With a top-10 finish, Texas' Kaitlyn Papp earns low-am honors and a U.S. Women's Open return
In the final hours of a Monday finish at the U.S. Women’s Open, it looked as if an amateur might take home the title. At one point, recent Texas graduate Kaitlyn Papp was staring down a birdie putt to get within a single shot of the lead at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
Papp’s perennial presence near the top of the leaderboard assured that amateurs were always in the conversation on a week when 24 of them were among the 156-woman field. She is one of just two amateurs in the past 10 years to have been in the top 10 after each of the last three rounds at the U.S. Women’s Open. Hye-Jin Choi accomplished that in 2017.
A double bogey at No. 11 followed by bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14 might have ended Papp’s title pursuit, but her closing 74 still locked in low-amateur honors for the native Texan and landed her in a tie for ninth. That top-10 finish guarantees her a spot in next year’s championship, which will be in June at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
“I learned that I can pretty much handle whatever conditions come our way,” Papp said of contending at a major. “We experienced perfect weather, we experienced kind of difficult weather this week. I think I just learned that I’m pretty mentally tough out there.”
Papp, a 22-year-old Lake Travis High School graduate who got her degree in physical culture and sports in 3½ years at UT, was one of seven Texans in the field. Even though that group owns a combined three major titles, Papp logged the only top-10 finish among them.
Like many players, she appeared in a stocking cap – burnt orange, her school color – and layered clothing Monday as a cold snap dropped the temperature into the 50s. She was prepared for the wind, though Monday produced little.
“I think it’s an advantage because year-round, it’s pretty much windy, the majority of the year,” Papp said before the tournament when asked how local knowledge might come into play. “I’m kind of used to playing in the wind. Whenever I see in the forecast it’s a north wind, I know it’s going to be cold.”
That was Monday.
Rounds of 71-68-74 were enough to get Papp into the second-to-last group for the final round, alongside world No. 1 Jin Young Ko. She was high enough on the leaderboard that she didn’t hit a shot in competition Sunday, when most of the round was delayed because of thunderstorms.
“Initially my goal here was just to make the cut, and I ended up playing really great golf and found myself somewhat in contention this weekend,” Papp said. “I mean, I was just thrilled just to be in that group.”
Papp appeared to have low-amateur honors all but locked up until Gabi Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, got on a run with birdies at Nos. 11, 13 and 14. When Ruffels bogeyed the 17th hole, however, she dropped back to 5 over, two behind Papp and in a tie for 13th.