Olympia Fields, Ill. – Karen Chung is on a mission: to get back to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship final no matter what it takes.
I’m really determined because this might be my last Girls’ Junior, said Chung, 16, who was the 2008 runner-up.
With everything that Ashlan Ramsey threw at her in their third-round match Thursday at Olympia Fields Country Club, Chung had wondered if she could hold on. She did, narrowly disposing of the 15-year-old Ramsey, 1 up, on the South Course.
It came down to a Ramsey putt on the 18th hole that would have forced extra holes. Who knows how it might have turned out, but Ramsey missed the 6-footer as Chung stood resolute – at least outwardly.
My hands were shaking. They’re still shaking, said Chung, minutes after the match ended.
The match was nip-and-tuck the entire way. Chung never had a lead larger than 2 up while Ramsey never led at any point. Chung won the first hole with a par and held a 1-up advantage until the seventh hole. It was on No. 7, a par 5, that Ramsey’s 4-foot par save lipped out. Chung won the hole with a par to forge a 2-up margin.
Ramsey tried to chip away at the deficit. She took the par-4 ninth hole after sticking her approach shot 2½ feet from the flagstick and tapping in. Chung, stuck in a greenside bunker, hit the flagstick in the air but the ball bounced away from the hole.
By this point, Ramsey knew she was in for a tough haul.
I just knew it would take birdies to beat her, said Ramsey of Milledgeville, Ga. I know I had enough bogeys that it hurt me.
In all, she had four bogeys, and she lost three of those holes.
On No. 12, a 184-yard par 3, Ramsey drained a 20-foot birdie putt that sliced the deficit to one hole. But Chung bounced back on the next hole, winning it with a par when Ramsey couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Ramsey won the par-3 14th hole with a birdie to again cut the deficit in half, to 1 down.
Clinging to a 1-up lead as the fellow competitors reached No. 16, Chung sank a much-needed par-saving putt from 24 feet.
That was huge, said Chung. Had I missed it, I think Ashlan would have won the match.
The players halved No. 17, setting the stage for an exciting finish. On the par-5 hole, Ramsey hit her approach shot 6 feet left of the flagstick. In the meantime, Chung was too strong on her approach as the ball landed 30 feet above the hole. Chung knocked her putt close, leaving Ramsey the opportunity to win the hole. Instead, she pushed the birdie putt and Chung tapped in for the victory.
I’m OK, said Ramsey. I’m proud of the way I hung in there.
So Chung continues her quest to get back to the final. Even if it means beating a friend like Ramsey.
Oh yeah, if you beat someone you don’t know, it’s like whatever, said Chung. But if you beat a friend, you kind of feel bad.
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s online editor. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.