Cleveland – Lydia Ko, 15, of New Zealand, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur; Jaye Marie Green, 18, of Boca Raton, Fla.; Ariya Jutanugarn, 16, of Thailand; and Nicole Zhang, 20, of Canada advanced to the semifinals on Friday in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship on the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club.
Ko defeated Paula Reto, 22, of South Africa, 3 and 1, in Friday’s quarterfinals. Green, the lone remaining American, outlasted Marijosse Navarro, 15, of Mexico, 2 and 1. Jutanugarn won by a 5-and-4 margin over Erynne Lee, 19, of Silverdale, Wash., and Zhang upset Su-Hyun Oh, 16, of Australia, 2 and 1.
The two semifinal matches will be played on Saturday with a 36-hole final scheduled for Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which 10 are strictly for amateurs.
Ko was 2 up at the turn in her match with Reto. At the par-5 12th, she made a 12-foot birdie putt to go 3 up. Reto fought in vain to win a hole. At the par-5 16th, Reto appeared to have a chance when she hit the green with her second shot and had a 16-foot putt for an eagle. Ko’s third shot, a chip, stopped within 12 feet of the hole. Reto missed the eagle attempt, and Ko made her putt for a matching birdie. The match ended on the 17th when Reto failed to birdie and conceded Ko’s birdie putt.
“Today was not my best. I didn’t hit it as close to the hole, but I shot 2-under-par, so it shows something was pretty good,” Ko said. “We both could have played better but, in the end, in match play, it doesn’t matter.”
Green got off to a nervous start against Navarro. She hit the turf behind the ball on her opening tee shot, yet it bounced some 220 yards down the fairway and she halved the hole with a par.
“After I chunked my drive on the first hole, I got rid of the jitters,” Green said.
Nearly holing a wedge shot on the par-5 second, Green’s ball spun to within 3 feet and she made the birdie putt to go 1 up. She was still 1 up at the turn, but Navarro squared the match with a birdie-3 on the 10th.
There was no change in the match until the 16th hole. Green hit the green of the 438-yard par 5 on her second shot and two-putted from 35 feet for a birdie to go 1 up. She won the match on the par-4 17th when the young Mexican Women’s Amateur champion couldn’t match her birdie.
Green has never advanced this far in a USGA national championship. While she qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open, she missed the cut.
“I was so excited when that last putt went in,” Green said of her victory on Friday. “It was like I could breathe again.”
Her father, Donnie Green, a teaching professional at Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton, is her caddie. While her father could offer expert advice, she prefers that he stay in a supportive role.
“I told him that, this week, I’d rather take the reins and it’s worked out great,” Green said.
Zhang’s close win over Oh sent one of the favorites to the sidelines. Oh had an impressive run of scoring in the early matches. She was 9-under-par for the 14 holes of her second match, and seemed poised to win again.
But Zhang was tenacious. After Oh took a 2-up lead at the sixth, Zhang holed a number of par-saving putts, including a 10-footer at the seventh for a half. At the ninth, she finally won a hole with one of those pars and another par on the 13th squared the match. On the 169-yard, par-3 14th, Zhang began a run of three birdies in four holes that would win the match. She hit a 5-iron to within 6 feet, made the putt and took the lead for the first time. At the 16th, she faced a 12-footer for another birdie.
“Walking up to the green, I knew if I made the putt and went 2-up, I could tie either of the last two holes to win the match,” Zhang said. She made the putt and the 17th was halved with birdies, giving Zhang the win.
After losing the match, Oh said, “I was just going through a little letdown. I hit the ball pretty bad, actually. I didn’t putt well, either.”
Jutanugarn’s 5-and-4 win over Lee was the largest winning margin of the semifinal round. She was 3 up at the turn and went 4 up on the 11th. At the 169-yard, par-3 14th, Jutanugarn laced a 6-iron shot to within 6 feet of the hole and made another birdie to go 5 up, ending the match.
“I tell myself I’m going to win it, not because I’m better than her, but to feel confident,” said the long-hitting youngster, the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. “Everybody here has a chance to win it.
“I played OK. My irons were better than yesterday. Today, when I missed an iron shot, at least it was on the green.”
In Saturday’s semifinals, Zhang faces Green and Ko will play Jutanugarn. Never before have any of the four players advanced to the semifinal round at the Women’s Amateur.
Cleveland – Results from Friday’s quarterfinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club:
Nicole Zhang, Canada (144) def. Su-Hyun Oh, Australia (144), 2 and 1
Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146) def. Marijosse Navarro, Mexico (149), 2 and 1
Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137) def. Paula Reto, South Africa (141), 3 and 1
Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (139) def. Erynne Lee, Silverdale, Wash. (149), 5 and 4
Cleveland – Pairings for Saturday’s semifinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club (all times Eastern):
10 a.m. Nicole Zhang, Canada (144) vs. Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146)
10:15 a.m. Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137) vs. Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (139)