TRINITY, Texas (November 6, 2021) — Paced by the two top amateurs in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings, Team USA ran away with the overall Team Championship to win gold medals in Saturday’s final round of The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship presented by The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation (The Spirit).
With a three-day total of 11-under-par 620, the U.S. Team dominated the competition at Whispering Pines Golf Club, the top-ranked course in Texas. In all, Team USA won four gold medals and one silver in the unique, biennial team event that consists of five concurrent competitions over 54 holes of stroke play.
“It was a lot of fun,” U.S. Captain Stacy Lewis said. “I was proud of the way the kids rallied. It was fun to have a chance coming up the 18th fairway. The kids were so great. I’m thankful that they came and for their fight when it’s a time they could be taking time off. I really appreciated what they did this week.”
World No. 1 and Stanford standout Rose Zhang took the gold medal in the Women’s Individual competition, her fourth individual title this fall. For the week, Zhang finished at 10-under 206, three shots clear of second place. Zhang’s college teammate Rachel Heck, the second-ranked amateur in the world, put together one of the best rounds of the week by any golfer on Saturday. She lit up Whispering Pines with a 5-under 67 that included an eagle on the par-5 17th hole.
Heck finished tied for fifth place at 2-under 124 in the Women’s Individual competition.
“It’s such an honor to play with my teammates and represent the United States,” Zhang said. “This week was just phenomenal. (U.S. Captain) Stacy (Lewis) is such an inspiration to young golfers like us out there. She’s been through so much, and I’ve learned so much from her. Having her with us this week was special.”
Not to be outdone, Team USA’s Sam Bennett earned gold in the Men’s Individual event with a 54-hole total of 6-under 210. Bennett’s U.S. teammate James Piot struggled over the final two rounds. He shared a piece of 12th place individually at 4-over 220. The U.S. Men earned a silver medal in the Men’s Team competition with a combined score of 2-under 430.
“On the first day, it was cold, and I couldn’t get comfortable out there,” said Bennett, the sixth-ranked golfer in the Men’s World Amateur Golf Rankings. “My swing didn’t feel good. I worked on a few things after the round. Hit a few putts. The last 36 holes, I felt like I was going to be tough to beat.”
Canada took the silver medal in the Team Championship at 7-under 641, a distant 21 shots behind the Americans. Sweden took the bronze at 6-under 642. France, the defending champions from 2019, placed fourth at 2-under 646. England came in fifth at even-par 648.
Sweden won gold in the Men’s Team event. The Swedes edged out the U.S. Team by one shot at 3-under 429. Sweden’s Hugo Townsend, a senior at Boise State, grabbed the silver medal in Men’s Individual with a final score of 4-under 212. Canada’s Johnny Travale won bronze at 3-under 213.
“They’ve been not really happy with their games, but we tried to tell them that this course is hard,” Sweden Captain Katerina Vangdal said. “It is a tough course. It is challenging. Every day, we told them, your score is good. Today, they’ll realize they did a good job out there.”
Mexico’s Isabella Fierro, an Oklahoma State junior and the 48th-ranked amateur in the world, won the silver medal in the Women’s Individual event. She closed with 67-69 in the final two rounds and posted 7-under 209 for the championship. Fierro was particularly impressive on the back nine at Whispering Pines, much of which skirts the scenic shores of Lake Livingston. She was 10-under par with no bogeys on the stretch of holes for the three-day tournament.
“It means the world,” Fierro said. “This is a team competition, and my job was to help the team as much as possible. The individual title is important, but this is a team event, and I want to help Mexico as much possible. It means the world to me; not just for me, but for my family, Oklahoma State, and for Mexico, and every single girl out there who is trying to get to this tournament in the future.”
Canada’s Savannah Grewal won the bronze medal in the Women’s Individual with a score of 5-under 211.
Don’t Miss the Highlight Show on GOLF Channel
The GOLF Channel will broadcast a primetime highlight show from The Spirit from 7-9 p.m. ET on Dec. 9. There also will be an encore presentation on Dec. 11 from 4-6 p.m. ET.
In addition, the GOLF Channel has plans to broadcast the highlight show in nearly 30 countries, including England, Scotland, Ireland, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Korea and Indonesia.
Canada’s Noemie Pare’ made a hole-in-one on the par-3 eighth hole in the final round. The former Barry University standout put a three-quarter swing on her 8-iron, and her shot headed straight at the flagstick. Her ball landed about 15 feet short of the hole, bounced twice, and rolled right in as if it was a putt.
“It had a good line,” she said. “It was a little thin, but it worked perfectly. It went in, then I was looking for my partner for a big hug.”
It was the third career ace of Pare’, all of which came in competitions. Her teammate Savannah Grewal rolled in a 12-foot birdie on No. 8, too, giving the Canadian Women’s Team an aggregate score of 3-under par on the hole.
For competitive golfers, it’s always a comforting feeling to know they have family support nearby. Usually that means a parent, sibling, or close friend walking along their group in the gallery. For Team Mexico’s Isabella and Alejandro Fierro, it’s a little different at The Spirit.
The sister and brother combo were both in the field representing their home country.
“My brother playing the same tournament (as me) is a dream come true,” said Fierro, who has one collegiate victory and 15 Top-10s in the past two seasons. “My family traveled all the way from Mexico. I miss that about college golf. I miss when my dad or sister or mom is applauding every shot. It is great to be here and for them to be able to support me and my brother.”
While Isabella won the silver medal individually (7-under, 209), Alejandro, one of the youngest golfers in the field this week at age 16, finished in 36th place. He’s a high school student at Montverde Academy in Florida with six junior golf wins and 18 Top-10s in the past two years. Alejandro said his two greatest influences on his golf game are his sister and Tiger Woods.
Women Lead in Scoring
Three of the top four individual scorers were women, led by USA’s Rose Zhang (-10, 206), followed by Isabella Fierro, Mexico (-7, 209) and Savannah Grewal, Canada (-5, 211). USA’s Sam Bennett was third with a -6, 210.
|Quotes from The Final Round
Stacy Lewis, Captain – Team USA
On Team USA’s performance…
“It was a lot of fun. I was proud of the way the kids rallied. It was fun to have a chance coming up the 18th fairway. The kids were so great. I’m thankful that they came and for their fight when it’s a time they could be taking time off. I really appreciated what they did this week.”Rose Zhang, USA
On the win…
“I feel like every win is special and I can’t rank it. It’s such an honor to play with my teammates and represent the United States. This week was just phenomenal. I’m very thankful for everyone who supported us out here.”
On her play…
“There were some shots I was a little shaky with. My ball striking wasn’t the best today. I feel like I did have room for improvement. Overall, I was cruising pretty well. I kept in my stride and I did what I needed to do.”
On Stacy Lewis as Team USA Captain…
“It was amazing. Stacy is such an inspiration to young golfers like us out there. She’s been through so much and I’ve learned so much from her. Having her with us this week was special.”
On playing with Rachel Heck…
“Rachel and I go a long way back to when we were 13 in AJGA golf. From there, we became closer and closer and being teammates with her is so special. She’s an amazing person, not just a great player.”
“I feel like she always has her game going, even when she isn’t playing the best, she’s the best person to be around. It was amazing, we shared so many moments out on the course. We had our own handshake. It was just all good vibes.”
On Whispering Pines…
“This course was very challenging, especially hitting in on the greens. You have to know where to be, especially with the undulations and the collective areas. The fairways are narrow. It was precision all the way. I was able to execute the shots I needed to.”
Sam Bennett, USA
On the individual win…
“It feels good. It’s been a while, last spring since I won. I’ve been close this fall in some tournaments, coming down the stretch having a chance, and just couldn’t finish it off. It feels good to be back on top again.”
On rallying in his second two rounds…
“The first day, it was cold and I couldn’t get comfortable out there. My swing didn’t feel good. I worked on a few things after the round. Hit a few putts. The last 36 holes, I felt like I was going to be tough to beat.”
On what he’ll remember about The Spirit…
“Probably Whispering Pines. This is the best course I have ever stepped foot on. I’ll also remember to check my bag before I tee off to make sure there aren’t 15 in there.”
(Bennett realized on Hole 1 that he had one of Rachel Heck’s wedges in his bag, incurring a two-stroke penalty.)
On his birdie run on the back nine today…
“I hit some good shots and made some putts. I had a good look on 13 and a good look on 14. It could’ve gotten crazy there. It was nice to get back in it on the back nine and it was game on from there.”
On playing in front of his family…
“It’s not too often family and friends get to come out with the college schedule. It was cool to be able to come out on top for the USA and win the individual title with everyone here to watch.”
Katerina Vangdal, Sweden Captain
On the team’s performance…
“They’ve been not really happy with their game, but we tried to tell them that this course is hard. It is a tough course. It is challenging. Every day, we told them, your score is good. Today, they’ll realize they did a good job out there. The good thing for us was that they were quite straight off the tee.”
Isabella Fierro, Mexico
On slow start in final round…
“That’s golf, it can happen….the key today was staying positive and patient, and like I said yesterday, just keep a smile on my face and there is so much to be grateful about, more than just focusing on the bad shots. That’s what I did, I was just looking around and I was just grateful to be here and the fact I was able to play golf at this golf course and tournament.”
Shot a bogey-free back nine (-10) in three rounds…
“Well, actually one of my friends that plays for Oklahoma State – he told me – golf is simple – just keep it on the fairway and the green and if it falls, it falls. It’s not that easy, but I was just thinking one shot at a time and I was having a great time. We played with two Argentina girls that we know, so it was such a blast and I think that helped a lot, too.”
On winning a medal…
“It means the world. This is a team competition, and my job was to help the team as much as possible – the individual title is important, but this is a team event and I want to help Mexico as much possible. It means the world to me, not just for me but for my family, Oklahoma State and for Mexico and for every single girl out there who is trying to get to this tournament in the future.”
On support from the Whispering Pines grounds crew…
“I was not expecting that. We met them in the practice round, and there were a bunch of people and it felt like home. I think they followed us for 6-7 holes, and they were carrying the flag. I was like, wow, this is like family, it was just awesome. They work behind the scenes and people do not see the work they put on the golf course, so I just loved that. I was just smiling every time and no matter if I was making a good shot or a bad shot, I was just looking and thinking this is awesome!”
Hugo Townsend, Sweden
On his performance this week…
“I’ve been really good off the tee, which is key here. I didn’t really have my putting all week, to be honest. I’ve been really solid off the tee, playing smart. Some of these flags were pretty tough, so I was hitting it to 20 feet. If you get a chance for birdie, try and take it, but it was a grind, tough out here.”
On winning the Men’s Team competition…
“We tried to think about the team aspect. Playing college, you’re used to it. You play as a team, and the individual is bonus. You try to do well as a team, and if you play well, you’ll do well individually. You try to play your game and get out there and have fun with your team.”
Christo Lamprecht and Kieron Van Wyk, South Africa
Christo Lamprecht on the team’s 7-under round…
“For myself, I didn’t hit the golf ball really great today, but I managed to grind it out and just putt and chip really well around the greens and just figured a way out there. Kieron played really, really well today tee to green, so he led us off with the hot start.”
“We said at the start of the day to each other to just take it shot-for-shot. Don’t get ahead of ourselves, don’t look at the scoreboards, see what is in front of us and what we need to chase and just take it shot-for-shot, focusing on what is ahead of us.”
Kieron Van Wyk on his round…
“I got off to a quick start in the beginning. I felt like my approach shots were really key, setting up a few birdie chances really early which I was able to convert and I was able to roll the putts in.”
Kieron Van Wyk on his lasting impression of The Spirit…
“The experience of playing among the best players in the world and the invaluable experience playing this wonderful golf course. As well as the what the tournament represents. Also, meeting new friends at Camp Olympia, sharing rooms together has been great.”
Christo Lamprecht on his experience…
“Meeting friends and playing with Kieron. It was blast – we had a lot of laughs out there and it was really fun.”
Alexander Frances, Denmark
On his play…
“I felt like I owed Rasmus (Neergaard-Peterson) a good round today because he’s played pretty well the first two days. I felt like I was doing a lot of good things but wasn’t able to score, so I’m happy I could get under par out here.”
“I hit a lot more greens today. My iron shots were good and to be honest with you, it could have been – there are always should-of, could-of, would-of’s – but if the putter was a bit hotter, it could have been mid 60s, I would say.”
On the advantage of attending University of Houston and playing at Whispering Pines…
“We played out here two or three weeks ago, so I am familiar with the golf course. It is just a beautiful place, anytime we get to play out here, we really enjoy it.”
On what he will remember about The Spirit…
“This is the last time I will be playing it. I will be turning pro next year, but just playing with teammates from your own county. Outside of the golf course at camp is a lot of fun. Bantering with other countries, I’ll remember that.”