6 August 2020 – American Rachel Heck walked away with the medallist honours, but it was South Africa’s Kajal Mistry who produced the fireworks in the final round of the stroke play qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship on Wednesday.
Demonstrating the same grit and determination that earned her the rare double in the SA Women’s Stroke Play and Match Play Championships in 2019, the 19-year-old Mistry produced the turnaround of the tournament to qualify for the match play stage alongside compatriot Kaleigh Telfer.
Mistry and Telfer both teed off in the afternoon on day one as tropical storm Isaias swept into the area, but while Telfer was comfortably placed in the top 10 after an opening one-under-par 71, Mistry left Woodmont Country Club well down the leaderboard in a tie for 124th.
A five-putt and two three-putts later, the Arkansas sophomore knew she was in trouble after carding a nine-over-par 81.
“I went over my round in the car going home and I realised I didn’t do much wrong,” Mistry said.
“I wasn’t really hitting the ball badly. I hit a lot of fairways, but I missed in the wrong place a couple of times. The layout is very similar to Blessings back home (at the University of Arkansas). You can’t get up-and-down from the wrong place on this course. If you put yourself in the rough around here, it’s tough and that’s what cost me.”
A deluge of rain rendered the course unplayable and the second round was a wash-out, but instead of spending time at the range, Mistry took the day off. “I watched The Office and I guess Steve Cantrell’s antics put me in the right frame of mind,” she joked.
Coming back to a course where the uncut rough had been toughened up by two inches of rain, the GolfRSA Elite Squad member kept the ball in play beautifully.
She reeled in four birdies on the bounce from the seventh and followed a double bogey on 12 with a brace of birdies on 13 and 17. Despite dropping a shot on the final hole, the South African bounced back with a three-under-par 69 to match the low round of the day.
Having improved 12 strokes on her opening round, Mistry then had to go toe-to-toe with 14 other players for the last six spots. She birdied her first play-off hole – Woodmont’s eighth – to punch her ticket into the match play.
“I birdied the eighth early in the morning in regulation play and I had a really good feeling, because I was striking the ball so well all day,” said the 19-year-old Randpark golfer. “I felt really comfortable. I’m super stoked to have made it. From here on, everything else is a bonus.”
Mistry will take on former U.S. Women’s Amateur and North & South Amateur champion Gabriela Ruffles from Australia in the first round of the match play.
Room-mate for the week Telfer had earlier secured her start in the top 64 with a top 20 finish after a second round 75.
The fourth-year student at Auburn University is South Africa’s highest ranked amateur at 49th in the world amateur golf rankings. The Bryanston golfer starts the knock-out stage against American Talia Campbell in Thursday’s first round.
“The weather was really good with not much wind. The course was still really wet, so it played a lot longer than on day one and we got a lot of mud balls,” said SA former number one ranked Telfer.
“That was the trickiest part of the round; just the uncertainty of how the ball was going to behave. I got off to a great start and I was three under through six, and then just got a few mud balls and missed the greens in the wrong places to make three bogeys in a row to turn even-par.
“I just hung in there the rest of the way to finish three-over, which I wasn’t too happy about. But now I’m focussing on the match play. It’s a different mind-set. Anything can happen. I’ll just go out and try to put my playing partner under pressure and try to force them to make mistakes.”
Heck – an incoming freshman from Stanford University, won the stroke play tournament with rounds of 69 and 71, taking the number 1 seed for the match play at four-under.
The first round of the match play stage tees off today on the North Course. To follow the live scoring, click HERE