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Tillie Claggett Wins 2020 Girls Match Play Championship

THE COLONY – Tillie Claggett, a high school junior from The Woodlands, allowed her mind to drift a few times this week to daydream about what was really at stake in the 2020 Girls Match Play Championship. Now that she’s won it – after Sunday’s 2 & 1 victory over Fort Worth’s Savannah Barber in the Final match at Old American Golf Club – Claggett can do more than just think about it.

She can plan on it.

With the victory, Claggett earned a spot into the LPGA’s 2020 Volunteers of American Classic, set for Dec. 3-6 right back here at Old American. It’ll be her first time playing in a professional event, and she can’t wait to see how her game stacks up against the best in the world.

“It’s OK to think about what’s on the line,” said Claggett, who attends high school at The John Cooper School and is committed to Vanderbilt. “It’s naïve to say that you can’t think about it. It’s totally impossible to not get ahead of yourself a little bit. But the second I caught my mind wandering, I let myself imagine it for a second and enjoyed that feeling of the possibility. But then I immediately pushed it aside and focused on the next shot.”

The strategy worked. Claggett played a power game all week and especially in Sunday’s Final match. She routinely drove it 15-20 yards past Barber, who conversely relied on precision and consistency to keep pace. Claggett birdied the first hole to take a 1-up lead after she outdrove Barber and stuffed a short iron to 4 feet.

That lead held up through the first six holes. Claggett, who qualified for the Girls Match Play Championship with a win at the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour’s 2020 Mid-Summer Classic, went 2-up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 seventh hole.

Barber stuck back quickly, however. She rolled in a 5-foot birdie on the par-4 eighth hole to cut Claggett’s lead in half. Claggett then bogeyed the par-4 ninth hole, which allowed Barber to pull even in the match.

Claggett’s 6-foot birdie on No. 10 pushed her back ahead, 1 up. She went 2 up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 14th hole. Claggett closed out the match with a 4-foot birdie on the par-5 17th.

“I was trying to keep the pressure on as much as I could,” Claggett said. “I think the approach shots are really crucial on this golf course. There were tough pin positions on small greens that I find really difficult to read, personally. So getting myself as close as possible was really critical.”

This was the fourth match Claggett won in the past three days. Her work began Friday morning with a 2-up victory against Grace Jin of San Antonio in the Round of 16. Claggett turned around that afternoon and disposed of San Antonio’s Julia Vollmer, 5 & 3. In Saturday afternoon’s Semifinals, Claggett birdied her final three holes to rally from a 2-down deficit and defeated Meagan Winans of Richardson, 1 up.

Barber, for her part, provided a stern challenge on Sunday. She hit nine of 12 fairways in the Final match and 13 of 17 greens. She went 3-1 in matches for the championship.

“I was always fighting; I never gave up,” said Barber, a junior at Spring Creek Academy who earned her spot in the 16-player field with her top-20 ranking in the LJT’s 2020 Player of the Year points race. “I played pretty solid today, just hitting greens and fairways and went from there.”

This is the first year for the Girls Match Play Championship, a product of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance and a collaboration between the Legends Junior Tour, the Northern Texas PGA All-American Tour and the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour. Sixteen of the state’s top junior girls earned their way into the single-elimination, match play championship through their junior golf performances in TJGA events.

In order to make this unique event happen, the TJGA partnered with the LPGA, the Volunteers of America and Old American. The result was three days of spirited match play competition, which ended with Claggett punching her ticket into the 2020 VOA Classic.

“The Girls Match Play Championship has been a great success,” LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “The golf has been superb. The players, caddies and friends and family who attended all complied with our COVID-19 safety protocols. Old American was an awesome, and one-of-a-kind test in Dallas-Fort Worth. A lot of people were involved in bringing this championship together, including the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA and Volunteers of American. The week played out just as we had hoped.”

The LJT extends its gratitude to everyone involved in this week’s championship, including the players, their caddies, the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA, VOA and Old American Golf Club. This year’s Girls Match Play Championship promises to be the first of what will become an annual tradition. For more information on the Girls Match Play Championship, click here.