DUPONT, Wash. – Fumie (Alice) Jo loves being in the United States. Summers offer the 15-year-old from the People’s Republic of China a chance to compete in elite golf events and see new places.
For the past 45 days Jo, who prefers being called by her Western name, Alice, has visited Arizona, Tennessee, New York and Texas. This week, she’s enjoying the Pacific Northwest, both for its weather and her performance at the 38th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
Jo, competing in her first USGA championship, defeated Cindy Ha, 1 up, in the semifinals on Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, she eliminated Dominique Galloway, 3 and 2.
This is actually Jo’s second golf tour of the U.S. A year ago, she competed primarily in American Junior Golf Association events with the goal of performing well enough to earn exemptions in this year’s top invitational tournaments, including the last month’s Rolex Tournament of Champions at Richland Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., where she tied for second with Robynn Ree. She also finished third at the PING Phoenix Junior held at the ASU Karsten Course in Tempe, Ariz., a few days after being medalist at her WAPL qualifier held on May 27 at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz.
Jo, who is fluent in English, first took up the game six years ago, but has resisted joining the Chinese national team because her parents, both of whom attended college in Japan where Alice was born, prefer her to stay in school. Jo said if she joined the national team, she would be required to leave home and train full-time.
“My mom wants me to go to school,” said Jo, a ninth-grader at the Xiwai International School in Shanghai. “You have to give up schoolwork.”
Jo, bidding to become the first USGA champion from China, is traveling with her mother, Joy, while her father remains home in China overseeing his business. They are scheduled to return home on Aug. 13, three days after the U.S. Women's Amateur concludes at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y. Jo earned an exemption for being a WAPL finalist.
It will be another opportunity for Jo to visit what so far is her favorite state.
Earlier this summer, she went to Rochester, N.Y., for the Rolex Girls Championship, and said it was her favorite week, not so much for the golf, but because she lived in New York between the ages of three and six.
“I just miss it there. It was like home to me,” she said.
Jo said her swing got a little off track prior to her arrival at the WAPL due to playing in several summer tournaments. This week, she focused on stabilizing her swing and thus far everything is clicking.
She nearly single-handedly took out the Pacific Northwest contingent in her first three matches, defeating Alexis Keating from Elma, Wash., in 19 holes in the round of 64, and then eliminating a pair of University of Oregon golfers, Caroline Inglis and Cassy Isagawa, on Thursday.
Now that she has a place in Saturday's 36-hole championship match, Jo has the chance to perhaps make Washington her new favorite state.
Sisters Dominique and Jackie Galloway, of Rio Rancho, N.M., have been playing golf for several years, but it’s rare they compete in the same event. This week, they shared the WAPL experience together, although Dominique, 16, was the only one who managed to qualify for match play. Her run ended with a quarterfinal defeat.
The two still had a wonderful time in Washington and in a few days, they’ll get to do it again at the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. It will be Dominique’s second Girls’ Junior – she competed in 2011 at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club – and her 14-year-old sister’s first.
“We got to play our practice rounds together,” said Dominique. “That was really fun. We both get to learn from each other. She gets to see how I practice, and I get to see how she hits her shots.”
On Thursday, their flight reservations had to be changed because Dominique continued to advance. They flew home Friday night after a quick visit to the Space Needle in Seattle. They also took pictures of the state capitol building in Olympia, a 15-minute drive from The Home Course.
But golf is the specific reason for their travels. After the Girls’ Junior, Dominique, a high school junior, flies to Bryan, Texas, for the PGA Junior Championship and Jacquelyn, an eighth-grader, returns to Washington for the Girls Junior Americas Cup in Walla Walla.
Another Close Call
Since winning the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2010 at The Country Club of North Carolina, Doris Chen has had several prime opportunities to add a second USGA title. Last year, she fell in the championship match of the WAPL to Lauren Diaz-Yi and a month later she reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
At this week’s WAPL, the 2014 NCAA Division I individual champion from the University of Southern California was on another roll to a potential title when medalist Eun Jeong Seong, of Korea, ended her bid with a 1-up quarterfinal win.
“I’m proud of myself and how I played throughout the week,” said Chen. “Today was not my A game, but I still played pretty well.”
Chen was surprised to hear that Seong was only 14.
“She’s like the Asian [version of] Lexi Thompson,” said Chen, comparing Seong to the long-hitting LPGA Tour star who won the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior at 13. “She rolls the ball well, hits it far and she doesn’t miss. She’s quite well-rounded.”
Chen is scheduled to return to action in three weeks at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y. It’s a return to her roots as she was born in Manhattan.
“I love New York,” said Chen. “I was there [earlier] this summer … hanging around. We went to Fifth Avenue, which was a bad mistake. The parking lot there is so expensive.”
Fortunately for Chen, parking is free at the Women’s Amateur.
Quarterfinal play was momentarily delayed due to a deer wandering onto the fifth green. As Alana Uriell and Gabriella Then were about to begin putting, the deer made his impromptu cameo, creating some unwanted footprints on the putting surface and a brief delay. Maintenance staff from The Home Course quickly remedied the situation by making repairs in between the remaining matches to allow golf to continue without interruption.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.