24 at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
   One of my most trusted sources – OK, it’s her dad – told me she hasn’t heard from the USGA on getting a spot in the field at Boone Valley. Hey USGA, she’ll be right around the corner in Missouri if a spot opens up. Just sayin’.
   It would be too cruel to be first alternate for both championships and get in neither. But it does mean Lees, a two-time Inter-Ac League champion who plays out of Philadelphia Country Club, is playing great golf. White made a par on the first hole of the playoff while Lees made a bogey.
   White was the WCC’s individual champion and finished in a tie for 14th in the individual standings in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
   Brynn Walker’s North Carolina teammate, Bryana Nguyen, a senior from Columbia, Md., claimed medalist honors at Kenwood with a sparkling 3-under 67.  Like Sager, Nguyen hit 14 fairways.
At times last spring Nguyen was North Carolina’s best player. She helped the Tar Heels stage a memorable rally at the Athens Regional to reach the NCAA Championship and then finish ninth, just a shot short of a berth in match play, at Rich Harvest Farms.
   With Walker, who was the medalist in a qualifier at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe, N.J., and Nguyen headed for California, that’s at least two of the four returning Tar Heels from the five who played at Rich Harvest Farms in the U.S. Women’s Amateur field.
   Chun, who shared second place with Sager, was coming off her fifth career victory in 37 AJGA starts in the Polo Golf Junior Classic at The Ridge at Back Brook in Ringoes, N.J., site of last year’s Philadelphia Open. Got that little stat from a story on the Polo in The Trentonian authored by the one and only L.A. Parker.
   The second alternate from Kenwood is Alexandra Farnsworth, a senior at Vanderbilt out of Nashville, Tenn. who was awarded an individual berth in the NCAA regionals this spring. Farnsworth was a shot behind White and Lees with a 3-over 73.
   Conestoga junior Samantha Yao, the PIAA Class AAA runnerup last fall, carded a 77. Former Unionville standout Kate Evanko, coming off her freshman year at Georgetown, had a 78. Evanko, quite memorably, earned a ticket to Rolling Green Golf Club for last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Kenwood.
   Former Springfield High standout Samantha Miller, a senior at East Stroudsburg, had a 79. Miller was an all-PSAC first-team selection as a junior. Central York senior Julianne Lee, who finished third behind Yao in Class AAA at Heritage Hills last fall, had an 83.
   A couple of former Inter-Ac champions, Meghan Fahey and Olivia Traynor, each carded an 87.
Fahey, who plays out of Merion Golf Club and Overbrook Golf Club, was Traynor’s teammate at Notre Dame when she won the Inter-Ac title in the spring of 2016. She has since transferred to Agnes Irwin, but sat out this spring. She’ll team up with Lees to give the Owls a tough 1-2 punch at the top of their lineup next spring.
   Traynor captured the Inter-Ac title as a freshman in the spring of 2015.
   Sager won’t be the only Seton Hall player at San Diego Country Club either. Mia Kness, who staged a memorable battle with Yao before claiming the PIAA Class AAA title at Heritage Hills as a Peters Township senior last fall, is an incoming freshman for the Pirates.
   Kness shared medalist honors July 6 in a U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier at Walnut Grove Country Club in Dayton, Ohio with a 68. Kness’ co-medalist was Wad Phaewchimplee, who recently completed an outstanding collegiate career at Kent State.
   Phaewchimplee helped the Golden Flash nose out North Carolina for the final spot in match play in the NCAA Championship before falling to Northwestern, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.

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