Thursday afternoon’s Round of 16 at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior will feature two marquee match-ups worthy of Saturday’s championship final.
Medalist and World No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, of Thailand, will square off against 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up Ashlan Ramsey, of Milledgeville, Ga., while World No. 1 and second-seeded Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, faces 2011 Polo Golf Junior Classic champion Nicole Morales, of South Salem, N.Y.
Jutanugarn’s 5-and-4 victory over 2010 Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh was another display of her Girls’ Junior dominance. She played to the equivalent of six under par, with the usual match-play concessions, including seven birdies over the 14 holes. Jutanugarn has now won eight consecutive matches at this championship.
"Today my putter was so good, so I made everything," said the 16-year-old Jutanugarn, who had good friend and fellow Thai Sagee Palavivatana, a member of the Sacramento State University women’s golf team, on her bag.
Next to try and stop the Jutanugarn roll is Ramsey, 16, who outlasted 2011 Girls’ Junior semifinalist Amy Lee in a marathon 20-hole match in which she trailed, 2 down, after 10 holes.
"The whole round, it was just a struggle to hit fairways and greens," said Ramsey, who will be a part of the inaugural Clemson University women’s golf team in 2013. "Finally, at the end, I was hitting some greens and some putts finally dropped."
Ramsey, clad in highlighter-striped pants seemingly visible from across the golf course, just missed a birdie putt on 18 that would have clinched the victory. After halving the 19th with pars, Ramsey’s wedge approach to the 20th hole gave her 7 feet for birdie and the win.
"I didn't want to lose with a bogey, so I decided to hit it close and I knew that I had to make birdie to win," said Ramsey, who lost to Kyung Kim in last month’s WAPL final at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, N.J.
Ko, 15, also continued her successful streak, matching Wednesday’s 7-and-6 margin of victory, this time over Hee Wook Choi, of San Diego, Calif. She played to the equivalent of four under par, despite not hitting what she considered a successful drive until the seventh hole.
"Everything overall today was really good," said Ko, winner of the 2012 Australian Amateur and New South Wales Open. "I'm pretty happy. Before I play again, I'm going to hit a few driver shots and hopefully get it going in a straight line."
Ko’s third-round opponent, Morales, dropped her first hole to Kathleen Scavo, a far cry from her first-round 9-and-8 demolition of Lauren Johnson. After a seesaw battle over the first nine holes, Morales took the lead for good with a confidence-boosting 25-foot birdie putt at the par 4 10th hole.
"It wasn’t the first time I was up, but it was the first time I felt like I’d earned being up," said Morales. "It was just back and forth."
While Morales certainly respects Ko’s sterling credentials, she is anything but awed by her next opponent.
"I want this so bad," said Morales, a former top-ranked tennis player in her native New York. "I got knocked out in the first round last year and I really wanted it. So I’m back and I want revenge. I’m not going to leave until I get the trophy."
Three-time Wisconsin high school champion Casey Danielson, who won the final five holes of her first-round match in a comeback victory, took a much easier route on Thursday. She carded an eagle at the par-5 ninth, along with four birdies, in her 5-and-3 victory over 2012 Women’s Open competitor Megan Khang, 14, of Rockland, Mass. Danielson’s next opponent is World No. 8 Minjee Lee, an Australian who dispatched Ju Hee Bae, 2 and 1. Lee lost in the semifinals of this year’s Australian Amateur.
Summar Roachell, a 2011 Girls’ Junior quarterfinalist from Conway, Ark., advanced with a 7-and-5 dismantling of Gabby Barker. Roachell drew four-time Girls’ Junior competitor Yueer Feng, of Orlando, Fla., who eliminated Euna Pak, 3 and 2, for her afternoon Round-of-16 match.
Playing in her final Girls’ Junior, 2008 runner-up Karen Chung, 17, of Livingston, N.J., fell to local favorite Casie Cathrea, of Livermore, Calif., 2 and 1. Cathrea’s third-round opponent is first-time qualifier Anne Freman, of Las Vegas. Nev.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior continues Thursday afternoon with the third round of match play. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are on Friday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.