Lauren Lehigh falls victim to big comeback at U.S. Women’s Am; in last 2 years, Coloradan has advanced to quarterfinals and sweet 16 in the event
By Gary Baines – 8/10/2023
It’s a phrase uttered so often in high-level competitive golf that it sometimes seems trite. But it also has rung true often enough that it’s understandable why it’s said so often:
Anything can happen in match play.
Lauren Lehigh of Loveland certainly knows it’s true, and the point hit home again on Thursday in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
In her latest run at this national championship, Lehigh was seemingly fully in control and on track to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Am for a second straight year.
The two-time Colorado girls state high school individual champion was 3 up through 11 holes in her round-of-16 match against Oregon State golfer Kyra Ly of Portland on Thursday afternoon.
About an hour later, Lehigh found herself 1 down after 16 holes despite making just one bogey during that stretch. Ly won four holes in a five-hole stretch (12 through 16) — three with birdies — to overcome her big deficit and take the lead. After the two players tied the final two holes with pars, Ly emerged with a 1-up victory and advanced to the quarterfinals in her first U.S. Women’s Am.
Lehigh lost despite going 2 under par for the round. Ly was 3 under.
The defeat notwithstanding, Lehigh has had quite a run in this event. Now ranked No. 376 in the world among women’s amateurs, the University of New Mexico golfer went to the quarterfinals in the USWA last year, losing to the eventual champion. Before last year, no Coloradan in over two decades had advanced as far as the quarters of the U.S. Women’s Am. Then on Thursday, Lehigh made it to the sweet 16.
After being 3 down, Ly made an 8-foot birdie on 12 (where Lehigh had a three-putt for par) and 15-footers on 14 and 16. Throw in a bogey by Lehigh on 15 — her only one of the match — and Ly was 1 up after 16.
Lehigh lipped out a 7-foot birdie try on 17 that would have knotted the match. On 18, she two-putted for par from 25 feet, while Ly converted on a 5-foot par putt for the victory.
“Luckily for me a lot of the putts went in,” Ly told Golf Channel, which televised much of the round-of-16 action.
In the morning round of 32, Lehigh defeated 16-year-old Charlotte Cantonis of Tampa, Fla., 3 and 2, to advance. Lehigh trailed only briefly, on the front nine, and finished 1 under par for 16 holes.
Results of the players with strong Colorado connections who competed at the U.S. Women’s Amateur:
THURSDAY’S MATCH PLAY ROUND OF 16
Kyra Ly, Portland, Ore., def. Lauren Lehigh, Loveland, 1 up
THURSDAY’S MATCH PLAY ROUND OF 32
Lauren Lehigh, Loveland, def. Charlotte Cantonis, Tampa, Fla., 3 and 2
WEDNESDAY’S MATCH PLAY ROUND OF 64
Lauren Lehigh, Loveland, def. Isabella Rawl, Lexington, S.C., 3 and 2
Taylor Riley, San Diego, def. CU golfer Morgan Miller, 20 holes
STROKE PLAY MONDAY AND TUESDAY
Advance to Match Play
Lauren Lehigh of Loveland 70-71—141
CU golfer Morgan Miller 71-70–141
Failed to Make Match Play
Emma Bryant of Aurora, a DU golfer 74-76—150
For all the results from Bel-Air CC, CLICK HERE.
About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com