Their paths are disparate, but two young Aussies are about to be bound by one of golf’s greatest challenges.
Melbourne’s Stephanie Bunque, 20, and Sydney’s Sophie Yip, just 13, have each qualified for a tilt at amateur golf’s highest honour, the US Women’s Amateur Championship.
They both survived not only 18 gruelling holes of sectional qualifiers in the United States this week, but then prevailed in short playoffs to ensure their berth in the field to play at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs from 6-12 August.
Bunque, a member at Victoria Golf Club, was one of five women to face extra time for three spots at Birmingham Country Club in suburban Detroit and duly advanced with a quality birdie on the first hole.
Yip, a member at Concord Golf Club, made two late birdies to reach a two-woman playoff, then calmly took out rising college senior Tara Finigan to advance from Woodburn, Oregon.
Yip made her senior New South Wales debut at this year’s Interstate Series in Adelaide, the same week Bunque made her international debut in Australian colours at the Queen Sirikit Cup in Thailand.
But they’ll converge for what is arguably the biggest week in their respective golfing lives to date next month.
“I’m absolutely pumped to get there,” Bunque said from the Golf Australia national camp in Houston, Texas, today.
“I feel like I’m much more aware of my game now than I used to be and it’s starting to come together … I can’t wait to go to Tennessee.”
Bunque, the reigning Victorian Amateur champion, has been on a steady rise through the past 12 months, including sharing fourth at the Porter Cup in Buffalo, New York, last month and reaching the match play phase of the revered Western Amateur.
“I think I’m more in tune with what I need to do in my golf swing. I’m able to control my body better than I used to, in the swing and in certain situations when you can get a bit tight (mentally), and it’s starting to show.
“It was my goal on this trip to make the US Am, but now I’m there and going well, there’s no reason I can’t go deep into it. I’m excited about how I’m playing and the month ahead now.”
Pint-sized Yip was super impressive in toppling Finigan, eight years her senior and a decorated player at Portland State University.
But the real drama of Yip’s day came way earlier when her father was forced to smash the window of the family’s car to remove her clubs that had been accidentally locked in the boot.
Remarkably, after no warm-up and an early bogey, Yip steadied to birdie the 15th and 16th holes to reach the playoff mark of one-under-par 71 before edging Finigan for the sixth and final spot from Oregon with a remarkable chip-in for birdie on the second playoff hole.