Resilient Ganne falls in U.S. Women's Amateur semifinals in 19 Holes
Megha Ganne of Holmdel nearly overcame improbable odds before falling to Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland in 19 holes on Saturday morning in the semifinal round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Mississippi. Ganne, age 15, trailed Valenzuela, the fifth-ranked player in the world, three-up after four holes before rallying to tie the match for the first time on the fifteenth hole.
The resilient Ganne overcame a slow start, losing the first hole when Valenzuela birdied No. 1 and then suffered a bogey on the second hole. When Ganne incurred a double bogey on the par-4, No. 4 hole, she found herself down three holes.
But the unflappable teenager had a rally in her. She shaved one hole off the deficit with a par victory at the par-4, No. 6. At the par-5, No. 9, Ganne made a short birdie putt and went into the turn trailing by only one hole.
A bogey by Ganne at the par-3, No. 12, when she missed the green, allowed Valenzuela to take a 2-up lead. But Ganne managed to drive the green on the par-4, 236-yard No. 14, and then sank a 20-foot putt for an eagle, and again reduced the deficit to one hole.
Ganne finally tied the match when she birdied the par-5, 491-yard No. 15 hole. Her second shot strayed right and she found herself on wood chips alongside a tree 60 yards from the hole. Her chip shot from there ended six inches from the hole and she notched a birdie victory to tie the match.
The match nearly turned on the par-3, 141-yard No. 17. Ganne hit a seven iron off the tee that ended up against the lip of a fronting bunker. She decided the lie was unplayable, took a drop in the bunker, and blasted out 40 feet past the flagstick. Valenzuela, whose tee shot ended on the green 20 feet from the cup, was a conceded birdie and to take a 1-up lead.
Ganne, needing to win the par 4, 382-yard 18th hole to extend the match, hit a brilliant approach to 10 feet for a conceded birdie against Valenzuela’s bogey to tie the match and force extra holes.
On the 19th hole, the par-5, 512-yard No. 1, both players reached the green in regulation. Valenzuela drained her 15-foot birdie putt while Ganne’s 12-foot birdie attempt slid past the cup, enabling Valenzuela to reach Sunday’s 36-hole finale vs. Gabriela Ruffels of Australia.
“It was a great experience. This course is gorgeous and everyone in the field is playing amazing. It’s really the ultimate test with the weather and the greens and I loved every minute,” Ganne said following the match.
Valenzuela, the fifth-ranked amateur in the world, was gracious in her assessment of her opponent.
“Megha made me work hard on the course. She’s such a talented player for a 15-year-old and I think she has an amazing career ahead of her. I wish I could have played like her when I was 15. She’ll be in a final match someday. Megha can hold her nerves. I thought she was going to make (the final putt),” Valenzuela said.
In the 36-hole championship match on Sunday, Valenzuela will meet Gabriela Ruffels of Australia, who defeated Andrea Lee of California in the semifinal, 2-up.