BRYAN, Texas -- Allie Andersen refused to lose Thursday in her Semifinals Match against No. 1 seed Annika Clark at the 96th WTGA State Amateur Championship. After facing elimination on the 17th hole, Andersen rallied to beat Clark, the 94th WTGA State Am champion, in 20 holes at the Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II-designed Traditions Club.
The University of Houston senior advanced to play Oklahoma State senior Maddie McCrary, who outlasted Texas A&M freshman Amber Park, 1 up, in the other Semifinals Match.
“I just tried to stick to the process and hit fairways and greens,” said Andersen, who lost to Clark at Ridgewood Country Club in Waco during the 2015 Semifinals. “I kept fighting and tried to make putts. It was a fight, but it was fun.”
Clark had chances to win the match on the 17th and 18th holes. She missed a 15-footer for par on 17 that would’ve ended it. Then Clark then missed a 4-footer on 18 that also would’ve won the match. After matching pars on the 19th hole, Clark missed the green on the 20th hole. She failed to get up-and-down for par. Andersen two-putted for the victory.
“I’m a believer in all things happen for a reason,” said Clark, who celebrates her 20th birthday on Friday. “It wasn’t meant to be for me this week. I’m happy with the way I played, just not happy with the way it ended.”
McCrary, meanwhile, also orchestrated a comeback in the other Semifinal Match. Hers just took longer to come together. Park came out on fire playing on her college team’s home course. The freshman birdied three of the first five holes in the match to stake a commanding 3-up lead.
That’s when McCrary, the veteran upperclassman ranked 88th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, began chipping away at her deficit. McCrary capitalized on a Park bogey on the par-3 seventh hole to get to 2 down. The match stayed that way through the turn, but Park made a messy double-bogey on the par-5 10th hole. Park conceded McCrary’s short birdie putt, and McCrary crept closer at 1 down.
McCrary squared the match when she drained a 20-foot birdie on the par-4 14th. Park bogeyed the next hole; McCrary made her par to go 1 up. With three more pars on the closing stretch, McCrary held off Park for the victory.
It sets up a titanic match between Andersen and McCrary, two of the longest-hitting competitors in the 88-player field.
“I’ve played with Maddie before,” Andersen said. “I know she’s long. It’s going to be competitive, and it’s going to be fun.”
Thursday morning’s marquee Quarterfinals match could’ve been dubbed the “Cougar Clash.” Andersen faced her UH teammate Megan Thothong. The match was all square through 17 holes when Andersen flushed a 3-wood from 202 yards to about 20 feet on the 18th hole. She two-putted from there and scored a 1-up victory.
Andersen, who transferred to Houston after two years at Colorado State, never led in the match until it was over. Thothong, winner of the 2015 Texas Women’s Stroke Play Championship, held three 1-up leads, but the two friends were deadlocked for the final seven holes. After a drive into the fairway of the uphill-then-downhill par-5 18th, Andersen and her caddie – boyfriend Justin Jeggle – decided to get aggressive.
“We said, ‘Let’s just go for it. It’s all or nothing here,’” Andersen said. “I pulled 3-wood and it was right at the pin, tracking the whole way. It was tough today, though. Megan played great and she had me down all day.”
In the other Quarterfinals Matches, No. 1 seed Clark survived a gutsy effort by North Texas sophomore Lauren Cox to win 3 and 2. Clark was 3 up through eight holes, but Cox battled back. After a nifty par-save on the ninth hole and birdies on the 11th and 13th, Cox evened the match. Clark responded with a birdie on the 14th and eventually pulled away for good. It was an impressive showing for Cox, who not only played in her first WTGA State Amateur; this was only her second career match play event.
“I thought I did well,” Cox said. “Match play is tricky. I like the competition, and this course really set up well for my game – and for Annika’s game.”
McCrary, the No. 3 seed, held off UT-San Antonio sophomore Madison Kidd for a 3-and-2 victory in the Quarterfinals. Park, the Aggie freshman playing on her school’s home course, defeated Erin Fahey, 2 and 1, in final Quarterfinals Match.
Friday’s 18-hole Championship Match begins at 10:20 a.m.