RYE, NEW YORK | Jensen Castle didn’t pack nearly enough outfits for her week at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. The rising junior at the University of Kentucky came to Westchester Country Club with a stress fracture in her rib and zero expectations having taken time off from golf to rest her injury. In fact, Castle (above) teed it up against the advice of her doctors, not wanting to miss out on the opportunity.
“I touched a club about four, five days before, and doctors didn’t even really want me to play in this,” Castle said. “I was like I don’t see myself giving this opportunity up. I qualified so it is what it is. I came here not packing enough clothes or golf balls either, but it’s been great.”
It was a smart decision considering Castle made it to match play in a 12-for-2 playoff. The 63rd seed then took down favorite Rachel Heck in the semifinals to advance to the 36-hole final match against the University of Arizona’s Vivian Hou.
After the morning 18, it was Hou with the advantage, walking off the final green, 2 up. But after the lunch break, Castle made it clear that she is never a player to count out.
She made three birdies in the first four holes in the afternoon, and carded pars on the 26th and 29th holes to move ahead of Hou, 3 up. The Arizona player fought back, winning the 30th and 31st holes with birdies, but couldn’t get a leg up on Castle.
After Hou followed Castle’s birdie on the 33rd with one of her own on the 34th, it was only 12 feet on the 35th that stood between Jensen and the title. She poured it into the heart of the cup to seal the deal, 2 and 1, winning in the biggest championship in women’s amateur golf.
“It still hasn't registered,” Castle said after the trophy ceremony. “It feels like just another tournament, but then I step back and I'm like, this is a USGA event with so much history and all the exemptions I didn't even realize come with it. It was just another tournament and I was just lucky I could play.”
“Everyone gives me crap for my resting face. It’s just there, and I'm very aggressive and blunt, so it doesn't go together very well. But I promise I'm friendly.”
The native of West Columbia, South Carolina, didn’t get too high or too low on Sunday, something that was a common denominator of each successful step she made throughout the week. In the quarterfinals, Castle said she didn’t even realize her match with Emily Mahar was over on the 13th hole until her opponent came up and hugged her. It was that kind of locked-in focus on every shot that helped spur her to Sunday’s victory.
“Everyone gives me crap for my resting face,” Castle said of her attitude on the course. “It’s just there, and I'm very aggressive and blunt, so it doesn’t go together very well. But I promise I'm friendly. I’m very competitive on the golf course, but that’s only over top of the ball. In between, like Rachel’s match yesterday, I like to have fun, cut up, laugh. When I’m over the ball, we’re here for one reason. This is business. Get it done.”
Now that she’s gotten it done, Castle plans to take time off ahead of the college season, both to heal her rib and to work. It won’t be much of a break, with a Curtis Cup to prepare for at month’s end and two jobs to worry about, but Castle is taking it all in stride.
“I have to get vaccinated and I have work Tuesday morning, so I’ll be working the next few weeks until I go to school and leave for the Curtis Cup,” Castle said. “I don’t even know where (Wales) is, but I’m so excited. I’ve never been out of the country. I’m just excited to represent the United States. That’s always been a dream of mine.”
It’s the second of many dreams realized for her last week in New York. With the Robert Cox Cup firmly in hand, Castle seized the throne as the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, the crowning achievement of her young career.