CHARLESTON, S.C. – They were once like a New York sisterhood.
Annie Park and Kelly Shon, along with Alice Choi, Harin Lee and Susie Lee, all grew up within a 25-mile radius of each other. They would often get together as teenagers and play competitive matches at various Long Island courses, most notably Bethpage State Park.
But as they graduated from high school, the group went their separate ways to various colleges.
Park, of Levittown, N.Y., enrolled at the University of Southern California this past January, while Shon, three years Park’s senior and a Port Washington, N.Y., resident, attends Princeton. The two hadn’t seen each other in several years until they squared off Thursday afternoon in a third-round, U.S. Women’s Amateur match at the Country Club of Charleston.
“I hadn’t played with her in a long time, so I didn’t know how she played,” said Park, the reigning NCAA Division I champion as well as the national player and freshman of the year. “She’s a great putter. She’s a great pressure putter. She would have a 15-footer and I would say to myself, oh, that’s in.”
Park, who was a surprising first-round victim as a co-medalist two months ago at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, overcame an early 3-down deficit to pull out a 1-up victory over the 21-year-old Shon.
Neither golfer said much to each other during the match. Both are determined, focused players with plenty of USGA experience, including the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run, where both missed the cut.
Park also missed the cut this year at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., where she hoped to make a splash in front of numerous family and friends. Shon, in fact, attended the championship.
Neither golfer had ever advanced past the Round of 16 at the Women’s Amateur. Park lost in 19 holes two years ago to Erynne Lee, while Shon fell in this round three years ago to Stephanie Sherlock.
Park, a quarterfinalist at last month’s North and South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst, believes she is starting to figure out match play.
For starters, she didn’t have the pressure of being medalist after shooting 145 in qualifying to earn the No. 28 seed in the 64-player bracket. Only two stroke-play medalists have won the U.S. Women’s Amateur since 2000: Meredith Duncan (2001) and Amanda Blumenherst (2008).
“Middle,” said Park when asked about the perfect spot in the draw. “I don’t want to say this because I’m a player, but I feel like [being] medalist is like a jinx. It’s not like I purposely played bad. It just wasn’t happening [during stroke play]. But someday I would like to break that jinx.”
As for superstitions, Shon didn’t respond to a text from Princeton coach Nicki Cutler when she asked if she had ever played Meghan Stasi. Shon beat Stasi in the Round of 32, repeating a feat she achieved in the first round of the 2010 Women’s Amateur. “I didn’t want to jinx anything, so I didn’t want to respond,” said Shon.
Shon also tried wearing the same style of high white socks throughout the week. It worked for two rounds, but not against Park, who won holes 11-13 to square the match, then took the par-3 17th to go ahead for good.
“My caddie switched [his style] of socks, but I did not,” said Shon, a sociology major who might get into marketing if a professional golf career doesn’t pan out. “Maybe I should have gone with the same socks. You learn from experience.”
A Second Chance
Doris Chen would just like to forget what happened in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links final in late June at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. The qualifying co-medalist, Chen lost the 36-hole championship match, 10 and 9, to Lauren Diaz-Yi. But it was the way Chen lost that left a bad taste. She was the equivalent of 12 over par, with the usual match-play concessions, with only one birdie.
Chen, 20, of Chinese Taipei, can avenge that defeat on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals when she meets the 18-year-old Diaz-Yi at 1:45 p.m. EDT.
“I just have to maintain my energy level,” said Chen, a standout on the NCAA-champion University of Southern California golf team. “I was exhausted physically [at the Public Links]. I pushed myself too hard the whole week.”
Chen, the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion who eliminated 2012 Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee in the third round on Thursday afternoon, should be plenty rested for the rematch.
Diaz-Yi, an incoming University of Virginia freshman, also expects to see a sharper opponent for the match.
“Doris didn’t play her best,” said Diaz-Yi of the lopsided final.
In fact, Diaz-Yi didn’t even want to discuss that match after her 4-and-3, third-round triumph over Kendall Prince.
“What match?” she said. “I don’t know what match you are talking about.”
Added Chen: “Actually, I am not thinking about [our quarterfinal match] right now. I am just thinking about dinner.”
No Second Comeback
Maria Fassi, a feisty 15-year-old from Mexico, has made a habit of overcoming adversity at USGA championships. At the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior, she rallied for a second-round 69 to make match play after carding an 89 the previous day. Last month at the Girls’ Junior, she overcame a 4-down deficit to win her first-round match in 20 holes over Allisen Corpuz.
On Thursday, she won three of the final four holes of regulation to force extra holes against 2013 North and South champion Ally McDonald. Fassi, with two of her fellow Mexican competitors cheering boisterously from the gallery, rolled in a long birdie putt at No. 17, registered a winning par at 18 and added another winning par on the 19th hole to advance.
Alas, her comeback run ended in the third round against third-seeded Emma Talley. Talley built a 3-up lead and held on for a 2-up win against the hard-charging and resilient Fassi.
By The Numbers
Of the eight quarterfinalists, four are ranked among the top 30 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WWAGR). Su-Hyun Oh, of Australia, is No. 2, followed by Park (5), Chen (25) and Alison Lee (30), who earlier this year was in the top five.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.