KIRKWOOD, Mo. (June 29, 2023) – Vilda Westh Blanc couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift.
The now 18-year-old from Sweden punched her ticket to the semifinals of the 96th Women’s Western Junior at Greenbriar Hills Country Club on Thursday with a 20-hole victory over Jenna Madden of McKinney, Texas.
After going 3-up through the first four holes of her quarterfinal match, Westh Blanc watched her lead slowly dwindle until Madden tied the match on No. 17. They traded pars on Nos. 18 and 19 before Westh Blanc put a bow on her birthday with a birdie on the 20th hole to win the match and advance to Friday’s semifinal.
“I started off really strong today and didn’t have my mind on a playoff, but I’m really happy with how the day turned out.” Westh Blanc said. “There’s nothing better on a birthday than winning two matches.”
Westh Blanc, a Georgetown commit, said her first goal was to improve upon last year’s performance, when she fell in 20 holes in the Round of 16 at Prestwick Golf Club in Frankfort, Illinois. She avenged the early exit with a 2-up victory over Hadley Ashton, of Erie, Colorado, on Thursday morning before winning in extra holes in the afternoon.
Both wins came with a new caddie on the bag.
“I actually didn’t have a caddie in stroke play, but 38 holes will help you build a bond for sure,” Westh Blanc said. “He was really helpful in both of my matches keeping me focused and relaxed.”
Westh Blanc will face Suzie Tran – a 17-year-old from Poulsbo, Washington – in the semifinals on Friday morning.
Tran outlasted Brynn Kort, of Henderson, Nevada, with a birdie on No. 17 for a 3 and 1 victory in her quarterfinal match. The University of Michigan commit won in similar fashion in the Round of 16, making birdie on No. 17 to beat Yetong Qian of China 2 and 1.
On the opposite side of the bracket, stroke-play medalist Kennedy Swedick, of Albany, New York, found herself 2-down to Samantha Brown, of Westfield, Indiana, on the 14th hole in the Round of 16. Swedick
proceeded to win the next four holes for a 2-up victory, sparking momentum that would carry into the afternoon.
The 16-year-old jumped out to an early 3-up lead in her quarterfinal match against Mingyu Zhang, of China, but Zhang responded, eventually tying the match with a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 17.
Swedick had an opportunity to erase Zhang’s comeback and advance to the semifinals with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th. The University of Virginia commit watched her ball break one foot toward the left, narrowly curling into the hole to win the match.
“It was such a relief to watch it fall because I thought for sure it was going to stay out,” Swedick said. “It was a great match and really stressful, but it’s the best feeling.”
Swedick will face Lisa Herman in the semifinals on Friday morning. Herman – a 15-year-old from Jenks, Oklahoma – defeated Taryn Cagle, of San Clemente, California, in the quarterfinals, 4 and 3.
Early on in Herman’s Round of 16 match against HaYoung Lee, of South Korea, it appeared Herman might not reach this position. Sitting three down to Lee on No. 6, Herman embarked on a nine-hole scoring spree, winning six holes to take the match 3 and 2.
“That run to close out my first match gave me a lot of confidence in the afternoon,” Herman said. “It feels good to be coming back tomorrow.”
Swedick and Herman will tee off at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, with Westh Blanc and Tran following at 7:40 a.m. The championship match will be played on Friday afternoon after the semifinals.
The winner at Greenbriar Hills will join a list of past champions that includes Candie Kung (1998), Christie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972, 1973, 1974). First played in 1920, the Women’s Western Junior is one of the oldest junior golf tournaments in the United States.
Attendance and parking at the Women’s Western Junior are free.
Match Play Results
Round of 16
Kennedy Swedick, Albany, N.Y., def. Samantha Brown, Westfield, Ind., 2 and 1
Mingyu Zhang, China, def. Jessica Jolly, Rockford, Mich., 21 holes
Lisa Herman, Jenks, Okla., def. HaYoung Lee, South Korea, 3 and 2
Taryn Cagle, San Clemente, Calif., def. Lisa Copeland, Naperville, Ill., 3 and 2
Jenna Madden, McKinney, Tex., def. Sayers Allen, Spring Branch, Tex., 4 and 3
Vilda Westh Blanc, Sweden, def. Hadley Ashton, Erie, Colo., 2 up
Brynn Kort, Henderson, Nev., def. Regan Folk, Madison, Ga., 4 and 3
Suzie Tran, Poulsbo, Wash., def. Yetong Qian, China, 2 and 1
Swedick def. Zhang, 1 up
Herman def. Cagle, 4 and 3
Westh Blanc def. Madden, 20 holes
Tran def. Kort, 3 and 1
Friday, June 30
Swedick vs. Herman, 7:30 a.m.
Westh Blanc vs. Tran, 7:40 a.m.