U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Rallies With Three Straight Birdies To Beat Howard In 19 Holes July 21, 2010 By David Shefter, USGA

Ally McDonald of Fulton, Miss., posted two emotional victories on Thursday at the U.S. Girls' Junior over Kyle Roig in the second round and Ginger Howard in the round of 16. (John Mummert/USGA)

Village of Pinehurst, N.C. – Ally McDonald might soon start believing in karma.

When she played her U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier on June 9 at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., she was the first alternate after shooting a 74.

A day later, a USGA official contacted her father by e-mail to tell McDonald that a mistake was made with regard to the number of qualifying spots and that she was, indeed, in the field for the 2010 competition at The Country Club of North Carolina.

Fast forward to Thursday afternoon. McDonald trailed second-seeded Ginger Howard of Bradenton, Fla., by two with two holes to play.

All the 17-year-old from Fulton, Miss., did was register three consecutive birdies to engineer a remarkable 19-hole victory.

I was coming up the stretch and I knew what I had to do, said McDonald, who missed the match-play cut at the 2009 Girls’ Junior by one stroke, despite making a 20-foot birdie on her 36th hole. The last thing I needed to do on 18 was thinking that if I miss this putt I lose. I just had a positive attitude.

McDonald first converted a 15-foot birdie at the par-4 17th to extend the match to 18, and then she holed a left-breaking 6-footer on 18 to force extra holes. Howard had chances to halve both holes and win the match, but missed both birdie putts.

She had been draining everything all day, it was amazing, said McDonald of Howard.

As she walked to the 19th tee – CCNC’s first hole – McDonald told herself the last she needed right now was a letdown.

I had good momentum and I hit a good drive, said McDonald, who has verbally committed to attend Mississippi State in 2011. Just give yourself a good chance for birdie.

On the par-4 19th hole, McDonald knocked her pitching-wedge approach to 20 feet, and found the right line to end the match.

I’ve dodged two really good players, said McDonald of Howard and 17-year-old Kyle Roig of Puerto Rico, who she beat, 1 up, in the second round Thursday morning. Kyle played great. And Ginger, she was playing awesome today. I was just lucky to get in and get it done.

Hey Lefty

If it wasn’t weird enough to see another left-hander in the third round, how about facing an opponent who once attended the same prep school. That was what Katelyn Dambaugh of Goose Creek, S.C., saw on the first tee Thursday afternoon. Her foe happened to be 14-year-old Christina Foster of Canada, who for three years attended Pinewood Prep in Summerville, S.C., with Dambaugh. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that both are southpaws.

It was very weird, said Dambaugh of playing another lefty, a rarity in golf, and even more so in the female game. The USGA has never crowned a female left-handed champion, while five males have claimed titles. It was fun.

The 15-year-old Dambaugh, a first-time USGA championship participant, certainly was happy to earn a 4-and-3 victory to reach Friday’s quarterfinals against 13-year-old Stephanie Liu of St. Albans, Mo.

I can’t even stand up, said a shoeless Dambaugh, who was suffering from three blisters. I need to put on some blister BAND-AIDS.

Dambaugh won the South Carolina individual high school championship last fall, but she also is the shooting guard on the Pinewood varsity girls’ basketball team and she competes on the boys’ golf team. She says she’ll probably be the No. 2 golfer next spring.

They hit it a lot farther and it’s more competition, she said. It gets me better.

Hanging Tough

For the first time in three matches, Victoria Tanco didn’t have to see the No. 1 tee box again. Tanco had gone extra holes in each of the first two rounds, including a 25-hole marathon second-round win over 15-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand. But in the afternoon match against 2007 Girls’ Junior champion Kristen Park, the 16-year-old from Argentina rolled to a 5-and-3 win.

Tanco credits the stamina to a three-day-a-week workout regimen that includes biking and weight training, specifically for her legs.

That helps now that I have to go lots of holes and not get tired, said the three-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier and past American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year. I feel relieved that I played great today in the afternoon.

By The Numbers

Howard played the most holes on Thursday, going 41. She won her second-round match over Kendall Martindale in 22 holes, then lost in 19 to McDonald…Tanco played the second-most holes (40)…In contrast, Stephanie Liu played just 28 holes, winning her third-round match, 7 and 6, over Cali Hipp. Medalist Danielle Kang only played 29 holes in her two wins…When Mariko Tumangan lost the second hole to Nicole Morales Thursday afternoon, it was the first time she had trailed in a match this week, a span covering 29 holes.

David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments atdshefter@usga.org.