U.S. Women's Amateur field filling up, but missing several top-ranked international players
Australia's Gabi Ruffels will be defending her U.S. Women's Amateur title next month in Maryland, but several top-ranked international players won't be making the trip.
With less than three weeks until the U.S. Women’s Amateur begins at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., USGA officials are in a sprint as they prepare for the governing body’s first championship of 2020 in the COVID-19 era. Chief among their tasks: Managing the field and preparing for players’ arrival.
Since no qualifiers being contested this year, 126 of the 132 spots have been locked up through exempt categories created for 2020, with the USGA releasing the preliminary competitor list on Tuesday. The remaining six places have been left for the winner and runner-up of the North & South, Women’s Western Amateur and Ladies National Golf Association Championship, each being contested in this month.
Conspicuous by their absence, however, are several of the top international golfers in the world. According to the USGA, 41 of the 126 golfers set to play (32.5 percent) are from outside the United States. However, this group does not include any of the four international players who were ranked atop the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking when exemptions kicked in on June 24: France’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, Chinese Taipei’s Vivian Hou, Italy’s Alessia Nobilio and Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad.
Indeed, only three of the top 10—Emilia Migliaccio (No. 5), Rose Zhang (No. 8) and Caterina Don (No. 9)—on the WAGR are in the field and 11 of the top 25, the lowest numbers to compete in the Women’s Amateur since the WAGR came into existence more than a decade ago.
That’s not to say international players didn’t have a chance to compete in the championship that runs Aug. 3-9; all golfers among the top 75 of the WAGR as of June 24 were eligible. Much of the reason these golfers aren’t playing appears to stem from the logistics of getting to the championship. International players flying from outside the U.S. are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, changing the timeline for when they must fly to the States and making the trip prohibitive for many. (To get to the U.S. in time to quarantine and play in the first practice round in Maryland, golfers would need to be in the U.S. by July 19.)
Unlike for pro golfers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not waive the quarantine requirement for amateur athletes traveling to play in competitions, despite USGA officials requesting assistance on the matter for both its women’s and men’s amateur championships, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
“I would have loved to play, but it was too complicated,” one top-10-ranked international player told GolfChannel.com.
The highest ranked international players in the field are Italy’s Don, who plays college golf at Georgia (No. 9), defending U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Gabi Ruffels of Australia, who plays at USC (No. 11), Duke golfer Jaravee Boonchant of Thailand (No. 20) and Pimnipa Panthong (No. 27), also from Thailand who is transferring to South Carolina this fall.
All players competing in the championship will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before the competition, as will any caddies or other individuals traveling with the player. Players will be allowed to be accompanied by up to two people to the championship (no general spectators will be allowed at their event). They must be either parents, guardians, siblings or a caddie, who also counts toward the two-person max.