The cancellation of Missouri Valley Conference fall sports dashed opportunities for many college athletes. However, for senior Taylor Ledwein and junior Megan Welch, it has gifted them one of the best opportunities of their career.
Ledwein and Welch traveled to Ravinia Green Country Club in Riverwoods, Illinois for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball qualifying round on Oct. 8, hoping to build on their success in the Minnesota Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. The pair did not disappoint, as they carded a 3-under 69 to grab the second of two qualifying spots.
Welch previously tried qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball while still in high school, but it is her first time accomplishing the feat with Ledwein as her teammate. The cancellation of the fall season allowed the two to play in the tournament this year since it would have interfered with their season under normal circumstances.
Four-ball, also known as “better ball,” is a format of golf where each individual on a two-person team plays their own ball throughout the hole. The lowest score between the two individuals is the score recorded on the scorecard.
Playing the course for the first time and in their first tournament since early August, Ledwein and Welch took six holes to find consistency and make their first par. The pair bogeyed two and birdied three of the first five holes. From that point forward, the two made 11 pars and two birdies.
“I think the key part was not getting too ahead of ourselves and realizing we do have 13 holes left,” Welch said.
Welch had one of the round’s biggest highlights on the second hole, chipping in from five yards off the green for birdie. That relieved some initial jitters from the pair after both hit wayward drives on the first hole.
Driving the ball was crucial for Ledwein and Welch at Ravinia Green, a course that is heavily lined with trees.
“That’s one of me and Taylor’s strong suits, is that we are really strong with our drivers and off the tee in general, but it was really nice being a four-ball with having a partner,” Welch said.
Ledwein and Welch made the cut by just one stroke and avoided a playoff for the second qualifying spot. Welch made the difference by navigating the aerated greens and draining a 16-foot putt on the sixteenth hole. Ledwein carried the torch from there, sinking putts on the final two holes to preserve their score of 3-under-par.
Clutch putts and chip-ins certainly helped on the scorecard last week, but the Bradley golfers’ success is keyed by more than just impressive shots.
“For me and Megan, being teammates and growing up together, we just have a really good bond and that transfers to the course,” Ledwein said. “We don’t get upset at each other. We know each other’s game.”
Ledwein and Welch knew what their teammate needed.
“When we play in the four-ball we like to have one person play conservative so that the other can go for it,” Ledwein said. “If you hit a bad shot, you’re not on your own. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone out there.”
Bradley’s dynamic duo from Minnesota will take on the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Texas during late April.
“Taylor and I are both playing really good golf right now, and I think if we are able to capitalize on some more birdies and get rid of those bogeys,” Welch said. “I think we have a good shot.”