U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Jutanugarn, Ko, M. Lee and A. Lee advance to afternoon matches July 19, 2012 By Christina Lance

First-time USGA competitor Minjee Lee knocked off Kelli Murphy, 4 and 2, to earn a spot in the Girls' Junior semifinals, where she will face defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn. (Steve Gibbons/USGA).

Daly City, Calif. – Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn, World No. 1 Lydia Ko, 2012 ANNIKA Invitational winner Alison Lee and 2012 Australian Amateur semifinalist Minjee Lee stamped their tickets to the semifinals at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced Golf Club by winning quarterfinal matches Thursday morning.

After rolling easily through the opening three rounds, medalist Jutanugarn, 16, of Thailand, faced her toughest competitor yet in Casie Cathrea, a local favorite from Livermore, Calif.

Cathrea, a 16-year-old Oklahoma State commit, was the first opponent to gain any advantage on Jutanugarn and twice held a 1-up lead, Jutanugarn’s first deficits of the championship.

However, Jutanugarn came roaring back by winning holes 15 and 16, the latter with a monster birdie putt, and ultimately prevailed, 3 and 1.

It was very tough because she played so good, said Jutanugarn, currently ranked second in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. She never missed the fairway and she hit everything very straight.

Jutanugarn and Cathrea combined for an astounding 12 birdies over 17 holes.

Jutanugarn will face Australian Minjee Lee in the afternoon’s semifinals. Lee, 16, dispatched Kelli Murphy, 16, of Elgin, S.C., by a 4-and-2 margin.

In a performance she termed as average, Lee, ranked eighth in the world, capitalized on a Murphy bogey at the par-3 third hole and was on cruise control down the homestretch, clinching a matchup with Jutanugarn by converting a birdie at 16.

I was able to make par when she made her mistakes, said Lee, playing in her first USGA championship.

Ko, 16, of New Zealand, earned the morning’s most lopsided victory, never trailing in her 8-and-6 victory over Chinese-born Yueer Cindy Feng, 16, of Orlando, Fla. She put on a veritable putting clinic, carding six birdies in only 12 holes, and chipped in from just off the green at No. 12 to clinch victory.

Everything was going really good, said Ko, winner of the 2012 Australian Amateur, where she eliminated Minjee Lee in the semifinals. I think I left one or two out there, so that means there's always room for improvement.

Ko’s semifinal competitor is six-time Girls’ Junior competitor Alison Lee, 17, of Valencia, Calif. Lee’s 8-foot birdie at the par-4 first set the tone for her match with good friend Lauren Diaz-Yi, 17, of Thousand Oaks, Calif. She needed only 14 holes for a 5-and-4 victory.

Overall I am happy with my round, said Lee, who earned a spot in the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship field by winning the Legacy Junior Challenge. I didn’t make too many major mistakes. I don’t think I made a bogey today. I’m happy with that.

Ko and Lee were two of only three amateurs to make the cut at this month’s U.S. Women’s Open. Ko earned low-amateur honors at 12-over 300, with Lee five strokes behind.

I talked to her mom and her [at the Women’s Open] and they seem like really nice people, said Lee, the only semifinalist ranked outside the top 10 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (No. 131). I’m really excited to play with her. It’s a test for myself as well.

The semifinals are scheduled for Friday afternoon, with the 36-hole final on Saturday.

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at clance@usga.org.

Results 

Daly City, Calif. – Results from Friday morning’s quarterfinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,291-yard, par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.:

Upper Bracket

Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (142) def. Casie Cathrea, Livermore, Calif. (148), 3 and 1

Minjee Lee, Australia (150) def. Kelli Murphy, Elgin, S.C. (157), 4 and 2

Lower Bracket

Lydia Ko, New Zealand (145) def. Yueer Feng, Orlando, Fla. (152), 8 and 6

Alison Lee, Valencia, Calif. (152) def. Lauren Diaz-Yi, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (153), 5 and 4

Pairings

Daly City, Calif. – Pairings for Friday afternoon’s semifinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,291-yard, par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club. (All times PDT):

Upper Bracket

11:55 a.m. Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (142) vs. Minjee Lee, Australia (150)

Lower Bracket

11:45 a.m.: Lydia Ko, New Zealand (145) vs. Alison Lee, Valencia, Calif. (152)