Young Americans advance at LPGA Match Play at Shadow Creek

Andrea Lee hits off the 11th fairway during the third day of round-robin play in the LPGA Bank ...

Fourteen major championship winners and some of the biggest names in women’s golf were among the 64 players to begin the week at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play.

As night fell on Shadow Creek on Friday, just 16 players remain with a combined 11 career wins on the LPGA Tour. The number either speaks to the nature of match play, or the depth of talent on tour.

Gone are Minjee Lee, Hyo Joo Kim, Danielle Kang and Jennifer Kupcho. In their place are players not known to the casual golf fan, including five Americans in their 20s seeking victory No. 1.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Emma Talley, one of those Americans who is still standing after three grueling days of round-robin play. “We have all worked really hard to get in this spot, and hopefully it just continues.”

She’ll be joined by Lilia Vu, Allisen Corpuz and Andrea Lee as young Americans in search of that first trophy.

“Everyone is capable enough to win out here,” said Lee, who beat Stephanie Meadow on Friday and secured her spot on the weekend. “I’m not surprised that there are a lot of girls that haven’t won moving on to the round of 16. Any matchup is going to be a good one.”

Vu is a player whose arrow is definitely pointing up. She won three times in 2021 and was player of the year on the developmental Epson Tour, and already has a pair of top-10 finishes in her first eight starts as a rookie.

“I think American golf is really strong,” Vu said of the weekend lineup. “I think it’s always been, and it’s only going to get stronger.”

Vu draws a round of 16 match against Corpuz in a battle of 24-year-olds with a long history of playing junior golf together.

“I’ve known her for a really long time,” Corpuz said. “I’ve just been beaten by her a lot, but really excited to get out there and have a good match with her tomorrow.”

Also in the mix is American Annie Park, the 2014 NCAA individual champion at USC who won the Shoprite Classic in 2018 for her only LPGA victory. She got through her pod with a 2-0-1 mark and is focused on the long, hot weekend in front of her on a difficult golf course

“This is one of the greatest golf courses that we get to play. I enjoy playing here,” said Park. “I mean, it’s not an easy golf course, and pars are good, birdies are amazing.”

What will happen in the weekend’s knockout rounds, which begin with the round of 16 Saturday morning and quarterfinals in the afternoon, are anyone’s guess. Former U.S. Open champion Eun-Hee Ji made two lengthy putts on her final two holes to tie Kelly Tan and move on to the weekend, Ji, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson are the only players not in their 20s to make the weekend.

Also lurking are Ayaka Furue, who has won seven times over the past two years on the Japan Tour, and Hye-Jin Choi, who has 11 wins on the Korean Tour despite being just 22 years old.

Furue turned 22 on Friday, but she’s setting aside any celebrations with the possibility of 36 holes on Saturday and another 36 on Sunday.

“Playing 72 holes is definitely going to be tough, but I’m trying to rely on my game,” she said. “Knowing that everyone else is going to be in the same conditions is what’s going to put me through.”

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.