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Niblett, Cotton to Play for 99th Women’s Texas Amateur Title

AUSTIN – Two hometown competitors with strong ties to the University of Texas Golf Club will face off Friday morning for the right to etch their name into Texas golf history at the 99th Women’s Texas Amateur.

Fifth-seed Makenzie Niblett and No. 6 seed Bentley Cotton, both who grew up in Austin, advanced to the Championship Match after overpowering their competitors in Thursday’s Semifinals.

Niblett’s family belongs to UT Golf Club. She’s played the classic Hill Country course since she was 7 years old. An incoming freshman at Texas A&M, Niblett defeated Oklahoma State sophomore Hailey Jones, 4 and 3, on Thursday afternoon. As she’s done all week, Niblett shot out the gate like a cannon against Jones. Niblett built a 4-up lead through six holes, and then holed out from 120 yards for an eagle on No. 9 to stake a 5-up advantage at the turn.

“I had good speed on my putting, and I was playing to correct spots in the fairway,” said Niblett, who estimated she’s played UT Golf Club at least 250 times over the years. “I know the correct times to go for things and when to lay off and play safe. It helps knowing how to get around this golf course.”

Jones, a three-time Legends Junior Tour Player of the Year from Dallas, dug deep on the back nine to stay in the fight. She won the 12th and 14th holes with pars to cut Niblett’s lead to 3 up, but it wasn’t enough. Niblett ended the match by pouring in a downhill, 10-foot birdie on the picturesque par-4 15th.

Six-seeded Cotton may not have grown up playing UT Golf Club as much as Niblett, but the 2003 Bechtol-Russell designed gem is Cotton’s new home course as an incoming freshman for the Texas Longhorns. Bentley defeated Southern Methodist University senior Kennedy Pedigo, 3 and 2, in the Semifinals.

After a back-and-forth front nine, Cotton went 2 up with a par on the 10th hole. Pedigo, the No. 7 seed from Fort Worth, bounced back with a birdie to win the 11th hole. Cotton won the 12th hole to reassert her 2-up margin and eventually closed out Pedigo with 12-foot birdie on the par-3 16th.

“My wedges and irons were really good today,” Cotton said. “I hit to my favorite yardage a lot of times, especially on the par 5s. That really worked well for me.”

Both Cotton and Niblett also were involved in compelling Quarterfinals matches on Thursday morning. Both young ladies had to play against their good friends.

Cotton squared off against her former Austin Westlake High School teammate, No. 3 seed Sadie Englemann. Cotton won the match in dramatic fashion.

Englemann, a Stanford freshman, birdied three of the first four holes to take a commanding 3-up advantage in the early going. Cotton chipped away at her deficit with wins on the sixth and eighth holes. Englemann won the par-5 ninth hole with a bogey to grab a 2-up lead at the turn. Englemann was 3 up after a birdie on No. 11, but Cotton won holes 14, 15, 16 and 17 to flip the match and take a 1-up lead.

“On the first few holes, she was making 30- and 40-footers. It was unbelievable,” Cotton said. “On the back nine I just kept fighting.”

The dagger came on the 18th green. Cotton’s second shot on the par-4 finisher at UT Golf Club finished about 15 yards short of the green. Englemann’s second shot came to rest on the back fringe. Cotton played first and nipped her chip shot perfectly. The ball took one bounce, checked up and hit the flagstick. It stopped a foot away. Englemann conceded the par.

Englemann’s attempt to force extra holes strayed wide of the mark.

“I had a great lie on my chip,” Cotton said. “I knew it was going to check, and I hit it just a little into the hill. It checked, and it was perfect. It almost went it.”

While Cotton and Englemann battled, Niblett was taking on one of her college teammates smack dab in the heart of enemy territory. No. 13 seed Courtney Dow, a Texas A&M senior, watched Niblett birdie the first hole on her to take a 1-up lead. Niblett never looked back.

The youngster went 2 up on the sixth hole after Dow blocked her tee shot into the penalty area and made double bogey. Niblett birdied the par-4 seventh to go 3 up and closed out her older teammate, 5 and 4, on 14th hole.

Niblett said the vibe of the match was friendly. They talked a bunch between shots and caught up on each other’s lives and families. When Niblett learned on Wednesday she’d be playing against Dow, she knew it was going to be a comfortable pairing.

“I loved it. I love her. We just had fun,” Niblett said. “We knew whoever came out of our match, it was going to be fine because it would be an Aggie.”

In the other two Quarterfinals matches Jones defeated No. 17 seed Kelsey Hailey, 3 and 2, and Pedigo dispatched No. 31 seed Julia Gregg, by the same margin.

The Championship Match begins Friday at 8:06 a.m. Prior to the start, the final matches in the four additional flights will begin. For more information on the 99th Women’s Texas Amateur, click here.