New Castle native Marissa Kirkwood was able to outclass Reagan Zibilski 4-and-3 in U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship competition and will advance to Friday morning’s Round of 32.
Though Kirkwood previously mixed some birdies with bogies in stroke play qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, she fired a 6-under-par round in just 15 holes.
“It felt good just to execute my plan,” she said. “The whole goal is to make as many birdies as possible. I think that’s huge in playing in the least amount of holes as possible. It is great in the next couple of days. If you play all 18 holes and go another match, it could be yours after 36 holes.”
One thing that got Kirkwood going was a par on the opening hole. She recorded an opening bogey on both stroke play competition days and made a six-foot putt coming back to avoid a square on the scorecard.
Kirkwood seemed pleased when explaining how far she has come in two weeks where she admitted she reacted too much to her opponent and forced shots. Thursday, Kirkwood was able to play controlled golf and even when Zibilski won holes, pressure was applied because she had to convert birdie putts to try and mount a comeback. Each comeback attempt was short-lived as Kirkwood was able to keep her momentum.
On Wednesday, Danielle Kang was on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship broadcast on Golf Channel. Kang was the last player to defend her championship and was asked after her round Thursday what her advice to the participants would be.
“Enjoy it, because U.S. Amateur is one of the best events I’ve ever played,” said Kang. “I was on the broadcast yesterday and they asked me what advice I had for Gabi Ruffels to defend and she would be the first person to defend back to back after me. I just said, It’s your week. Just believe that it’s your week and ride that momentum, like you said. Just go out and have fun.”
For her part, Kirkwood, is just as much a fan of Kang.
“I love watching her play and love her story,” Kirkwood said. “A lot of people think golfers are overnight successes, but really we have been practicing and playing for years. She always kept her head down and kept working.”
With the win, Kirkwood will face Alyaa Abdulghany at 7:50 a.m. Friday. If Kirkwood can pull off a victory in that contest, then she would play in the round of 16 that afternoon.