Eun Jung Lee, 17, of Korea, overcame a 5-hole deficit to defeat Tiffany Chudy and won the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 37 holes Saturday at Swope Memorial Golf Course.
"I thought chances would come,” Lee, a high school senior in Seoul, said through an interpreter. “I had confidence that I could do it. I am so happy right now.”
She is the 9th Korean-born player to win a USGA Championship, and second in 2005, joining U.S. Women’s Open winner Birdie Kim.
With the match going to 37 holes, it marked the first time in WAPL history that the final needed extra holes. It is the third consecutive year that the final has reached at least the 36th hole.
Chudy, 19, of Miramar, Fla., held a 4-up lead through the morning 18 holes of the 36-hole match. The University of Florida sophomore extended her lead to 5 up with a birdie on the 23rd hole.
"I knew being 4-up in the morning 18 didn’t mean I won the match,” said Chudy. “I knew it could be taken away from me easily, especially if she got on a good streak or I started struggling. Unfortunately, both things started happening.”
Her opponent looked at the afternoon round as a new opportunity. “After the first 18 holes, I was more relaxed and more confident,” said Lee, who stays in the U.S. for the summer golf schedule.
On the 24th hole, the par-3 6th, Lee, who has won two junior amateur tournaments in the last two years, began her turnaround. She registered birdies on Swope Memorial’s 6th, 8th and 9th holes to reduce her deficit to just two holes.
"After the birdie on the 9th (27th) hole, I felt I could do it,” said Lee, who was playing in her first USGA championship.
Chudy, a second-team all-Southeastern Conference choice, saw her lead decreased to 1 up when she made a bogey after an errant drive on the par-5 12th. Lee then three-putted for a bogey on the par-3 13th and Chudy was again 2 up.
After two halved holes, Lee hit an iron to 12 feet on the par-3 16th and converted the birdie putt. She then won the par-4 18th when Chudy missed a 4-foot par-saving putt to extend the match.
On the 37th hole, Lee drove in the fairway and Chudy pulled her drive near a thick tree trunk. Chudy, with an abbreviated swing, punched a shot to 25 yards short of the green and Lee found the green in regulation, 30 feet away. After Chudy’s approach finished 8 feet away, Lee putted to 2 feet. Chudy’s attempt at a possible half missed and Lee converted her par putt for the championship.
Lee wasn’t planning on calling her parents in Korea: “My father is watching on the computer,” she said.
Chudy, who defeated defending champion Ya-Ni Tseng in Friday's semifinals, made five birdies and one bogey in gaining her morning lead. In the afternoon it was Lee who made the most of her scoring opportunities, making four birdies and just two bogeys.
Lee beat 14-year-old Jane Rah of Torrance, Calif., 5 and 4, in her Friday semifinal.
Both finalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Ansley Golf Club in Roswell, Ga., in August.
The champion receives a golf medal and custody of the Robert F. Dwyer Trophy for the ensuing year. In addition, the champion receives a 10-year exemption into the WAPL and exemptions into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links 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.