The match-play portion of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club began with three members of the NCAA-champion University of Southern California golf team among the 64-player field.
Only one remains, and barely.
Doris Chen, who shared qualifying-medalist honors with teammate and NCAA individual champion Annie Park, survived a thrilling second-round match Thursday morning with Alyssa Ferrell, winning 1 up.
Meanwhile, defending champion Kyung Kim of USC was eliminated by Briana Mao, 3 and 2. Kim, of Chandler, Ariz., was vying to become the first back-to-back WAPL champion since Pearl Sinn (1988-89). Park, the highest-ranked amateur in the field (No. 8 in this week’s Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking), was upset in the first round on Wednesday.
Two current University of Oklahoma golfers, who are competing on their home course this week, reached the third round: Chirapat Jao-Javanil, of Thailand, and Anne-Catherine Tanguay, of Canada, defeated Robynn Ree (4 and 3) and Chaewon Park (5 and 3), respectively. Another local, Jade Staggs, of Moore, Okla., the town that was devastated by last month’s tornado, lost in 20 holes to Oklahoma State sophomore Julie Yang.
Match play continues Thursday afternoon with the round of 16. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are scheduled for Friday, with the 36-hole championship match on Saturday. The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Ferrell, 21, of Edgerton, Wis., and Chen, 20, of Bradenton, Fla., produced one of the best matches of the championship, combining for 11 birdies. Three holes were halved with birdies, but it was a par on the par-5 18th hole that clinched the match for Chen, the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. With the match all square, Chen hit her approach shot 25 feet above the hole. Ferrell, a senior at Michigan State, came up short of the green with her third shot, and her ensuing pitch bounded 12 feet past the flagstick. Chen calmly rolled her birdie putt within a foot of the hole for a conceded par. Ferrell then missed her putt to extend the match.
"I don’t want to say I take the game seriously, but on the back nine, I just wanted to relax," said Chen, who found herself trailing, 3 down, through five holes. "I was just very tired. My tempo was not there.
"I know she’s a great putter and she was putting well today. I just tried to not look at her and play my game."
Chen mounted her comeback with a par at No. 9 and a birdie at the par-4 10th. Ferrell answered with a winning birdie-2 at No. 12. Chen then birdied the par-5 13th and took the 16th hole with a par. Both players bogeyed the 399-yard 17th – Chen missed a short par putt to win the hole – setting up her winning par on 18.
Chen advances to play Kris Yoo, of Schaumburg, Ill. Yoo defeated Allisen Corpuz, 5 and 4.
Mao, 19, of Folsom, Calif., had never advanced past the first round in any of her four previous USGA amateur championship appearances, and she missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open and WAPL.
This week, the University of Virginia junior’s game is solid. She needed just 13 holes to beat Patricia Wong on Wednesday and she never trailed against defending champion Kim. Three birdies in a four-hole stretch starting at No. 7 gave Mao a 3-up lead. Kim birdied Nos. 12 and 13 to trim the deficit to 1 down, but Mao answered by winning holes 14 and 15, the latter with a hybrid to 2 feet for a birdie on the 209-yard, par-3. When they halved 16 with pars, Mao celebrated her victory.
"I knew it was going to be really tough because Kyung is such a really good player," said Mao of the No. 10-ranked Kim. "She always is very consistent with fairways and greens, and she makes putts from everywhere. For me … I had to really stick balls close, which I did today. That helped me a lot."
Jao-Javanil, 20, is staying in her on-campus apartment five minutes from the course. Having played the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club countless times, the OU rising senior and 2012 NCAA Division I individual champion knows every nuance of the Perry Maxwell design. Add a little authentic Thai cooking from her mother – who arrived from Thailand last month for the college postseason events and this championship – and Jao-Javanil couldn’t feel more at home.
Jao-Javanil grabbed a 3-up lead after eight holes and was the equivalent of three under par when the match concluded on the 15th hole.
"I feel like you know what to expect," said Jao-Javanil, a 2012 WAPL quarterfinalist and the No. 13-ranked female in the WAGR. "There’s not so many things the course can throw at you that you haven’t already seen or done. That makes it easier to play.
"But it’s match play. You never know how it’s going to turn out. The momentum switches all the time, so I can only hope for the best."
After knocking out the youngest player in the field on Wednesday (10-year-old Lucy Li), Ember Schuldt, 21, of Sterling, Ill., defeated the oldest remaining player, Mercedes Huarte, 27, of Argentina, 2 and 1.
Krystal Quihuis, of Tucson, Ariz., produced the round’s most lopsided victory with an 8-and-6 decision over Louise Yi. Quihuis lost the opening hole before playing 3-under golf over the next 11 holes. Quihuis faces Mao in a third-round match Thursday afternoon.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.