High school seniors off to Duke in the fall take title at U.S. Women's Four-Ball Championship
Copyright USGA/Steven Gibbons
Megan Furtney and Erica Shepherd are both only 18, yet they had competed in a combined 15 USGA championships heading into this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. The pair won’t start playing college golf at Duke until the fall, so to call them “veterans” doesn’t feel right. Let’s go then with “experienced,” which showed on Wednesday at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla.
After falling in the semifinals of the championship a year ago, the pair vanquished themselves by outlasting Amari Avery and Alexa Pano in the morning semifinals, winning 4 and 2. They then capped the week by taking down another pair of teenagers, Jillian Bourdage and Casey Weidenfeld in the finals, 2 and 1.
“We know each other’s game so well, and we’re so good about communicating with each other on the golf course,” Furtney said. “I think we’re one of the few teams out here who didn’t use caddies this week. I like to say that we kind of caddie for each other in a sense. We kind of know what kind of shots each other, like what we’re capable. So kind of being able to talk those through and have a lot of options open is really important for us as a team.”
For Shepherd, a native of Greenwood, Ind., it was a second USGA title to go with her 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior crown. The No. 1 recruiting in the high school class of 2019 has already played in two U.S. Women’s Opens and recently finished T-23 at the Augusta National Women’ Amateur.
For Furtney, it was an achievement that seemed far away just two years ago. The South Elgin, Ill., resident was putting together an accomplished junior career before suffer a freak accident in 2017 when she sliced off the top of her left pinkie finger on a metal chair. Surgeries to fix the partially amputated finger meant taking off the summer. But she resumed play in the fall and won two AJGA titles in 2018.
“The hardest part was really just trying to keep myself in a positive mental state of mind because it was so hard to sit and not be able to compete and watch everybody else play,” Furtney told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this year. “I love competing more than anything in the world, so not being able to compete was hard for me. I would just be sitting on the couch, like, ‘I got to get back. I’ve got to go play.’ And not being able to do that and have to comb myself back was difficult.”
Copyright USGA/Steven Gibbons
While Furtney and Shepherd had relatively easy win in the semifinals, Bourdage and Weidenfeld needed 20 holes to get past the No. 2 seed in match play, Sadie Englemann and Rachel Heck. The extra break allowed Shepherd to sneak in a quick nap and be refreshed for the final.
In the championship match, Furtney and Shepherd birdie the second and third holes to take a quick 2-up lead. After losing the fourth to a birdie, they won the fifth and seventh with birdies to go 3 up. From there, they play consistent golf, playing the remaining holes in one over par and dropping just one hole, eventually closing out the match with a par on the par-4 17th.