EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — As the scores continued to roll into the media center early Monday evening during the 36-hole sectional qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open played at Hidden Creek Golf Club, amateur Samantha Wagner allowed herself an occasional peek.
When it was finally confirmed that her 5-under-par winning score of 137 had earned her one of three automatic spots in the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Bedminster July 13-16, the 20-year-old University of Florida student broke down in tears of joy.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Wagner said while celebrating with her mother, Amy, and her brother C.J., who serves as her caddie. “It’s still just sinking in.”
Wagner has been an alternate for the Open twice and was called up three days before the 2015 version at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania as an 18-year-old. She missed the cut, but her mindset will be different this time.
“I’ll have a full month to prepare,” she said. “I’m going to take a week off. My mother, brother and I are going to Europe, then I’m going to get right back to work on the course.”
Wagner was joined in the Open field by 24-year-old Thailand native Thidapa Suwannapura, who shot a 4-under-par 138.
The third automatic qualifier was 25-year-old Stephanie Meadow, of Northern Ireland, who won a three-player sudden-death playoff with a birdie on the second hole after shooting a 3-under 139 in regulation.
The two other playoff participants, 28-year-old Jacqueline Stoelting of Vero Beach, Florida, and 35-year-old Katherine Kirk, of Australia, will serve as first and second alternates, respectively.
In the morning tee-off, Wagner shot a 3-under-par 68 in dry conditions.
The weather changed dramatically for the afternoon round, with the wind picking up and a steady rain falling for the remainder of the day. Suwannapura and Meadow each shot a 1-under-par 70 in the morning.
But Wagner battled hard against the conditions and produced a 2-under-par 69 in the afternoon.
“The rain bothered me a little bit at first,” said Wagner, who played without a rain jacket. “The course handled (the rain) very well. At some point, I realized I had to adjust if I wanted to make it through (to the Open). It’s crazy. It was a real roller-coaster out there.”
Suwannapura, who shot a 3-under-par 68 in the afternoon, wasn’t fazed by the change from a dry to a wet course.
“The rain wasn’t too bad,” she said. “It was consistent throughout the afternoon round.”
Suwannapura plans to stay busy in the weeks leading up to the Open.
“I’m heading to Canada to play an LPGA event,” she said. “I’ll be playing tournament golf every week until then.”
Mays Landing native and Oakcrest High School graduate Joanna Coe shot a 154.
Hidden Creek owner Roger Hansen said he was pleased with the execution of the event, which the New Jersey State Golf Association officiated.
“If you’re going to own a golf club or be in the golf business, you have to support the game,” he said. “This is an ideal way to give something back.”
Notes: Hidden Creek last hosted an U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in 2004. ... Fifteen golfers shot under par in the morning round, and 10 finished under par after 36 holes. ... The low 18-hole round of the day was 66, shot in the morning by both Kirk and Mariah Stackhouse of Alpharetta, Georgia. ... Seventy-seven players participated.
36 holes, par 142
Samantha Wagner 68 69 — 137
Thidapa Suwannapura 70 68 — 138
#Stephanie Meadow 70 69 — 139
Jacqueline Stoelting 72 67 — 139
%Katherine Kirk 66 73 — 139
qualified for U.S. Women’s Open automatically in regulation
#qualified for Open by winning sudden-death playoff
first alternate for Open
%second alternate for Open