Latanna Stone and Megan Schofill will renew their amiable rivalry in the championship match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur
By Alan Shipnuck
August 12, 2023
LOS ANGELES—Standing in the 14th fairway of Bel-Air Country Club, having just lost the preceding hole to fall back to all-square, facing an opponent whose petite, bespectacled appearance belied a warrior’s heart, Megan Schofill faced a do-or-die shot on a watery par-5. With a 4-hybrid she ripped a towering cut that landed gently on a baked-out green, cozying up to the hole to set up an eagle that was the shot of the day during Saturday’s semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. But Schofill has a confession: “I pushed it,” she says. “Off the face I thought it was going to be in the right bunker. But the wind hit it hard and it worked out perfect.”
Tournaments are won and lost on such moments. Schofill’s opponent, Michigan senior Hailey Borja, never recovered from the eagle and the match ended 2 and 1. In Sunday’s 36-hole final, Schofill will face Latanna Stone (above), who took down Stanford’s Rachel Heck, the former NCAA champion who had looked unstoppable in the preceding days; Stone came out with fire in her eyes and birdied six of the first 11 holes to forge a 5-up lead as she cruised to a 3-and-2 victory. “I lost to insane golf—so many birdies,” said Heck. “That’s how you want to go out, especially to a good friend. I’m going to be cheering her on super hard tomorrow. I absolutely adore her, and we just had fun today.”
Stone (LSU) and Schofill (Auburn) are fifth-year seniors and longtime friends and rivals who in 2023 were both first-team All-SEC. The final match figures to be a brawl between two gritty ballstrikers, but Schofill says, “It’s going to be so fun! Megan and I have played a lot of golf together, and we just really enjoy each other’s company.”
Sportsmanship and good cheer have defined the 123rd Women’s Am as much as the graceful beauty of the venue. The men’s professional game has never been more off-putting, but the young women at Bel-Air have radiated a refreshing authenticity and perspective. Schofill (below) burst into tears after her semifinal victory. “I don’t know what that was about,” she said with a laugh. “I’m usually pretty even-keeled. It’s a long week, so many emotions are running through you. I was so relieved to make that last putt it was like I felt everything all at once: relief, gratitude, excitement. I felt the tears coming and it was like, Oh no, here we go.”
Latanna or Schofill will make a very worthy champion, but this Amateur will also be remembered for the reemergence of Heck, a dominant force as a college freshman whose last two seasons were compromised by mononucleosis and surgery to alleviate swelling, pain and numbness brought on by thoracic outlet syndrome. During Heck’s long recovery, her Stanford teammate Rose Zhang became a phenom. Heck befriended and mentored her and became Zhang’s biggest cheerleader. Reached for comment at the Women’s British Open, Zhang said the support “showed so much about Rachel’s character both on and off the golf course. Honestly, it was amazing to watch her continue to be the leader of our team, even if it was from the sidelines.” Heck has continued to ride for her friend even after Zhang turned pro, buzzing into this summer’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to cheer her on. “I had just finished my second round and was trying to meet up with her by the clubhouse, but she didn’t have credentials to come into player dining,” says Zhang. “Rachel being Rachel, she jumped the fence to come see me. She was promptly stopped by security and nearly escorted off the property. Luckily, the LPGA commissioner happened to be nearby and came over to vouch for her. Never a dull moment with Rachel!”
Heck’s week at the Am ended a day earlier than she hoped but she said, “This is has meant a lot to me. Genuinely just super proud of myself. It’s been a really hard year and a half. So just to feel like myself again and to feel healthy, I mean, I’ve learned that the happiness that comes from winning is very fleeting, but the happiness that comes from just being healthy and being surrounded by people I love doing what I love, that’s the good stuff.”
It’s a shame that Stone and Schofill can’t be declared co-champions, but the final match of the Women’s Am is zero-sum. No matter how it plays out, a week in Tinseltown has already produced plenty of winners: Bel-Air, which emerged as a fascinating championship venue; all the talented young women who competed for the love of the game, not bloated paychecks; and the sport itself, elevated by the brilliant golf and throwback values on display. As Heck said, this is the good stuff.
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.