Taylor Totland and Alice Chen started the USGA Women’s Four-Ball championship as the top seed and finished right where they started.
The two golfers, who were teammates at Furman last year, won the national championship with two convincing victories in the semi-finals and finals of the tournament played at The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach.
“We get to represent Furman together in the home state,” said Chen. “So I don’t think you could have written up a better story, and to be co-medalists and then fight it out to win, that’s pretty much as good as it gets,” she said.
“That’s something you dream of forever is to have your name as a USGA champion, so it’s really cool,” added Totland.
Totland graduated from Furman this spring while Chen is a rising senior. The week before playing in sunny and warm Myrtle Beach the two played in the rain and near freezing temperatures in the NCAA national championship near Chicago.
Totland and Chen had a dominating tournament. The two only trailed on three holes in the five rounds they played in the championship. In the quarter final match Maria Torres and Samantha Wagner, a pair of University of Florida golfers, took a one hole lead on the 13th hole and held it until Chen and Totland birdied the 17th hole to get the match back to even.
The quarter final match turned out to be the most difficult match for the champions. Totland needed to sink an 8 foot birdie putt on the final hole to send the pair of Lady Paladins to the semi finals.
“Tot has been playing amazing all week. I just keep on telling her it’s a team event, and we just did it together the whole week,” said Chen.
Totland and Chen breezed past a pair of 17 year old high school golfers in the semi-final match. Jennifer Chang and Gina Kim lost 3&2 sending Totland and Chen to the finals to face a pair of University of Georgia recent graduates.
In the final match Totland and Chen jumped out to a 3 hole lead on the first three holes over Sammi Lee and Mary Ellen Shuman.
Chen birdied the first two holes and earned another win on the third hole with a par. Both golfers had times when they took over a round with great play even if the other was having some difficulty.
“To be able to cover each other when the other one wasn’t doing so hot, that’s why it’s called four-ball. It’s been such a blast,” said Chen.
Lee and Shuman won the 10th hole with a birdie and were in position to win a second straight hole and cut the lead to just one.
On the 12th hole Lee had a birdie putt opportunity from about 6 feet while Chen was out of the hole and Totland was in a bunker at the front of the green.
Often it takes great shots to win major championships and Totland hit a great shot. She lifted her pitch from below the green and had the perfect line to drain a 30 footer for an amazing par that ended the threat.
“I hit it, and I was like, that sounds pretty good,” said Totland. “Normally, I don’t really look at my shots, especially in a bunker, but I peeked up,” she said. ‘It’s kind of hard to ever really think you have it until it’s done. Literally if you take your foot off the gas you can lose a whole or two and you’re right back where you started,” she said.
Chen had the best seat in the house to watch her partner’s amazing shot roll into the cup.
“It was right at my eye level, too, because I hit it into the hazard and I was about to chip out,” added Chen. “It was up at my eye level, and I was like, oh my God, it’s looking good, and it hits the flagstick and comes back down into the hole, and I was like, yeah!” she said.
Lee missed her birdie putt allowing Totland and Chen to push their lead back to three and ending the last threat to their victory. Totland and Chen won the final match 4&3.
“Every time we thought we were making progress, they put another one on top of us, so hats off to them. They played lights out,” said Lee.
The two former teammates join some of the best golfers in the history of the Furman program to win a USGA title. LPGA Hall of Fame golfers Betsy King and Beth Daniel each won two USGA championships.
The most recent golfer with ties to Furman to win a USGA major was 1990 grad Todd White. White joined with Nathan Smith to win the first USGA Men’s Four-Ball Championship in 2015.
Totland had success at LPGA Qualifying School before returning to Furman for her senior year. She is expected to turn pro this summer.
Chen will return to Furman for her senior year and brings a medal and trophy with her to campus.
“I’m just sitting here thinking about all the little details. It’s definitely not by my own doing, so I’m kind of mind blown,” said the new national champion.