August 8, 2014
Carmen Gutierrez Ballon already was a national amateur champion in her homeland of Peru.
Now, she has her first amateur crown in the States.
Gutierrez Ballon, who was recruited by and plays for Cal-Berkeley, won the California Women’s Amateur Championship on Friday at par-71 Quail Lodge Golf Club, defeating runner-up Victoria Morgan of Pasadena, 1-up in the 18-hole finale.
Gutierrez Ballon was the highest seed remaining (No.8) following the first two rounds of match play. Morgan was the No.30 seed.
“It’s amazing. It was really tough from the beginning to the end,” said Guttierez Ballon, an 18-year-old sophomore at Cal. “I had some great shots that didn’t go my way early, but at the end of the round it all came together.”
For Gutierrez Ballon, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
Trailing throughout the first 15 holes, Gutierrez Ballon finally brought the match back to all-square when Morgan missed a 2-foot putt for par on the 16th. A hole later on the par-3 17th, Guttierez Ballon, whose full name is Carmen Lucia Gutierrez Ballon Valdivia, took her first lead of the match, 1-up, when she sank a 6-foot birdie putt. Morgan, a 20-year-old sophomore at USC, had just minutes earlier missed her 15-foot birdie try.
On the par-4 18th, both players missed the green in regulation. Morgan, the Most Valuable Player of the Boys’ varsity golf squad at Polytechnic School in Pasadena in 2012, was unable to make birdie and had to settle for par. Gutierrez, who was in the bunker behind the green, got out and sank her remaining 5-foot putt for par to seal the victory.
“I was really nervous over that putt on 18. It wasn’t easy,” Gutierrez Ballon said. “I told myself, just put the right speed on it. I took a big breath and just focused on it.”
For Morgan, who didn’t really start playing competitively until she was a junior in high school due to her fellow affection for tennis, it wasn’t just the 17th and 18th holes that did her in. It was earlier on the back-nine that the feel for her putter began to disappear.
“Putts were dropping for me early, but after that my putting just wasn’t quite as good,” said Morgan, who jumped to a 3-up lead through the first five holes thanks to three birdie putts. “On the back, I thought I could get away with just making pars and not making any mistakes. Carmen had a great finish.”
It was on the pivotal 16th hole, which ended up being the turning point in the match, that Morgan’s putter deserted her.
“It’s not the first time I’ve missed a putt that short and it’s not the last time,” said Morgan, a Trojans walk-on. “It was just a slip.”
Despite the quick deficit, and being behind 2-up at the turn, Gutierrez Ballon said she never questioned herself.
“Overall, during the week I trailed a lot, so I never felt in trouble,” Gutierrez Ballon said. “That and I felt very comfortable on the back-nine. Even when I was down by three I felt that I would make it up.”
Following her win, Gutierrez Ballon didn’t waste any time in sharing the good news. She made a quick call to her parents down in Lima, Peru to tell them about her win.
“My mom was really, really happy,” Gutierrez Ballon said.
In the Helen Lengfeld Flight Championship, 13-year-old Ty Akabane of Danville, the No.21 seed, defeated runner-up and No.11 seed Renata Young of Walnut Creek, 4 and 3.
Akabane, who will soon start the 8th grade at Charlotte Wood Middle School, took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the opening 1st hole and never looked back. Following another birdie on No.4, she went 3-up.
“I just try to keep a positive attitude and have fun,” said Akabane, sounding like a veteran. “If I hit a bad shot I move on. It’s in the past.”
August 7, 2014
The finals of this year’s annual California Women’s Amateur Championship will pit USC vs. Cal-Berkeley.
Carmen Gutierrez Ballon, a sophomore at Cal, and Victoria Morgan, a sophomore at USC, each stamped their tickets to the 18-hole finale on Thursday, winning their semifinals matches at par-71 Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel Valley. Both will be vying for their first CWAC title.
Gutierrez Ballon, a native of Peru who won her country’s National Amateur Championship in 2012, advanced with a 3 and 2 win over Martinez resident Sydney Babiak. Gutierrez Ballon, the No.8 seed, trailed Babiak, the No. 21 seed, by one through the duo’s first 11 holes.
It was on holes No.12 through No.14 that Gutierrez Ballon, whose full name is Carmen Lucia Gutierrez Ballon Valdivia, took control. After winning the 12th hole to bring the match back to all-square, Gutierrez Ballon won the 13th with a par and the 14th with a birdie to suddenly take a 2-up lead.
The pair halved No.15 with pars, and on the 16th Gutierrez Ballon shut the door when she made par to a Babiak bogey.
Babiak, a senior in high school, didn’t start playing golf until she was 11 years old, after having earned her black belt in karate. Gutierrez Ballon had a 75.4 stroke average playing for the Bears this past season.
In the afternoon’s other semifinal, Morgan, the No. 30 seed, edged No. 26 Hannah Kim of Chula Vista, 2 and 1.
Named the Most Valuable Player of the Boys’ varsity golf squad at Polytechnic School in Pasadena in 2012, Morgan took the lead from hole No.1 with a par and never gave it up.
Already holding a 2-up lead through just the first three holes, Morgan increased her cushion to 4-up with a par on No.5 and a birdie on the 6th.
With wins on the 7th and 11th holes, Kim, a freshman-to-be at Northwestern University, cut the deficit back to 2-up. But the 20-year-old Morgan responded by winning the 12th and 13th holes with a birdie and par, respectively, to boost her lead back to 4-up.
Kim didn’t make things easy, winning the 14th and 15th holes to again make it 2-up, but the pair halved the 16th and 17th holes with pars, clinching the victory for Morgan.
In the morning quarterfinals, Ballon knocked out No.32 Alexandra Sborov via a 4 and 3 win, while Babiak eliminated No.20 Kiran Sangha, 2-up.
Ballon was the highest seed remaining on the heels of Wednesday’s upset-crazy first and second rounds. Sborov had played a huge role in the upsets, knocking out No.1 Andrea Wong in the first round.
In the other quarterfinals, Kim dispatched No.18 Madison Hirsch, 1-up while Morgan defeated No.22 Felicia Medalla, 1-up.
Friday’s 18-hole championship match will begin at 7:30 a.m. Former winners of the event include current LPGA Tour members Mina Harigae and Natalie Gulbis.
Last year’s winner, Lauren Kim of Los Altos, reached the Round of 16 of this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.
August 6, 2014
It was a day where the higher seeds needed a place to hide.
In a display of the unpredictability of match play, Wednesday’s first and second rounds of this week’s annual California Women’s Amateur Championship at Quail Lodge Golf Club turned out to be a rude awakening for the higher seeds.
Just ask No.1 Andrea Wong, No.2 Hannah Sodersten, No.3 Amanjoty Sangha and No.4 Beverly Vatananugulkit.
Wong, who hails from San Francisco, and Sangha, who’s from San Mateo, both were bounced out of the championship in the morning first round.
It was Pleasanton resident Alexandra Sborov who pulled off the big upset, eliminating Wong, 4 and 3 in the first match of the day. The No.32 seed, Sborov took a 2-up lead with a birdie on No.3 and later made it 3-up with a par on the par-3 8th. Two more birdies on holes No.11 and No.12 sealed the victory for Sborov.
In Tuesday’s qualifying round, Wong shot a course record 7-under 64. Sborov shot 75.
Sborov didn’t stop with Wong, either. In the afternoon second round, the Texas Christian University sophomore dispatched No. 17 seed Laura Scrivner of Fresno, 6 and 5.
For Sodersten, the end came via a 2-up loss to No.18 Madison Hirsch of Fremont in the second round.
In another big bracket buster, No.30 Victoria Morgan of Pasadena defeated Sangha, 5 and 3 in the first round. Morgan, who plays at USC, was already 2-up when she penciled in back-to-back birdies on holes No.7 and No.8 to boost her lead to 4-up. Four holes later on the 12th, Sangha made bogey to give Morgan a 5-up lead.
Like Sborov, Morgan also continued her charge in the second round, knocking out No.19 Alice Jeong of Gardena, 3 and 2.
While Vatananugulkit escaped any damage in the first round, the All-Big West First Team honoree at UC Davis got knocked out in the second round, falling 4 and 3 to Kiran Sangha.
Things got so crazy that by the end of the second round, the highest seed left alive was No. 8 Carmen Gutierrez Ballon, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 20th hole win over No.9 Madchen Ly of Clovis.
In what was yet another big upset, in the second round No.21 Sydney Babiak of Martinez easily defeated No.5 seed Mariko Tumangan of San Jose, 6 and 5. Tumangan, who shot a course record 62 at nearby Rancho Canada GC at the 2009 Central Coast Section Girls’ Golf Championships, was only down one through the first six holes. But that was before Babiak turned into a buzzsaw, winning the next five of six holes to claim the win.
No.6 seed Katherine Sborov, who plays at Vanderbilt and is the sister of Alexandra, also was left looking for answers following a second round 4 and 2 loss to No.22 Felicia Medalia of Foster City.
To add to the insanity, there was also No.26 seed Hannah Kim of Chula Vista, who marched through both rounds with a 2 and 1 win over No.7 Hannah Suh and a 5 and 3 win over No.10 Camille Orito.
Others getting sent home early were 2014 California Senior Women’s Amateur Championship winner Lynne Cowan of Rocklin and California Junior Girls’ State Championship winner Yealimi Noh of Concord. Cowan is a four-time winner of the event.
Thursday’s action will consist of both the quarterfinals and semifinals. Friday’s play will feature the 18-hole championship match.
Former winners of the event include LPGA Tour members Mina Harigae and Natalie Gulbis.
August 5, 2014
San Francisco’s Andrea Wong will be the No.1 seed at this week’s annual California Women’s Amateur Championship at Quail Lodge Golf Club.
Wong, a junior at UC Davis, claimed the top seed Tuesday by carding a medalist-earning record 7-under 64 during the stroke play qualifying portion of the championship. The low 32 advanced to match play, which begins Wednesday.
Wong’s round on the par-71 layout in Carmel Valley was a career low. She carded eight birdies to go with just one bogey. Included in her birdie barrage were three in a row on holes No.1-No.3 to open her round and a pair of back-to-back birdies on the back nine (holes No.12 and No.13 and No.15 and No.16).
The No.2 seed will be Hannah Sodersten of Fresno. Sodersten, a junior at Fresno State who played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, shot a 68 that featured five birdies on her back-nine. On the front-nine, she had two bogeys.
Mariko Tumangan of San Jose, San Mateo’s Amanjoty Sangha and Beverly Vatananugulkit of Davis also claimed high seeds, as the trio came in with matching scores of 69. In 2009, Tumangan shot a record 62 at nearby Rancho Canada Golf Club en route to winning a Central Coast Section high school golf title.
Lynne Cowan of Rocklin, who won this year’s California Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Poppy Hills, is the No. 27 seed. Concord’s Yealimi Noh, who won the California Junior Girls State title, is the No. 31 seed.
Both the first and second rounds of match play will be held on Wednesday.
The event’s defending champion, Lauren Kim of Los Altos, is competing in this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.