Kristen Gillman will have her name etched on the Robert Cox Trophy for a second time.
The 20-year-old from Austin, Texas, who is a junior at the University of Alabama, registered nine birdies over 30 holes on Sunday in beating incoming Alabama junior-college transfer Jiwon Jeon, 21, of the Republic of Korea, 7 and 6, in the 36-hole final of the 118th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at The Golf Club of Tennessee.
Gillman, who first won this championship as a 16-year-old in 2014 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y., became the first to win non-consecutive multiple titles since Vicki Goetze (1989, 1992). It also was the largest margin of victory since Morgan Pressel’s 9-and-8 triumph in 2005 at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course in Roswell, Ga.
“Yeah, it’s really cool to be able to have it on there again,” said Gillman. “Everyone who was playing in this tournament was picturing their name on it at the end of the week, so it’s really nice to be able to do that and accomplish that.
“I think this one was a lot harder to win because after the first one I won, it was my first time playing [in the U.S. Women’s Amateur], and so I was kind of new to it. But every time I come back now, I’ve always talked about how – like this week, I was the only champion in the field – it kind of brings more pressure along with it, but I think it makes the victory a little sweeter, too.”
Unlike her two matches leading into the final in which she didn’t take a lead until the 19th hole – Lucy Li in the Quarterfinals and Kaylee Benton in the Semifinals – Gillman took charge of this match early, leading by as many as seven holes in the morning 18 before losing the last two holes for a 5-up lead at the lunch break.
Following nearly a two-hour break, Gillman, No. 6 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), came out for the second 18 and immediately won the 19th hole with a par and went 7 up with a par on the 22nd hole.
Jeon, No. 10 in the WAGR, managed to win holes 23, 25 and 27, but that still left her 6 down after 27 holes. Gillman’s 15-foot birdie on the par-3 28th returned her advantage to 7 up and the two halved the final two holes of the match.
“Well, she was very consistent all day,” Jeon said of Gillman. “It was a little difficult for me to catch up on her. But that is the one I cannot control. So I was trying to play my best. I didn’t play my best today, but I tried my best on the course. I really appreciate that she played great today, and I’m really happy [win my performance this week].”
When the match ended, Gillman was emotional after hugging her parents, knowing she was now in a rare group of multiple champions, a list that includes legends such as JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Anne Sander, Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster.