South Africa’s Kaleigh Telfer enjoyed a great run in the 120th US Women’s Amateur Championship before her maiden bid for glory was thwarted by world No 9 Rose Zhang in the quarter-finals.
In her first competitive outing since she won her second collegiate title in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in March, Telfer fired rounds of 71 and 75 in the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier at Woodmont Country Club.
The South African, seeded 24th in the 64-player matchplay field, comfortably cleared the first hurdle, ousting Talia Campbell from New York 6 & 5, to make the top 32.
In her next match, the GolfRSA Elite Squad member trailed for 14 holes against Virginia Tech’s Emily Mahar. She was three down with four holes to play before she rallied to win the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to extend the match. Telfer sealed victory with a par on the 20th hole.
After a short break, the WGCA All-American faced Rachel Kuehn in the top 16.
In a close match, Telfer and Kuehn were tied through the first 10 holes, but the South African reeled in a trio of birdies on the 11th, 12th and 14th holes to defeat the eighth-seeded American 2 & 1 for a quarter-final spot.
Telfer’s next opponent was Zhang. The 17-year-old Californian junior – making her sixth start in the premier women’s amateur championship – rallied from two down to knock out strokeplay medallist Rachel Heck one up to reach the final eight.
Telfer drew first blood with a birdie on the par-three second, but Zhang won the seventh hole with a birdie on the seventh to level the score. The American took the lead with a gain on the ninth, but the Auburn Tiger’s junior rallied with a birdie on the 11th to tie the match again.
Back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th gave Zhang the advantage again, and Telfer was unable to catch her, losing the match 2 & 1.
‘It was my first tournament back, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much,’ Telfer said.
‘I’m really proud of myself that I made it that far and obviously a little disappointed. I didn’t play my best golf, but I am still proud that I made it to the quarter-finals in my first US Women’s Amateur appearance. And it was just really great to get back out on the course.’
Fellow Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member Kajal Mistry, battling a niggling wrist injury, also qualified for the knockout stages. The 19-year-old GolfRSA Elite Squad member opened with an expensive 81 in the strokeplay qualifier at the North Course, but in a stunning comeback, Mistry fired a three-under-par 69 in the final round to match the low round of the day.
This left her with a chance to fight for a spot in a 15-strong playoff. The South African claimed the first of six spots on offer with a birdie at her first playoff hole. Unfortunately Mistry faced defending champion Gabriella Ruffles in what was always going to be a tough first round clash. Mistry was one up after the first eight holes, but the Australian world No 16 took control and won the match 3 & 2.
‘It was a great experience and I’m really grateful for the chance to tee it up in such an amazing event,’ said the former SA No 1. It was awesome to get back on the course in a competitive setting again and I’ll be able to draw a lot on the experiences of this week going forward.’