U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Notebook: Teammates Square Off While The First Tee Looks On July 23, 2015 | TULSA, OKLA. By Lisa D. Mickey and Adam Zielonka

Andrea Lee's Round-of-16 victory over classmate Marni Murez (right) did nothing to diminish their strong friendship. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

It could have been an awkward round today when Mira Costa (Calif.) High School classmates Andrea Lee and Marni Murez faced each other in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Lee continued her romp through the draw, bumping out Murez, 7 and 6, on Thursday afternoon to advance into Friday’s quarterfinals.

But instead of feeling the pangs of loss, Murez and Lee sat smiling, side by side in the golf cart that brought them back to the clubhouse from Tulsa Country Club’s 12th hole, where Lee secured the match.

“We’re both seniors at our school,” said Murez, 17, of Manhattan Beach, Calif. “Andrea has been a great role model to all of us from our area. I always watch her swing because it’s so pure and it helps looking at it.”

“Marni is a solid player and a great friend of mine,” said Lee, 16, of Hermosa Beach, Calif. “It’s always fun playing with her because she is so positive out there.”

Lee won four of the first five holes in their match and four of the last six. Murez won No. 6 with a par when Lee bogeyed the par-3 hole. It was a lopsided win, but Murez knew what kind of player she was facing before the first swings had been taken.

“I knew I had to put up a good fight and play my best,” said Murez, who is the senior captain of the Mira Costa girls golf team. “I kind of knew where it was going. Still, it was a really fun day.”

Lee played on the Mira Costa team during her freshman and sophomore years. She skipped playing on the squad last season and this upcoming year to focus on her grades for Stanford University – which she will attend in the fall of 2016 – as well as to prepare for national championships.

While they are no longer high school teammates, Murez and Lee still see each other when they practice. They also share the same Advanced Placement Biology study sessions.

After their Thursday match, Lee told Murez she had to do health-class homework. Murez told Lee she’s working her way down the list of summer reading.

Both laughed when asked if they thought their Southern California classmates and teammates were following the live scoring for their match today.

“Maybe,” said Lee, who arrived at the club Monday less than two hours before her first round from Toronto and the Pan American Games, where she earned the silver medal.

“It’s always fun to play with Marni and it’s really cool that we are able to play against each other in this national championship,” she added.

As Lee moves on in the championship, Murez says she plans to be cheering for her classmate.

“I’m rooting for her and we’re going to win this thing,” said Murez, who will be a freshman at Boston College in the fall of 2016. “Andrea can do it, and she’s playing like this with no practice rounds, either.”

“She came into the week tired, so it’s pretty amazing how she’s played,” Murez added. “But that’s just how it is. With Andrea, there’s a lot of dedication, practice and mental strength. She can do it all.”

First Tee Kids Set the Standard

When asked her favorite part of volunteering as a standard bearer at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, Taylor Johnson answered right away.

“Being right there next to them. I could analyze their swings, just look at them and see what they were doing differently,” the 14-year-old golfer said.

Johnson came to Tulsa Country Club on Thursday with The First Tee of Tulsa, which sent kids to volunteer as standard bearers and caddies. The USGA will utilize First Tee participants as standard bearers from the Round of 16 through the championship match. This began when a group of 10 kids, ages 8 to 18, arrived Thursday to walk with matches and update spectators on scores.

Tulsa Country Club member Marc Delametter is volunteering at the U.S. Girls’ Junior as standard bearer coordinator, among other duties. Delametter didn’t seem surprised that so many First Tee kids wanted to volunteer.

“Some of our schools require community service hours from their students, so students are always looking for ways to fill those requirements,” Delametter explained. “These kind of events are great community service hours because they keep the kids engaged.”

Johnson’s eagerness was evident as she explained what she enjoyed about watching the match she worked.

“Their mental focus and everything was just very good,” Johnson said. “I liked the way that they didn’t rush it too much. They took their time.

“And the heat didn’t get to them at all,” she pointed out.

Jericho Stratton, 18, is the oldest First Tee participant volunteering this week. He works as a caddie at nearby Southern Hills Country Club, so he knows how special it is to be close to the action.

“There’s a big difference between being outside the ropes and inside the ropes,” Stratton said. “It’s really amazing how much more you see when you’re that close.”

Stratton has participated in First Tee activities for nearly a decade and can attest to the positive environment the organization has provided.

“It was always a place for me to come and learn,” he said, “not just about my golf swing but about how I’m going to relate to people around me and to society.”

Aneka Gears Up for Portland

Aneka Seumanutafa fell short in her Round-of-16 match against Mika Liu, who won 2 and 1, but the 14-year-old knows she can draw from her time in Tulsa as she moves forward to an even bigger challenge: the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club, which begins on August 10.

“It gave me a lot of confidence getting this far,” Seumanutafa said. “My opponents were very hard to play with, and it gave me the experience I’ll take with me to Oregon.”

She can take what she learned from a unique meeting with a golf hero, as well.

Before she and her family moved to Frederick, Md., Seumanutafa lived in Hawaii, where she was a member at Kapolei Golf Course on the island of Oahu. LPGA star Annika Sorenstam was planning a visit to the course while in Hawaii, so their club pro invited Seumanutafa to meet her.

A dream for any young female golfer, the meeting was especially memorable for Seumanutafa, who says Sorenstam is her idol.

“She told me to commit to my shots, accept what I did, and move on from it,” Seumanutafa said.

Seumanutafa hasn’t lived in Maryland long, but this year she’s snagged some major hardware in the state. She won the Maryland Junior Girls Amateur Championship on June 24 by a 17-shot margin, and followed that up with a title at the Maryland Women’s Amateur Championship on July 18.

The latter was conducted in match-play format, which Seumanutafa said was a good experience to carry with her to Tulsa this week. With everything she has going for her, the teen is ready to compete in another strong field at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

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