Alexa Saldana and Savannah Barber had a short drive home on Wednesday afternoon to show off their new championship hardware. Saldana and Barber, a pair of teenagers who attend the Crown Golf Academy in Arlington, Texas, are the first U.S. Golf Association champions of the year, having kicked off the season with a hard-fought title at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball.
Saldana and Barber, both 17 and roommates at the Academy, are based just 30 miles down the road from Maridoe Golf Club, a notoriously tough test of golf in Carrollton, Texas. Maridoe is a first-time USGA host, too, but Saldana and Barber navigated it gracefully.
The pair survived two rounds of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play to become USGA champions. New this year, both players will receive an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Girls’ Junior courtesy of their win.
Scores: U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball
“It feels incredible to be able to win this with everyone watching and qualify for the other two USGA Women’s Amateur and Girls’,” Saldana said. “It feels incredible.”
Neither player has ever competed in either tournament before.
Saldana, whose family remains in her native Mexico, is a first-year student at Crown. Barber, who grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, is in her fourth year. The two roommates instantly clicked after meeting in the fall. Their games are clicking, too, after so much practice at Texas Rangers Golf Club.
“We knew all of our preparation before this tournament at the Crown Golf Academy,” Barber said. “…We knew we were in a good spot.”
Barber and Saldana started match play as the No. 26 seed and advanced through their first two matches without ever seeing the 16th hole. They pulled that trick again to take down University of Kentucky stalwarts Jensen Castle and Marissa Wenzler in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, Barber and Saldana faced the youngest two players in the tournament in Avery Zweig and Gianna Clemente. The kids, 14 and 13, respectively, took the eventual winners through 20 holes, but ultimately Barber and Saldana advanced to the final match against 2019 Women’s Four-Ball runners-up Jillian Bourdage and Casey Weidenfeld.
Even though Barber and Saldana lost the first hole of the final match to a birdie from their opponents, they had taken a 1-up lead by the turn. Ultimately, Barber and Saldana pulled away when Bourdage and Weidenfeld logged back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13. Barber and Saldana sealed it with a birdie at the par-3 14th.
There was certain to be a celebration back at the Academy when Barber and Saldana returned.
“A lot of congratulations as we kept on winning our matches,” Barber said of the reaction from their other friends at Crown.
Barber has already committed to play for Oklahoma after graduating, but Saldana is still weighing her college options. After this week’s performance, this much is clear: They’d make a strong one-two punch at the next level.