MICHIGAN WOMEN’S AMATEUR: Elise Fennell, Amaya Melendez, Macie Elzinga, Shannon Kennedy Reach Final Four at Plum Hollow

Written By: Greg Johnson

SOUTHFIELD – Four fresh faces have reached the final four in the 108th Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland.

Elise Fennell of Caledonia, Amaya Melendez of Ann Arbor, Macie Elzinga of Byron Center and Shannon Kennedy of Beverly Hills each made it to the final four in the state championship for the first time with wins in the round of 16 and quarterfinals Thursday at Plum Hollow Country Club.

Fennell, 18 and headed to Illinois State University to play golf in the fall, will meet Melendez, a 21-year-old Eastern Michigan University student in the first semifinal at 8 a.m. Friday morning, with Elzinga, 18 and headed to Bowling Green State University in the fall, meeting Kennedy, a Michigan State University golfer, in the 8:15 match. The semifinal winners will square off about 12:45 p.m. to determine the champion and winner of the Patti Shook Boice Trophy.

Fennell beat Olivia Stoll of Haslett 1-up in a morning “Sweet 16” match, and then topped Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor, Amaya’s younger sister, 3 and 2 in the afternoon quarterfinal.

She took an early lead and held on against Melendez after she had a close match in the morning with Stoll where she had to come from behind.

“I just tried to keep doing what I was doing, stay in it, hang around and try to win,” she said. “It’s awesome to be in the final four. I did better than last year and that was my goal this week. I’m so excited for tomorrow.”

Amaya Melendez fashioned the biggest upset of the tournament with a 3 and 2 win over defending champion Katie Chipman, the Grand Valley State University assistant coach from Grand Rapids. It came after a 6 and 4 win in the morning over Rachel Niskanen of Negaunee, who is headed to Central Michigan University in the fall.

Melendez built an early lead and stayed in front throughout against Chipman. She even led 5-up at one point before the defending champion rallied.

“She definitely fought,” Melendez said. “I had to just keep playing and putting myself in position to score. And it was so windy. It was hard to get shots on the greens. I really had to rely on my wedge and putter.”

Melendez, who doesn’t play on the golf team at Eastern but does serve as an assistant golf coach at Ann Arbor Greenhills, said it means a lot to get in match play and make it to the final four.

“I really persevered,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it and just not losing focus.”

Elzinga topped Oakland University golfer Lily Bargamian of Grosse Ile 5 and 3 in the morning, and then topped Northern Michigan University golfer Maya Hunter of St. Joseph 5 and 5 in the afternoon.

“I obviously wanted to win coming into this and to be able to go to the final day is pretty special,” she said. “Hopefully I can play some good golf tomorrow and get the job done.”

Elzinga said her two wins were similar.

“I didn’t make very many mistakes, I hit a lot of fairways and greens,” she said. “I struggled a little bit today putting with the speed, but I was able to have it not really matter. It was pretty windy out there, like a two-club wind, but being able to adapt to it was big for me.”

Kennedy, who was the top seed a year ago in the Women’s Amateur only to fall in the round of 16, topped Traverse City St. Francis High School golfer Grace Slocum 7 and 6 in the morning, and then topped Western Michigan University golfer Megha Vallabhaneni of Northville 3 and 1 in the afternoon quarterfinal.

She said she had a little extra incentive this year.

“I was the one seed last year and I left pretty disappointed, so I definitely have a chip on my shoulder this year,” she said. “Even though I didn’t play too great in stroke play, I feel like I can kind of get my game together a little bit more as the days go on. I’m feeling good about my game heading into (the semifinals).”

Kennedy said she struggled with her putting early in the match with Vallabhaneni.

“I said to myself ‘you have a lot of golf left,’” she said. “You have to be mentally tough, especially on a 36-hole day, so I was able to keep my head strong. She missed some putts on eight and nine and I was able to get the match back to even, and then I won 11 and 12 to go 1-up. From there I felt I just needed to play my game and I brought it home.”

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