FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Hana Ku has worked as a volunteer in the USGA Museum's photo archive department since her freshman year of high school.
"I have been surrounded by the pictures and the stories of USGA champions," said Ku, 17, of Basking Ridge, N.J., which is roughly 15 minutes away from USGA headquarters in Far Hills. "And they are great stories."
Ku, who will attend Princeton University this fall, has enjoyed immersing herself in the USGA’s "vault," looking at historical images of courses she has played and how those courses have aged or have been altered over the years. She has also gleaned a bit about the game's history and its players.
"It's fascinating to see that evolution and then see the people who have gotten their picture in there because they have done something incredible," she said. "That's just something to look up to."
Ku is attempting to do something incredible herself – winning this week's U.S. Girls' Junior Championship. She took the first step in Wednesday's opening round of match play, defeating Anneliese Newell, of Tampa, Fla.
Aside from squaring the match with a par on the 341-yard, par-4 ninth, Ku trailed Newell most of the afternoon. Ku squared the match a second time with a par on the 360-yard, par-4 17th, and then played the 381-yard, par-4 18th in textbook fashion. Faced with a shot of 170 yards into the wind to a back-left hole location, Ku shaped her hybrid approach to 21 feet right of the hole. After Newell conceded Ku's 2-foot par attempt, she missed her own 13-foot par attempt.
"Ana played really well and tested me the entire way," said Ku, who lost in a playoff to make match play at the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior and was ousted in the first round of last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. "I was hitting greens, she was missing them, but she was making incredible up-and-downs, so all the credit to her. Luckily I was able to hang in there."
The perseverance to grind in a close match was further etched into Ku's psyche when she served as a standard-bearer during last month's U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. In the third round, Ku walked with the grouping of So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion, Anna Nordqvist and Karine Icher – who ultimately finished third, 11th and 20th, respectively.
"It was interesting to see their demeanor and how they handled themselves while facing such a tough course," said Ku, whose younger sister, Anina, 12, lost 1 down to Jennifer Peng, of San Diego, Calif., in Wednesday’s opening round.
"I really learned not to give up until the very last hole. Ryu was kind of in it for while, then let go in the middle, but then played very strong through the end. So don't let go, just like my match today. "Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA championship websites.