By Craig Flagg
When the U.S. Women’s Amateur gets underway on Aug. 6 at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, five golfers from across Tennessee will be out to make the Volunteer State especially proud.
The fab five are:
• Sophia Schubert, a senior at the University of Texas who is from Oak Ridge.
• Rachel Heck, a 2020 Stanford-bound superstar from Memphis.
• Addie Baggarly, a rising University of Florida sophomore from Jonesborough in East Tennessee.
• Ashley Gilliam, a rising senior at Tullahoma High School in Manchester and an Ole Miss commit.
• Kynadie Adams, a 14-year-old from Gallatin who is well on her way to making a big splash.
While Schubert, the defending U.S. Women’s Am champion, and Heck, a two-time All-USA Girls Golf Player of the Year, should be considered the favorites among these five, the others certainly can’t be overlooked.
Baggarly earned her spot in next month’s event by shooting a 69 early this month at the University of Florida’s Mark Bostick Golf Course, and her familiarity with The Golf Club of Tennessee could set her up for success.
“It was pretty solid,” Baggarly told The Gainesville Sun about her tourney-clinching performance. “The most eventful part of my round was the first four holes. I drained a 30-footer on the first hole. I went birdie, par, birdie, bogey and cruised in with pars all the way from there.”
Baggarly added that the Kingston Springs course is one of her favorites and that she is looking forward to the challenge.
“It sets up for my game really well. I’m on a consistent streak right now. I have been playing really solid. Definitely think it will be an advantage since I know that golf course as well.”
Gilliam, who secured her spot in the U.S. Women’s Am by shooting a 2-under-par 70 at Eagle Bend Golf Course in Kansas back in June, posted a dominating performance to win the Tennessee Girls Junior Amateur two weeks ago at Old Fort Golf Club in Murfreesboro.
Her record-breaking three-day total of 201, capped by a final-day 6-under-par 66, put her 14 strokes ahead of the field as she won the title for the second straight year.
Gilliam followed that up by reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur July 16-21 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Adams, who is clearly undaunted by taking on golfers with three, four, five or more years on her, could be a wildcard in all of this.
Though she will be the second-youngest player in the U.S. Women’s Am field, she has a few “secret weapons” in her bag.
Adams earned her bid by shooting a 2-under-par 70 in a qualifier at Monroe Country Club in North Carolina earlier this month.
Coming off a fourth-place finish in a tournament in Missouri, Adams is growing more confident.
“I definitely putted real well this week,” she said. “That was probably the thing I had most confidence in, which was good because I’ve been working on it quite a bit because I haven’t ever been a great putter.
“It’s good to see some stuff paying off. But I definitely need to work on my irons, I’d say. If I get that figured out, I think I’m going to be pretty good.”
Adams occasionally works with renowned golf coach Sean Foley in Orlando, Fla. Foley, who played collegiately at Tennessee State, was teammates and roommates with Adams’ father, Adrian, in the mid-’90s.
Her proud dad is thrilled that she’ll be playing in this year’s U.S. Women’s Am.
“For years I’ve been trying to figure out how the heck we’re going to get into this golf tournament, because it’s here in Nashville,” said Adrian Adams, who caddied at the course for several years during and after his collegiate playing days.
Knowing for two or three years now that the Women’s Am was headed to his old stomping grounds, Adams was determined to do what he could to make sure his daughter would earn a spot.
“For me, it’s the one tournament I had circled. It was really important for me to get her into this tournament,” he said. “For her, she’s got other things that she would view as more important. But now, she’s like, ‘OK, yeah, this is cool.’ ”
This up-and-coming young golfer, who has already received some college offers, said that having her father along should be fun.
“I think it’s going to be good for him to be back on the bag at the course he knows best, so I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
Four of these Tennessee girls — Heck, Baggarly, Gilliam and Adams — are slated to play a practice round together at The Golf Club of Tennessee on the afternoon of Aug. 4, the Saturday before the start of the U.S. Women’s Am.