Kaitlyn Papp stood on the 18th tee box at Champions Golf
Club’s Cypress Creek Course. The 22-year-old was 4-over par through 71 holes of
the 75th U.S. Women’s Open. Playing alongside World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, Papp needed
a par or better on the daunting 381-yard finishing par-4 to claim Low Amateur
“I don’t mind looking at leaderboards during tournaments, so
I knew exactly where I stood,” said Papp, who also played in the 2019 U.S.
Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston. “If you’re not nervous, it
means you don’t care. I just tried to calm myself internally and turn it into a
Papp had played the 18th hole 1-under par through her first
three rounds. After one last deep breath, she smashed her drive up the right side
of the fairway. One hundred and forty yards separated the University of Texas
graduate student and the flagstick for her approach shot. The hole was cut just
a few yards beyond a deep greenside bunker on the right. Papp and her caddie, UT
Women’s Golf Associate Head Coach Kate Golden, elected to hit an 8-iron up and
over the oak tree directly in her line of sight.
She struck the ball beautifully. It gently landed on the putting
surface and released to 15 feet to the right of the cup. Papp had an uphill
look at birdie.
After analyzing the slope and grain, Papp and Golden agreed
the putt would break slightly to the right. Papp swung her putter back and
through, and the ball dropped. Papp’s clutch closing birdie not only earned her
the USGA gold medal for Low Amateur; her ninth-place finish ensured an automatic
invitation to next year’s U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San
“To finish the championship with a birdie was an awesome
feeling and a great way to cap off an incredible week,” Papp said. “Kate
(Golden) really helped me stay calm and feel comfortable on such a big
Golden carried Papp’s bag all four rounds at Champions GC.
The retired professional golfer, who competed 18 years on the LPGA Tour and in
over 30 major championships, gave instrumental guidance throughout the week in
Houston. When Papp’s final putt found the bottom on the cup, she had tears in
“When that thing went in the hole, she (Papp) came over and
smiled,” Golden said. “I said, ‘God Pappy, you just made me cry.’ It was an
emotional week. I think Kaitlyn handled it really well. I had a front row seat
to some great golf.”
Papp joins a long list of elite names who have earned Low Amateur
honors at the U.S. Women’s Open. It includes Betsy Rawls, Nancy Lopez, Morgan
Pressel and Brittany Lang, among other decorated female golfers.
“That week validated that I am good enough to hang with the
best players in the world,” Papp said. “I had been working really hard leading
up to the U.S. Women’s Open, so I just listened to Kate and stayed patient with
Papp carded rounds of 71-68-74-74 to finish at 3-over-par
287 for the championship. It was the 10th-lowest 72-hole total by an amateur in
U.S. Women’s Open history. Her accomplishment adds to an already illustrious
junior and amateur golf career. The 2011 Texas Junior Amateur champion and
winner of the 2015 Women’s Texas Stroke Play Championship is a two-time
First-Team All-American at UT and won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with
UT teammate Hailee Cooper. Papp has also scored 19 top-10 finishes through three seasons
with the Longhorns.
“It’s her work ethic that sets her apart,” Golden said. “She
works harder than anyone that I’ve been around, especially for a college-aged
player. She uses her time really well and is very meticulous in how she
approaches her golf game.”
Papp was quick to say she has unfinished business. After
completing her undergraduate degree in physical culture and sports in three and
a half years, she enrolled in a Masters in Sports Management program in January.
Papp will don the burnt orange and white this spring for another semester of collegiate
golf and help lead the team’s pursuit of its first national championship.
“I really want to enjoy it because I have had such a great
career on and off the golf course at UT,” Papp said. “I want to push myself to
do the best I can in these upcoming events. I like to look forward to the
future, and it’s a source of motivation for me. So, I think if I keep looking
forward, it’ll help me round out my amateur career well.”
Papp, the ninth-ranked amateur in the World Amateur Golf
Rankings, recently received an invitation to her second Augusta National
Women’s Amateur. The prestigious amateur championship is scheduled for March 31
– April 3. At the inaugural ANWA in 2019, Papp finished T5.
“I’d love to take credit for Kaitlyn’s success, but I have
had little to do with it,” UT Women’s Golf Head Coach Ryan Murphy said. “Our
job is to make sure there is a platform and resources for them to improve.”
Papp has never failed to use her resources and take
advantage of her opportunities. But, it’s her drive, dedication and talent
which have led her to a bright future in golf.
“The only ceiling for Kaitlyn is her,” Golden said. “The
work ethic is there. The talent is there. You can never predict what someone
will ultimately do, but she’s got everything it takes.”