Ashley Gilliam showcased why she is not just one of the premier high school golfers in the state, but in the nation, when she competed in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, which took place July 16-21 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California.
The incoming Tullahoma High School senior saw her tournament end in the quarterfinals of match play on July 20. Gilliam lost her matchup in the round of eight, narrowly falling 5-1 to Gina Kim, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In total, 156 players qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship when the tournament opened on July 16. The field first went through stroke play, two 18-hole rounds, from which the top 64 players qualified for match play.
During her first two rounds, Gilliam combined to score a +6, tying her 44th, but guaranteeing that she made it into the match play portion of the tournament. Gilliam put up a +4 on her first day of stroke play, before improving with a +2 on the second day of competition.
Match play opened on July 20, where Gilliam was pitted against Ashley Shim. In a head-to-head match, it was Shim who grabbed the early lead, after the San Mateo, California native hit an even par on the second hole, while Gilliam bogeyed.
The Manchester native answered right back, evening the score, after birdying the third hole. Shim went on to hit even par on that hole.
Gilliam then went on to win three-straight holes, putting her up by three. Gilliam hit even par on the fifth and sixth holes, before hitting a bogey on the seventh. However, Shim bogeyed holes five and six, before double bogeying on the seventh.
After Shim won back-t0-back holes on nine and 10, Gilliam responded with a pair of wins, giving her a 6-3 advantage. Gilliam went on to hit even par on the 11th and 12th hole, while Shim struggled on the pair.
Shim won the 16th hole, before Gilliam put the contest away by winning the 17th hole, making even par, capturing the 7-4 advantage.
After capturing her first-round win, Gilliam then added a dominating win in the round of 32, also on July 19. Gilliam soundly defeated Mychael O’Berry, from Hoover, Alabama, by a total score of 7-1 in the matchup.
O’Berry captured just one win, coming on the 10th, after hitting a birdy on the par-5 hole. Up until that point, Gilliam had controlled the contest, winning the first, third, eighth and ninth holes. Gilliam went on to close out the match wins on the 12th, 13th and 14th hole, garnering the victory.
A day later on July 20, Gilliam found herself in a much tighter battle in the round of 16, facing off against Brooke Seay from Rancho Santa Fe, California. It was Seay who grabbed the lead first, winning the first pair of holes after hitting even par.
However, Gilliam answered right back, winning the next two holes, evening the score at 2. Gilliam bogeyed the third hole, before birdying on the fourth.
Gilliam went on to win the sixth and seventh hole, taking a 4-2 advantage. Gilliam first hit a birdy on the par-3 sixth hole, before hitting even par on the seventh.
The THS senior then padded her lead with a birdy on the par-4 14th hole, upping her lead to 5-2. Seay cut into her deficit with a birdy on the par-3 15th hole, cutting the score to 5-3. However, the pair split the next two holes as Gilliam held on for the victory.
Gilliam saw her tournament end in the next round, falling to Kim in the round of eight golfers on July 20. It was Gilliam who grabbed the lead in the quarterfinals matchup, opening the round with a birdy on the par-4 opening hole.
However, Kim went on to win five holes, taking a 5-1 edge, including a birdy on the par-4 14th hole. The pair of golfers then split the 15th hole, giving the victory to Kim.
In the semifinals on July 21, Kim lost her next matchup as Yealimi Noh from Concord, California, captured the 6-3 win. In the other semifinal matchup, Alexa Pano, from Lake Worth, Florida, picked up a 5-4 win over Lucy Li, from Redwood Shores, California.
In the final on July 21, Noh captured the 7-3 win over Pano, garnering the championship.
In June, Gilliam also assured herself to be playing the U.S. Women’s Amateur, which will take place at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs on Aug. 6-12. A total of 156 players will take part in the national tournament.