July 31, 2016
Starting Monday, those four University of Virginia golfers will compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in Springfield, Pa., near Philadelphia.
Also in the 156-player field at Rolling Green Golf Club is a former Cavalier, Lauren Greenlief, who earned an exemption by winning the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur last year. (Another former Wahoo, Brittany Altomare, finished 58th at the Women’s British Open on Sunday. Altomare was the first golfer from UVA to compete in that tournament.)
All of which makes this a historic week for UVA head coach Kim Lewellen, who’s never before had so many of her players in the same U.S. Amateur.
“It’s an incredible feat for our program,” Lewellen said. “It’s shows how deep and strong our team is. I’m excited for these four to go out and play together. They get along well, they’re good friends, so they’re just going to have an enjoyable time out there while competing on such a national platform.
“It’s exciting to see those players playing well in the summer, and I’m hoping that it’ll translate into our fall [play], but more importantly our spring season.”
There will be 18 holes of stroke play on Monday and again on Tuesday, after which the field will be cut to 64 players for match play.
Redding and Gonzales helped the Cavaliers repeat as ACC champions and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals last season. As sophomores in 2016-17, they will be among the team’s leaders, along with senior Lauren Diaz-Yi.
“Having been through [postseason pressure] as first-years, that instantly makes them a lot older,” Lewellen said. “They’re on-board. They understand the program and where we all want it to get to. We expect them to do that, and they’re stepping up at the right time when we need them.”
Hunnell will be a redshirt sophomore and Hayawaka a junior in 2016-17. Virginia must replace two All-Americans, Lauren Coughlin and Elizabeth Szokol, and so “we need players like Lyndsey and Maho to come in and work hard and earn those spots,” Lewellen said. “This summer is very big for them.”
In the U.S. Amateur qualifier June 28 in Bethesda, Hunnell shot 71 and Hayakawa 72.
After redshirting in 2014-15, Hunnell did not compete in any tournaments for the `Hoos last season.
“We were still working on getting her a little bit older and stronger,” Lewellen said. “And so for her to come in and play in the qualifier like she did and then play on this national stage, this is going to be biggest event that she’s played in.”
Hayakawa did not represent Virginia in any tournaments last season, either, though she played in one as an individual.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Lewellen said, “and we’ve just been sort of grooming her for competition for the next two years here at UVA. I think she’ll do really well.”
At the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Lexington, Redding shot 68 on July 18 to tie for second behind medalist Nasa Hataoka. Gonzales’ road to Rolling Green included more drama.
She shot 72, which left her in an eight-way tie for the final qualifying slot. Redding had finished her round hours earlier, and she provided more than emotional support for Gonzales in the playoff. Redding caddied for her UVA teammate.
One of the eight players, Redding said, could not stay for the playoff. So seven players teed off, and three of them, including Gonzales, birdied the first playoff hole to advance.
On the second playoff hole, Gonzales produced the only birdie, sewing up her invitation to the U.S. Amateur and earning a congratulatory hug from Redding, who also was wearing UVA gear.
“There weren’t very many people out there,” Redding recalled with a laugh. “It was so late in the day, I was the only one clapping.”
To be in the U.S. Amateur field with three teammates, Redding said, “is incredible. I hope we all do well and can bond over this experience and bring it back to UVA. I hope it brings momentum when we all get back to Charlottesville. It’s amazing.”