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North & South Women’s Amateur preview: Players to watch at Pinehurst

North & South Women’s Amateur preview: Players to watch at Pinehurst

Finding time to groove a swing change can be difficult as a top amateur. Emilia Migliaccio, at No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, has used this pandemic-forced break in competition to finally do that. Migliaccio, a rising Wake Forest senior, has worked hard with coach Kim Lewellen (also her college coach) to tighten things up in this unexpected off-season.

“Not big changes,” she said, “but they’ve been really good changes that I’ve never been able to implement because there’s never really been so much time to implement and have time to practice a swing change.”

Migliaccio lives just 65 miles up the road from Pinehurst Resort, site of this week’s North & South Women’s Amateur. The Cary, North Carolina, native advanced all the way to the semifinals at this event last year. She fell to eventual champion Gabriela Ruffels on the 18th hole of their match.

Migliaccio will debut her slightly revised swing this week as she makes her first real tournament start since winning the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in March.

There will be no title defense this year without Ruffels in the field. The Australian went on to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur after last year’s North & South title. Besides Migliaccio, only Christine Wang, Kelly Sim and Allisen Corpuz return from last year’s quarterfinals.

Below are a few other names to keep an eye on as the tournament gets started on July 14. After two rounds of stroke-play qualifying, the field will be whittled to a 32-woman match-play bracket. The final match will be played July 18.

The veterans

Meghan Stasi, Ina Kim-Schaad, Ellen Port

These women own a collective 12 USGA titles, and all have won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Kim-Schaad is the reigning champion, while Stasi and Port have each won four. All three have a killer instinct in match play. Port most recently made headlines when, at the age of 56, she advanced to the match-play bracket at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur, losing to Dylan Kim in the first round.

The locals

Gina Kim, Nicole Adam

Nicole Adam, an 18-year-old coached by local Pinehurst legend Donna Andrews, took Ruffels all the way to the 17th hole in her first-round match against the eventual winner last year. It was a big confidence boost for Adam, whose game has been shaped greatly by growing up at Pinehurst.

As for Gina Kim, the Duke junior grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, just 65 miles north of Pinehurst. Kim, runner-up at this summer’s Carolinas Amateur, played a vital role in Duke’s 2019 NCAA title run as a freshman and weeks later, finished 12th at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

The juniors

Alexa Pano, Paris Hilinski

The two teenagers never slowed down their competition even as the opportunities dwindled in the spring. Both teed it up at the Women’s All-Pro Tour event in Arkansas, and Pano, 15, finished runner-up to winner Maria Fassi. Pano also won the Kathy Whitworth Junior Invitational in March while Hilinski, 16, scored a third-place finish at the Annika Invitational in January. Both had earned invitations to play the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April.

The victors

Katherine Schuster, Amanda Sambach, Isabella Fierro

It takes a deft touch around the greens – and an ability to keep the ball in play – to succeed in Pinehurst. These three women have demonstrated that as past champions of the North & South Girls Junior. Amanda Sambach, a top-30 player in the world, is just five days removed from her title. Schuster, also the reining Women’s Dixie Amateur and Joanne Winter Silver Belle Amateur champion, won in 2019. Fierro burst onto the scene with her 2017 win and just completed her freshman year at Oklahoma State.

The state titleholders

Bentley Cotton, Megan Schofill, Erica Shepherd

Many amateurs have turned to their state amateurs for competitive reps, like these three women. Schofill, an Auburn sophomore, erased a 10-shot deficit to win the Florida Women’s Amateur on July 12 and Cotton, an incoming Texas freshman, is three days removed from a Texas Women’s Amateur win. Shepherd, a Duke sophomore, won the Indiana Women’s Amateur by four shots in June.


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