U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Eight Remain at Ridgewood
July 21, 2016 | Paramus, N.J.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Defending champion Eun Jeong Seong and stroke-play co-medalist Hye-Jin Choi, both of the Republic of Korea, led a group of eight players who advanced on Thursday to the quarterfinals of the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
“I feel so good,” said Seong, who was also the runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. “This afternoon wasn’t that hard because my putting was a lot better than this morning. She had a lot of mistakes, I did, too, but I focused on every shot, and focused on what I wanted to do. I don’t feel pressure anymore. This morning and yesterday, I felt a lot of pressure, but now I will enjoy the rest of it.”
The 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, which concludes with Saturday’s 36-hole championship. The Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
The pair of 16-year-olds joined three-time quarterfinalist Andrea Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and five other players in winning two matches during the championship’s Rounds of 32 and 16 on The Ridgewood Country Club’s championship composite course.
The other quarterfinalists are: Ya Chun Chang, 15, of Chinese Taipei; Kendall Griffin, 17, of Sebring, Fla.; Yujeong Son, 15, of the Republic of Korea; Xinying (Miranda) Wang, 17, of the People's Republic of China; and Waverly Whiston, 16, of San Diego, Calif.
Seong defeated 2016 U.S. Women’s Open competitor Yu Sang Hou, 17, of Chinese Taipei, 4 and 3, in the Round of 16. Seong, a quarterfinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, gained a 4-up lead in the first six holes, lost two holes to birdies by Hou but finished by winning three of the last four holes, all with birdies.
In the morning Round of 32, Seong defeated Hou’s younger sister, Yu Chiang, 2 and 1.
Choi, the low amateur in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open (T38) in California earlier this month, held a 3-up lead through 13 holes in the Round of 16 and withstood a late rally by Paphangkorn (Patty) Tavatanakit, 16, of Thailand, to win, 2 up.
“At first when I had the lead, I was very comfortable,” said Choi through an interpreter. “I was actually having fun until my opponent almost turned around the whole game. I was getting worried until the very end. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I got great results in the past days.”
Choi, who is No. 15 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), is a junior at Haksan Women’s High School in Gimhaesi. She is playing in her first USGA amateur championship.
Lee, who is playing in her fifth Girls’ Junior, defeated 2015 semifinalist Jayna Choi, 15, of Collierville, Tenn., 6 and 5 in the Round of 16 by winning six of the first eight holes, two with birdies.
Lee was a semifinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur and also made the cut at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
“Pretty much the whole round was smooth for me and I got her 2 down on the first two holes, which was a good start,” said Lee, a 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team member who will attend Stanford University in the fall. “I just kept the momentum going and gained some confidence. I hit some really good putts and had some saves out there.”
Chang, a freshman at IMG Academy in Florida, defeated 13-year-old Lucy Li, the youngest remaining player in the field, 6 and 5, by building a 7-up lead through 11 holes, winning four holes with birdies.
Griffin, who was the Florida State Golf Association Girls Player of the Year in 2013, beat Jing Wen Luo, 3 and 2, by winning five holes and losing just one through 14 holes. She fought off a winning birdie by Luo on No.15 and closed the match by halving the 16th with pars.
Son, who is a sophomore at Norman (Okla.) High School, won the day’s toughest match in 20 holes over Grace St-Germain, 17, of Canada. St-Germain parred No. 18 to send the match to extra holes, but a par on the 20th hole won the match for Son.
Wang, who is a senior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, Calif., won a back-and-forth match over Hailee Cooper, 16, of Montgomery, Texas, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champion, 1 up.
Neither player had more than a one-hole advantage the entire match but Wang, who has committed to attend Duke University, parred the 10th hole to take a 1-up lead that held up as the pair halved the final eight holes with pars.
Whiston, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with her younger sister Nicole, who is serving as her caddie, won a tight match over Gina Kim, 1 up. A senior at LaJolla High School, Whiston won holes 8 and 10 with pars after the pair were all square through the first seven.
Kim and Whiston traded wins on holes 13 and 16, respectively, before Kim birdied the par-5 17th to narrow the lead to one with one hole left. The duo both parred No. 18 for Whiston’s victory.
Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the semifinals and the championship match on July 22 and 23, respectively, from 2-4 p.m. EDT.
Provided they remain age-eligible, all quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Boone Valley Golf Club, in Augusta, Mo., near St. Louis (July 24-29).
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.