U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Seong Looks to Repeat as Girls' Junior Champ
July 22, 2016 | Paramus, N.J.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Defending champion Eun Jeong Seong, of the Republic of Korea, will try to become the first back-to-back winner in 45 years when she meets Andrea Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., in the 36-hole final match of the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on Saturday at The Ridgewood Country Club’s composite course.
“I need to enjoy tomorrow,” said Seong, who was a quarterfinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur. “I will feel better tomorrow because I'm rested. I will have confidence tomorrow. I will try.”
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. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the championship match on July 23 from 2-4 p.m. EDT. The Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Seong, 16, is vying to join Hollis Stacy, the most recent player to win consecutive Girls’ Juniors. Stacy won three consecutive titles from 1969-1971 and went on to win three U.S. Women’s Open titles. Judy Eller (1957-1958) is the only other player to win consecutive Girls’ Juniors.
Seong, who defeated Yujeong Son, 15, of the Republic of Korea, 4 and 3, in the semifinals Friday afternoon, won the first hole and built a 4-up lead through 11 holes with the help of three birdies.
After losing the par-5 12th when she left a short-sided bunker shot in the hazard, Seong, who was the runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, won the 13th with a par and closed out the match by halving holes 14 and 15 with pars.
Lee, 17, an incoming freshman at Stanford University who is playing in her fifth Girls’ Junior, birdied the final two holes to defeat stroke-play co-medalist Hye-Jin Choi, a high school junior from the Republic of Korea, 1 up, in a classic see-saw match.
“I came off a bogey on 16, and it was a little disappointing,” said Lee, who was a semifinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur. “But I just went into 17 thinking anything can happen. I still have two holes left. I've seen match play before, and people always come back. I just thought that I could accomplish that.”
Lee squared the match when she holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th after Choi’s birdie attempt slid by the hole on the right side.
“That really boosted my momentum,” said Lee, who has advanced to the quarterfinals three times in the Girls’ Junior and was a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team that competed in Ireland in June.
Both players hit the green in regulation on the 18th, but Choi missed a 15-foot sliding putt and Lee pumped her fist as her downhill 8-foot putt fell into the hole for the victory.
Choi, 16, the low amateur in the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago, won the first two holes of the match, but Lee squared it by winning the fourth and sixth holes. Choi won the seventh with a birdie and Lee won the eighth with a par to return the match to all square. Choi and Lee traded wins with birdies on holes 11 and 12, respectively.
Lee, who made the cut in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, then broke Choi’s championship-long streak of never trailing in a match with a conceded par to win the 14th. But Choi won the 15th with a birdie and the 16th with a par to gain a 1-up edge going to the 17th tee.
“It means the world to me,” said Lee of advancing to the final match. “I'm just taking it all in right now, but I'm new to being in the finals. I'm playing with a really good friend of mine, Eun Jeong, tomorrow. Obviously, she won this event last year, so I'm going to be competing against the top player. But I'm just going to stick to my game plan, hopefully play like I've been the whole week, and see what happens.”
In the morning quarterfinals, Choi defeated Ya Chun Chang, of Chinese Taipei, 5 and 3; Lee beat Waverly Whiston, of San Diego, Calif., 4 and 3; Son defeated Kendall Griffin, of Sebring, Fla., 5 and 4, and Seong beat Xinying (Miranda) Wang, of the People's Republic of China, 3 and 2.
Seong and Lee gain exemptions into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa., Aug. 1-7.
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.