UC Davis rising sophomore Jackie Lucena has earned an exemption into the 2020 United States Women’s Amateur Championship after finishing second at the 120th annual Women’s Western Amateur Championship at the Prestwick Country Club on Saturday in Frankfort, Ill.

After finishing seventh following two days of stroke play, including carding a 1-under 71 on day two to finish the preliminary rounds at even par, Lucena battled her way through the match play bracket, opening with a win over Northwestern’s Brooke Riley, two and one, and besting Notre Dame’s Lauren Beaudreau on the second playoff hole in the round of 16.

It took another two-hole playoff in the quarterfinals to take down Taylor Kehoe before Lucena dominated her semifinal match against Winthrop alumna Chelsea Dantonio, seven and six, to move into the championship round against Brigitte Thibault, a rising senior at Fresno State and the 2019 Mountain West Conference champion.

The lead in the championship match changed hands three times in the first five holes and Thibault grabbed a two-up lead after the seventh before Lucena rallied, winning holes eight and nine to square the match. Thibault then opened the back nine with a win on 10, then went on a run with wins on the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes thanks to back-to-back pars and a birdie to take the match, four and three.

“It was definitely a grind,” Lucena told tournament officials. “I wasn’t having my best game. I was just trying to roll with what I had, and it ended up not working out. I definitely realized that I wasn’t as free and as comfortable as in my previous rounds.”

“Besides today, I felt phenomenal this week. I had a lot of confidence in my game coming into this, and I think I wavered a little bit (in the final match) when I hit some bad shots. I was just so excited to make it to the finals.”

The finish helped put Lucena, a sociology major from Chico, into the field of 132 for the U.S. Women’s Amateur set for Aug. 3-9 at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Lucena joins fellow Aggie Thomas Hutchison, who earned an exemption for the men’s amateur at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., on Aug. 10-16.

“I’ve never been to a USGA event, so I’m super excited,” Lucena said.

Thirty-six holes of stroke played over two days opens the U.S. Women’s Amateur with the low 64 scorers moving on to match play. The round of 64 follows on Aug. 5 with round of 32 and round of 16 matches held a day later. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held on Aug. 7 and 8, respectively, with the championship match contested on Aug. 9.

Lucena wrapped up her first season at UC Davis third on the team with a 75.61 stroke average — which stands just outside the top 10 in a single season among freshmen in the history of the program — including a season-best tie for fourth at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational and a low round of 67 at the Westbrook Spring Invitational, which ranks tied for the seventh-lowest single round in school history.

– Jason Spencer