In only her first appearance at the US Amateur Open in Glen Cove, New York, Kirsten Gillman grabbed the title in a one-stroke triumph over Canadian Brooke Henderson. Taking into account that Gillman grabbed the Junior PGA Women’s event in Bryan, Texas a week prior, it is a remarkable winning streak for the young golfer.
Heading into the final (which was match-play), Gillman and Henderson are a glimpse as to what the exciting future of women’s golf offers. Henderson’s amateur world ranking was an impressive number two, while Gillman was 57th.
While Gillman has committed to an NCAA scholarship with the University of Alabama (she donned Alabama colors during the final) and Henderson with the University of Florida, NCAA golf fans were salivating at what the next four years should offer.
Prior to this year’s final, Henderson’s best finish was the Round of 32. With her 1-up win yesterday, it marked her first appearance in the finals. In addition, her sister, Brittany is her caddy at the event. Of note, she bested Arizona’s Hannah O’Sullivan to advance to the final. Gillman had defeated Andrea Lee of California in her match-play semifinal. Winning five of the last six holes, the 15th hole clinched the victory for Gillman.
Heading into the final, she tried to be the first Canadian since Cathy Sherk in 1978 to grab the title, which would have made her only the third Canadian to win overall. The only other Canadian to win the event was Marlene Stewart Streit in 1956. Of note, it was the first time that Henderson played in a 36-hole final.
Televised on the NBC Golf Channel, the 36-hole final at the Nassau Country Club was a see-saw battle over 6,297 yards. With four holes remaining, Henderson enjoyed a one-stroke lead. Of note, Gillman had been chipping away at Henderson’s lead. At the 25 and 26 holes of play, Gillman was three down. A birdie on the 27th started to turn the momentum for Gillman, as she managed to enter the final hole with the two-stroke advantage.
While Henderson valiantly tried to force extra play, her putt on the green was not able to buy her more time. Gillman has established herself as a superstar in the short game, an area that Henderson admitted is one of the weaknesses in her game.
Both born in 1997, this is likely the first of many more matches between the two budding superstars. As the PGA Tour looks for a new generation of stars, the LPGA Tour shall be in good hands with the rivalry that likely began today between Henderson and Gillman.