Ami Gianchandani of Watchung Valley, the Ivy League Player of the Year, played virtually flawless golf, firing four birdies and an eagle to propel her to a 4 & 2 quarterfinal round victory over two-time and defending champion Kelly Sim of Alpine earlier today at the New Jersey State Golf Association 94th Women’s Amateur Championship at the par-72, 6,086-yard Navesink Country Club in Middletown.
Gianchandani advanced to the semifinals where she will face Christina Parsells, 22, of Baltusrol, who defeated Emma Shen, 15, of Edgewood in 19 holes. The other semifinal will feature Anina Ku, 18, of Neshanic Valley against Allison Herring, 22, of TPC Jasna Polana. Ku ousted NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion Noelle Maertz, 25, of Ridgewood, 5 and 4, while Herring bested Julia McLaughlin, 18, of Bedens Brook – all in quarterfinal round action.
The championship match will be played Friday afternoon, following the semifinals.
“Kelly Sim is so good. She doesn’t make mistakes, so coming into the match against her, I knew I didn’t have room for error,” said Gianchandani, 19, a rising sophomore at Yale University who won the 2015 NJSGA Junior Girls’ Championship.
“It helped me playing three rounds here before the match. It’s a really challenging course that rewards you if you know where to hit it on the green, and off the tee,” said Gianchandani, a resident of Watchung who graduated from Pingry School.
This past spring, during her freshman season at Yale, she won three tournaments and placed in the top 10 in eight of 10 events.
“Playing in this event with college players who are used to a higher level inspired me. In this championship, you get to meet and play against a lot of great college players,” she said.
Against Sim, Gianchandani won the first two holes, with a par and a birdie, and went 3-up following a birdie victory on the par-5, eighth hole. Sim, a rising sophomore at Northwestern and a first-team All-Big Ten Conference performer, won the par-4, 10th hole with a birdie. But Gianchandani continued to shine, draining a 40-foot birdie to win the par-3, 13th hole, then saved her best for the par-5, 14th hole. Standing 86 yards from the green, she played a wedge shot and the ball landed six feet past the flagstick – and miraculously spun its way back to the hole and into the cup for an eagle and a 4-up lead over Sim.
“To be able to play in this tournament against all these great players is amazing and to win it would be special,” said Gianchandani, who next week will play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, her sixth USGA event.
Parsells, a recent graduate of Georgetown University who was first-team All-Big East all four years, needed one extra hole to defeat Shen, which she claimed with a par four. She was runner-up to Sim in last year’s NJSGA Women’s Amateur.
“I’m excited about tomorrow. It will be a good match against Ami (Gianchandani). She is not intimidated and she will make a lot of birdies. We’ll both be competitive,” said Parsells, who won the NJSGA Junior Girls in 2014.
Ku, who lives in Basking Ridge, is a rising sophomore at Harvard University where she was named All-Ivy League and helped Harvard to the Ivy League championship. A year ago, she was named Rolex All-America. She also won the 2018 NJSGA Women’s Public Links.
Against Maertz, who earlier had rallied from a three-hole deficit to defeat Madeline Jin of Royce Brook in 19 holes, Ku was three up through seven holes. She then won the par-4 10th hole with a par and the par-5 11th for a five-hole cushion.
“I didn’t have any bogeys today, so I’m excited about tomorrow. I feel like I’m in a good position. I’m confident in my shots and my irons are setting me up for birdie looks,” Ku noted.
Herring, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee where she was a member of the golf team, trailed after the fourth hole, but won four of the next five holes to take the lead for good vs. McLaughlin, a rising freshman at Wake Forest.
“I feel each round, I’m getting to know the golf course better,” said Herring, who reached the Women’s Amateur semifinals in 2017 at Somerset Hills. “I’m a much better player than I was then. I’m much more mentally prepared,” Herring said.
In the Round of 16, Sim def. Fran Gacos of Copper Hill, 4 and 3; Gianchandani def. Haley Bookholdt of Old York, 2 and 1; Parsells def. Donna McHugh of Upper Montclair, 7 and 5; Shen def. Tara Fleming of New Jersey National, 3 and 2; Herring def. Christine Shao of N.J. National, 2 and 1; McLaughlin def. Angela Lee of NJSGA E-Club, 19 holes; Ku def. Samantha Perrotta of Old York, 5 and 3, and Maertz def. Jin of Royce Brook, 19 holes.