Rino Sasaki of Japan defeated Jacqueline Bendrick of Mercer Island, Wash. 12&11 in the final match to win the 118th Pacific Northwest Women’s Amateur; while Gretchen Johnson outlasted Amanda Jacobs, both of Portland, 2-up to win the 18th Women’s Mid-Amateur.
Both championships were held concurrently this week on the par-71 Arrowhead Golf Club in Molalla, Ore., and were conducted by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA).
- Women’s Amateur – Final Results| Photos | Complete Information
- Women’s Mid-Amateur – Final Results | Photos | Complete Information
In the Women’s Amateur, Bendrick had taken an early 1-up lead over Sasaki after three holes in the scheduled 36-hole match. But Sasaki squared the match on the fourth hole and didn’t look back, blitzing the back nine and holding a commanding 9-up lead after the morning round. Sasaki closed out the match with a birdie on the par-3 25th hole.
“It was a long week for sure,” Sasaki said afterward, holding the trophy. “In the stroke play (qualifying), I didn’t play too well. I don’t have too much experience with match play, so I was a little bit nervous at the start, but then I got the hang of it, and enjoyed the week.”
With this victory, Sasaki, a sophomore on the University of Washington women’s golf team, continues a summer of excellent play. She won the Washington State Women’s Amateur last month, and last week was the medalist in qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Sasaki’s teammate at the University of Washington, Julianne Alvarez, had also won the same championships in 2017. “It’s an honor to do the same thing that Julianne did,” Sasaki said. “I’ve always admired her, and I got to spend time with her for two years before she graduated (this year), and I learned so much from her.”
To reach today’s final match, Sasaki, the No. 8 seed in the bracket, had defeated No. 1 seed Emily Baumgart 5&4 in the quarterfinals, then beat 2017 PNGA Junior Girls’ Player of the Year Susan Xiao 1-up in the semifinals. Bendrick had defeated 2018 PNGA Women’s Player of the Year Mary Parsons 2-up in the semifinals.
The Women’s Mid-Amateur final was a rematch of last year’s final, when Jacobs defeated Johnson, 4&2.
Johnson had been runner-up in this championship the past two years, and was looking to close the deal this year, competing against her good friend Jacobs. Along with winning last year’s championship, Jacobs also won in this title 2014 and 2016. She was the No. 1 seed last year, and earned that No. 1 seed again this year.
“This feels great,” Johnson said. “I’m still waiting for it to kind of sink in. To come out on top against a great competitor and player like Amanda feels really good. I hung in there and played steady all day, so yeah I feel really honored to come out on top.”
Johnson’s quest to finally win the title this year didn’t get off to a good start when she fell behind early in today’s scheduled 18-hole match, with Jacobs 3-up after the first five holes. But Johnson started chipping away at Jacobs’ lead, and dramatically squared the match when she aced the par-3 12th.
“I remember having to step back from the tee on the 13th hole to gather myself,” Johnson said. “I needed to kind of forget about the great thing that just happened and stay focused on the next hole.”
Johnson then grabbed the lead for the first time with a par on the 14th, but Jacobs squared the match on the 16th. Johnson would win the 17th and 18th holes with pars, and took home the trophy with a 2-up win.
Johnson’s path to this year’s final is impressive, as she defeated two PNGA Hall of Famers – Alison Murdoch 7&6 in the Round of 16, and Marcia Fisher 4&3 in the semifinal. Fisher was playing on her home course of Arrowhead, which is owned by her family.
First held in 1899, the Pacific Northwest Women’s Amateur Championship is one of the oldest amateur golf championships in the world. Past champions include Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Famers who made up the Golden Age of female golfers in the Northwest such as JoAnne Carner, Jo Ann Washam, Pat Lesser Harbottle, Edean Ihlanfeldt, Violet Pooly Sweeney, Marcia Fisher, and Betty Jean Hulteng, among others. Past champions also include many others who would later go on to the LPGA Tour, such as Jimin Kang, Peggy Conley, Ruth Jessen and Shirley Englehorn.
The Pacific Northwest Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur are two of 15 major, regional, amateur championships for men, women, juniors, and seniors conducted annually by the PNGA throughout the Northwest.
The PNGA was founded on February 4, 1899. It is a 501c3 charitable, international, amateur golf association dedicated to preserving the true spirit of golf by supporting its allied associations, conducting quality championships, and promoting activities beneficial to golfers in the Pacific Northwest. For more than a century, the Association has been a pioneer in developing competitions and services and its mission has grown and evolved. Today, the PNGA remains committed to being a truly regional organization providing benefits and services to its members and member clubs throughout the Northwest.