Eun Jeong Seong and Angel Yin have survived two rounds of stroke play and five rounds of match play, and now the long-hitting teenagers will meet with the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship title on the line.
Seong, 15, of the Republic of Korea, and Yin, 16, of Arcadia, Calif., won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Friday to advance to Saturday’s 36-hole championship final at Tulsa Country Club.
Both semifinal matches highlighted the strength and poise of their victors, who never trailed in their respective matches. Yin drained a match-clinching 18-foot par putt on the 18th hole to eliminate Evelyn Arguelles, 17, of Mexico. Seong earned a 6-and-4 win over Jayna Choi, 14, of Collierville, Tenn., and has not played Nos. 16 through 18 in match play.
The 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up, Seong has won the first hole in each match since the Round of 32, which she notes as a confidence booster. She also credits her ballstriking, including her ability to drive the ball 270 yards, with shaping her decisive wins.
“My iron shots are the best this week,” said Seong, who made eight birdies through 29 holes, with the usual match-play concessions, on the 6,076-yard course Friday. “Tomorrow, it will be very important to calm down.”
Yin carried a 3-up lead to No. 10, but Arguelles birdied Nos. 11 and 13 to cut Yin’s lead to one. Arguelles then watched what would have been a match-squaring putt lip out on No. 15. On the par-5 16th, Arguelles again applied pressure, landing a solid approach shot within 2 feet of the hole. Yin, however, maintained her one-shot lead by draining a 15-footer for the birdie and parring the next hole.
“I was really stressed out,” said Yin about her walk to 18. “I told myself, I just need to get a par. I would get it, but I didn't make life easy at all.”
Yin outdrove Arguelles by more than 50 yards on No. 18, yet after Arguelles pulled her approach shot into the left greenside bunker, Yin’s approach fell short into a poor lie in the front bunker. She did well to get her ball on the green, and then sank an 18-foot, uphill breaker for the winning par.
“I was shivering all over my body,” said Yin, who is playing in her third Girls’ Junior. “It felt good because making those putts, like clutch putts, it makes you feel good.”
In 2014, Yin was the Girls’ Junior stroke-play medalist, and her 13-under 131 was the second-lowest 36-hole score in Girls’ Junior and USGA amateur championship history. She ultimately lost in the third round to Cindy Ha.
In Friday morning’s quarterfinal round, Yin clinched a four-hole comeback with a 4-foot birdie at 18 to overtake 2014 quarterfinalist Andrea Lee, 16, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., who led for the majority of the match. Seong counted four birdies and never trailed in her 4-and-3 win over Naomi Ko, 17, of Canada.
Seong and Yin both receive exemptions into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, to be conducted Aug. 10-16 at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. Both players were already exempt into the championship by virtue of play in previous events. The winner will also receive an exemption into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be held at Rolling Green Golf Club, in Springfield, Pa., as well as an exemption into all remaining U.S. Girls’ Juniors through her 18th birthday, while the runner-up receives a three-year Girls’ Junior exemption.