A Worthy Champion at the Women’s Amateur
A relentless Megan Schofill marched to a victory that was as much about her grit as her game
By Alan Shipnuck
August 13, 2023
LOS ANGELES—Megan Schofill is a delightful young woman but an absolute nightmare on the golf course. That is, if you have to compete against her in match play. Her long, towering drives almost never miss the fairway, her precise iron shots always seem to leave her in the right spot on the greens and every single putt looks like it will go. (Many do.) Schofill, a grad student at Auburn, was at her suffocating, oppressive best during on Sunday during the 36-hole championship match of the 123rd U.S. Women’s Amateur. She didn’t beat Latanna Stone so much as she wore her down and inexorably pushed her to the brink.
All-square through 14 holes of the morning round, Schofill took control of the match by winning 15, 16 (a 55-foot birdie bomb!) and 17 (9-iron to a foot!). As Bel-Air Country Club’s greens firmed up on a hot day, birdies were hard to come by in the afternoon and Schofill’s stready, relentless excellence nudged Stone, a fifth-year senior at LSU, to the breaking point. The stress was expressed in Stone’s short-putting: after taking the 1st hole, to finally grab a little momentum, Stone missed a 4-footer to lose the 2nd. Schofill responded with another cold-blooded burst of birdies, on numbers 7 and 8 to go 4-up, and she refused to give an inch the rest of way, ultimately prevailing 4 & 3. It was a commanding performance for a lightly-recruited high school player who earlier in the week called herself “a little bit of an underdog.” Schofill has had a solid career at Auburn, earning first-team All-SEC honors in 2023, but wining the oldest trophy in the USGA collection is another level entirely. “I can’t even put into words what I’m feeling right now,” she said.
Stone was exceedingly gracious in defeat. During the quarterfinals she strained her right calf muscle and was in serious pain ever since, despite “popping Advil like crazy,” she says. “The doctor said the only way it would get better was with rest and I was like, um, Doctor, I have to play 36 holes tomorrow!” But Stone refused to make excuses and tipped her cap to her old friend and rival, saying, “It’s hard to beat really great golf. It was a tough match because she didn’t make any mistakes. When you play someone who is in every hole and doesn’t give you a thing, that just wears you out a little bit. I’m really proud of her because she played like a champion.”
Schofill’s win was an individual triumph but also indicative of a larger trend. For most of this century, teenagers have dominated the Women’s Am, having won it 15 times since 2000. You have to go back 45 year for the last time a mid-am player (25 and over) won the Robert Cox Trophy. But this year, among the four semifinalists, there was a third fifth-year senior (Hailey Borja) as well as a fourth-year player (Rachel Heck). NIL deals have persuaded many top talents to stay in school longer; Stone (below) says she celebrated her various contracts by buying a $2,600 Louis Vuitton purse. But international players competing for U.S. colleges can’t take NIL money, owing the restrictions with their student visas, so there is less incentive for them to say in school. At this Am, there were a record 15 Americans among the 16 quarterfinalists. Unless the NIL landscape changes, the Women’s Amateur figures to have plenty more twentysomething winners from the U.S.
Schofill, 22, is now a heckuva advertisement for staying in school. She attended her first Auburn golf came at age 12. “We loved the girl, she was just hilarious,” says head coach Melissa Luellen. “She was strong but very, very raw.” Initially, Auburn did not offer Schofill a scholarship, but just before the recruiting period ended another prospect reneged on her commitment, opening up a spot. “I’ll never forget her first tournament as a freshman,” says Luellen. “We talked a lot about strategy and course management—which holes you had to play to the center of the green, which pins you had be below the hole. Megan holds up her hand and says, ‘I can’t play that way. My game, I just go for every pin.’ And I said, ‘Yes, you make birdies, but you make too many bogies when you don’t have to.’ She didn’t like that.” But Schofill became a meticulous note taker and deeply disciplined player. During the Amateur she patiently picked apart Bel-Air one good decision at a time, leaving it to Stone to force the issue.
For Schofill, this breakthrough was a long time coming: she finished second at the last two SEC championships, losing to a 45-foot eagle putt on the final hole in 2022. “She knew if she kept doing what she was doing, kept believing, something big like this would happen,” says her boyfriend/caddie C.J. Easley. “I know she seems super nice and super calm, but inside she’s fierce. She wants to beat you.”
Stone felt that acutely on Sunday but couldn’t help but pay tribute to the champ. “She’s a tough one, for sure,” said Stone. “But she’s a great sport and always has that big, beautiful smile, so you can’t be mad at her.” Stone paused and then offered the perfect coda at the end of a long week that was a showcase for the amateur game and many talented young women: “She’s kind of what golf is supposed to be, ya know?”
The USGA is a partner to the Fire Pit Collective but has no editorial oversight.
In 1994, Alan wrote his first cover story for Sports Illustrated as a 21 year-old intern, and in the ensuing quarter-century he typed two dozen more. He is the author of eight books, including best-sellers Bud, Sweat & Tees; The Swinger (with Michael Bamberger); and Phil. Shipnuck has won 13 first-place awards in the annual Golf Writers Association of America writing contest, breaking the record of Dan Jenkins, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Alan lives in Carmel, Cal.