U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR PUBLIC LINKS
Kaufman, 20, Lone 'Elder Stateswoman' Left in Draw June 21, 2012 | Neshanic Station, N.J. By Stuart Hall

Kim Kaufman has become quite comfortable at Neshanic Valley Golf Course this week. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

At age 20, Kim Kaufman has become the elder stateswoman of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. 

"[Thursday] I played [Allisen Corpuz] who was going to be a freshman in high school and I was like, 'Are you kidding?'" Kaufman said. "Yes, I am the older one, but I don’t feel old. They’re just so good, so young now."

Kaufman, though, was able to draw on whatever experience advantage she may possess in rebounding on the inward nine of Neshanic Valley Golf Course for a 2-and-1 victory over Chirapat Jao-Javanil, 19, of Thailand, in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Kaufman advanced to Friday afternoon’s semifinals against another teen, 16-year-old Ashlan Ramsey, of Milledgeville, Ga. Ramsey ousted Grace Na, 19, of Oakland, Calif., 3 and 1.

"This is my fourth Publinks and I had never gotten past the first round, and I know I’m better than that," said Kaufman, a Texas Tech University senior who tied for eighth at last month’s NCAA Division I Women’s Championship in Franklin, Tenn. "So I came to win, came in with a different mentality."

The Clark, S.D., resident is seeking to become the first Dakotan to win a USGA Championship since 2012 USA Curtis Cup member Amy Anderson, of Oxbow, N.D., won the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship nearly 30 minutes from here at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

Ironically, Trump National and Neshanic both reside in Somerset County.

Kaufman has found Neshanic Valley to her liking.

Kaufman shot even-par 144 in stroke-play qualifying and then made four bogeys in an opening-round 2-and-1 win over Alice Chen. Kaufman has since played 50 holes in three matches, shooting the equivalent of nine under, given the usual match-play concessions, with just five bogeys.

"I like it. I like it off the tee, I like it on most every shot I stand over," she said. "I feel really comfortable and there is not a hole I’m afraid of or intimidated by when I step on the tee."

Against Jao-Javanil, the reigning NCAA Division I individual champion from the University of Oklahoma, Kaufman led, 2 up, after birdies at the par-4 first and fifth holes. The match was all square heading to No. 10 after Jao-Javanil won the par-4 eighth with birdie and par-5 ninth with par. Jao-Javanil took her lone lead on the 389-yard, par-4 10th.

"She had a 40-footer on 10 [for birdie] and I just had a 10-footer, and all of a sudden she makes it and I lost the hole," Kaufman said. "I got a little shaky there in the middle, for sure, but managed to keep it together, and got only 1 down. Then she sort of gave me one with a bogey [at 13]."

At the 535-yard, par-5 14th, Kaufman regained her composure and the match by rolling in an arcing 25-foot birdie putt. A 10-foot birdie putt on the 328-yard, par-4 16th made the match dormie-2, and the match was concluded after bogeys were traded on the par-3 17th.

"Actually, I didn’t think I played all that great," said Kaufman. "We didn’t exactly look like two great players, but I managed to get it done."

That is what experienced players do in match play.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship websites.