U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Choi’s Splendid Summer Tour Rolls On July 21, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Lisa D. Mickey

Choi's solid play in the U.S. Women's Open has carried over to The Ridgewood Country Club, where she'll tee it up in the quarterfinals Friday. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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It’s been a big summer for Hye-Jin Choi, who made her USGA championship debut earlier this month in the U.S. Women’s Open.

Choi, 16, from the Republic of Korea, finished that week in San Martin, Calif., as the low amateur, tying for 38th place at 4-over-par 292 with seven players.

Choi’s third-round pairing at the Women’s Open included Brittany Lang, who would go on to win the championship – giving the amateur an up-close view of what is required to lift a USGA trophy.

So when Choi arrived at The Ridgewood Country Club this week for her first start in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, she wasted no time earning co-medalist honors, then charging into Friday’s match-play quarterfinals.

Playing in the first match off in both the Round of 32 and the Round of 16 on  Thursday, Choi won, 7 and 6, over Megan Furtney of South Elgin, Ill., and 2 up over Thailand’s Paphangkorn Tavatanakit to set up a quarterfinal match on Friday against Ya Chun Chang of Chinese Taipei.

“I definitely prefer to go out first,” said Choi, a native of Gyeonsangnamdo, Korea, through an interpreter. “It’s much harder to play in the afternoons than in the morning because I get more tired and lose energy later in the day.”

But Choi was seemingly energized all day Thursday, recording a total of nine birdies and four bogeys over 30 holes, with the usual match-play concessions.

“I had to make sure to keep very focused for match play,” said Choi, a high school junior and member of the Korean National Team. “I always thought that when you played great, you would have great results, but the mentality of match play has kind of hit me hard this week.”

When asked to compare her performance in match play versus stroke play, Choi looked relieved to be finished for the day.

“Match play is very hard,” she said. “I need to make sure I refocus tonight to keep playing well in future rounds.”

Choi noted that she also took away plenty of new experiences from the Women’s Open to benefit her play.

“There was definitely more pressure when I played at the Open and I was surrounded by older professional golfers,” she said. “The mood at the Open felt very different than what I’ve experienced at amateur championships and some of those players I have seen on TV made me a bit nervous.”

The CordeValle course also required Choi to step up her game and to manage her shots in a way that was both exciting and demanding.

“It was a much more difficult golf course than what I’m used to,” she said. “I had to learn when to attack the course and when to be patient.”

Choi says her favorite golfer is Phil Mickelson. She doesn’t have a favorite LPGA Tour player, although she watches “many players” on LPGA telecasts.

“Everybody has their strengths, but I just watch for the great golfers,” said Choi, who plans to attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour after she graduates from high school in 2018. “I watch them to see how they play the golf course and try to learn from them.”

Choi is pleased with her solid start this week and hopes her match on Friday will render the same results she has achieved so far in her second USGA championship.

“This has definitely been one of my best performances,,” she added.

If Choi’s extraordinary summer in USGA events continues on Friday, she may be able to look back on her experience at the Women’s Open as a steppingstone to winning her first national championship.

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