Seemingly on the verge of throwing in the towel, 13-year-old Jenny Shin of Torrance, Calif., found a pleasant surprise waiting for her on the 37th hole in Saturday’s U.S. Girls’ Junior final.
Vicky Hurst, 16, of Melbourne, Fla., conceded.
Hurst, after sticking her approach in a left-side water hazard and then hitting her next shot thin into a greenside bunker, walked over to the Rules official and said she was going to concede. Shin, who was on the green in two, would have had to four-putt from 25 feet - assuming Hurst would hole out her next shot – just to halve.
A shocked Shin froze, shook Hurst’s hand, and with that became the second-youngest champion in Girls’ Junior history. Aree Song Wongluekiet in 1999 holds the record. It was only the second time Shin competed in a Girls’ Junior. Shin’s victory earned her an exemption into the Women’s Amateur, which begins Aug. 7 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore., and 100 roses from her father when she gets home.
“I kind of gave her that look like, ‘Whoa, why is she giving me that putt?’” said Shin. “There were a lot of breaks to that. … She gave me a little present. After I got the trophy, I was like, 'Is this mine?'"
Shin admitted that after Hurst won the 22nd, 23rd and 24th holes to go 3 up, she didn’t think the day would go her way. In fact, she added that before she fell asleep Friday night, she thought Hurst would win because had knocked off the previously invincible Mina Harigae, 16, of Monterey, Calif., who was the medalist.
“I was pretty numb,” said Shin. “I just kept telling myself, ‘I’ll get it back someday.’”
Little did she know that Saturday would come quicker than she’d know.
Shin, consistently out-driven by 40 to 50 yards by Hurst all match, hung close by spectacular play with her woods. She held a brief 2-up margin in the morning’s first 18 holes before Hurst evened things by the time they broke for lunch.
Over the final 19 holes, Shin found the fairway 13 of 15 times but had trouble locating greens, just eight in that span. She had 31 putts. Conversely, Hurst rarely had to scramble, finding 12 fairways and 14 greens.
But the tide changed on the 395-yard, par-4 31st . For the second time on the hole in the match, Hurst yanked her drive into deep rough. When she left her 9-foot par putt short and Shin hit a 4-footer, the lead dropped to 1 up.
“I thought it was there, on that hole, she was getting better and I was drifting away,” said Hurst.
Outside of her mistake on No. 15, the playoff hole, the most crucial miss for Hurst occurred on No. 33. After again building a 2-up advantage, Hurst only needed to tap in a 2-footer to halve it, but her ball lipped out.
Clinging to the 1-up cushion, Hurst had a golden opportunity to win on the 35th hole. Her 15-foot birdie putt stopped inches away and they again halved.
“I just didn’t play the correct break on that one,” said Hurst.
Somehow the 36th hole got away from Hurst, who played with thoughts of her deceased father in her head. Sixty-one-year-old Joe Hurst died in April from complications from a stroke.
“He would have been really proud,” said a somber Hurst, who also competed in the Women’s Open this year.
Hurst pulled her second shot on the uphill par 5 into left rough. With 93 yards to the hole, she fired at the flagstick but the ball stopped 25 feet above the target. Shin chipped to within 4 feet of the hole from just off the front of the green. The pressure was squarely on Hurst to convert the unforgiving downhill putt. Hurst tapped it but the ball rolled 10 feet by. When she missed the comebacker, all Shin needed to do was sink her putt to force the extra hole.
James Bramlett, Shin’s 14-year-old caddie, provided inspiration and tried to calm her.
“I said that it isn’t over until you make that last putt,” he said.
Shin knew Hurst had a tough putt to make.
“When I saw Vicky’s putt, I knew it was going down [past the hole],” said Shin.
“It's really disappointing, to three-putt the last hole and all,” said Hurst.
Shin said she hadn’t felt nervous the entire match until the extra playoff hole. Hurst intimidated she was calm. But their roles seemed to be reversed with the final sequence of the match.
Hurst vacillated between using a 4- or 5-iron. With 150 yards to the green, her lie next to the water was poor and her foothold was uncomfortable. “I was just trying to get it anywhere close to the green,” said Hurst. “I just didn’t consider the rough.”
And Shin, in her wildest dreams, didn’t consider that she’d win the event this soon. Her goal was to make it to the quarterfinal round. In fact, Shin’s mother, Hyun OK Shin, checked out of their hotel Friday before the quarterfinals were to begin. Shin also ran out of clothes.
All that was forgotten as she signed countless autographs afterward, even posing for a picture with 1965 Girls’ Junior champion Gail Sykes.
“I feel special and I feel honored,” the overwhelmed champion said.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 10 national championships for amateurs conducted annually by the USGA. The Association also conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Open.