HINSDALE, Ill. – Samantha Brown finally got her moment in the Women’s Western Junior.

The 18-year-old from Westfield, Indiana, had come up short in the oldest national junior tournament for women three years in a row, missing the cut in 2021 and falling in the Sweet 16 in 2022 and 2023.

Instead of another week cut short, Brown walked away from Hinsdale Golf Club on Friday evening with the Icely Cup in her arms after clinching the 97th Women’s Western Junior with a 4 and 3 victory over Isabel Emanuels, of Austin, Texas.

“I wanted it so bad last year after not making it past the Sweet 16,” Brown said. “I love this event, and it really feels so good to have finally survived and advanced all the way through this time around.”

Brown started her day by beating Harper Anne Hinckley, of McComb, Mississippi, 2 and 1 in the semifinals. She set the pace in the final by winning the first hole, but her exceptional iron play was matched by Emanuels as the promising juniors stayed close through five holes.

The 138-yard, par-3 sixth would prove to be the turning point for Brown. The Purdue commit hit a smooth 9-iron that cut through the wind and dropped within six feet of the hole, securing a birdie and a 2-up lead.

“I was definitely feeling some momentum at that point,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to get too excited, though, because all I week I’d been telling myself to take it one hole at a time. Anything can happen in match play.”

What happened was exactly what Brown needed. She embarked on a dominant four-hole run that gave her the championship. She won holes seven and eight, then went to 5 up with another birdie on the 10th despite a wayward tee shot.

“I absolutely blocked it right,” Brown said. “I had a provisional in hand ready to go and was really surprised when the WWGA officials said it was actually in play. I used the break to my advantage and hit another good shot for another birdie.”

Emanuels fought back with wins on Nos. 11 and 13 to cut the lead to 3 up.

“It gets hard coming down the stretch here with so many great players, so even though the lead got smaller, I kept taking it shot by shot,” Brown said.

Brown had a perfect opportunity to close out the match on the 343-yard 15th when her caddie read the number to the flag for her approach shot – 96 yards.

“I’d actually been practicing hitting these downwind, knockdown lob wedges 96 yards, so I knew the exact shot,” Brown said.

The practice paid off, and Brown knocked the knockdown lob wedge 96 yards on the number, leaving the ball a mere three feet from the cup. Brown rolled in the birdie for victory, realizing the moment had finally come.

“All I could think was, ‘Wow,’” Brown said. “I just wanted to make match play and play as well as I can after how crazy the last two weeks have been. It feels incredible to cap it off with this, and Isabel was such a great opponent.”

Brown’s “crazy” two weeks included a trip to the U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania last week and the Dye Junior Championship in Indiana over the weekend.

For Emanuels, the Women’s Western Junior was a test to see how her game compares to top juniors from around the world. The 16-year-old reached the final after defeating Angel Yin, of Hong Kong, 3 and 2 in the semifinals.

“It hurts to not get the win, but I’m so happy with how I played,” Emanuels said. “It boosts my confidence a ton because it proves I can compete with such a good batch of juniors at this tournament. I can’t wait to come back next year.”

With the win, Brown joins past Women’s Western Junior champions Candie Kung (1998), Christie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972, 1973, 1974). Brown and Emanuels each earned exemptions in the 2024 Women’s Western Amateur at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Match Play Results

Round of 16
Hsin Tai Lin, Taiwan, def. Sophia Ellestad, Houston, Tex, 1 up
Harper Anne Hinckley, McComb, Miss., def. Martha Kuwahara, Northbrook, Ill., 3 and 2
Samantha Brown, Westfield, Ind., def. Jenna Madden, McKinney, Texas, 2 up
Suzie Tran, Poulsbo, Wash., def. Sayers Allen, Spring Branch, Texas, 1 up
Aleah Shields-Rodipe, Calgary, Canada, def. Lauren Timpf, Macomb, Mich., 2 and 1
Angel Yin, Hong Kong, def. Niuniu Zhao, Woodinville, Wash., 2 and 1
Isabel Emanuels, Austin, Texas, def. Sophia Lin, Taiwan, 4 and 3
Taylor Baker, Sacramento, Calif., def. Sehee Sim, Seoul, South Korea, 1 up

Hinckley def. Lin, 23 holes
Brown def. Tran, 3 and 2
Yin def. Shields-Rodipe, 1 up
Emanuels def. Baker, 20 holes

Brown def. Hinckley, 2 and 1
Emanuels def. Yin, 3 and 2

Brown def. Emanuels, 4 and 3