U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Round of 32: Matches to Watch July 20, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Scott Lipsky and Cody Manmiller, USGA

Paphangkorn Tavatanakit has been impressive in her USGA championship debut. She faces Haley Moore on Thursday morning. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Thursday brings two rounds of match play at The Ridgewood Country Club, with only eight competitors remaining at day’s end. The action gets started at 7 a.m. ET with the Round of 32. Here are five matches of particular interest:

Haley Moore – Paphangkorn Tavatanakit (7:09 a.m.): These two had little trouble in the Round of 64. Moore, 17, of Escondido, Calif., took the lead on the first hole and never relinquished it on the way to a 6-and-4 win. Tavatanakit, 16, of Thailand, was all square through 10 holes in her match with Abigail Heck, but a par-birdie-birdie-par run starting on No. 11 paved the way for a 4-and-3 victory.

Both have gone toe-to-toe with competitors at an elite level. Moore enrolled at the University of Arizona a semester early this spring, helping the Wildcats finish tied for ninth in the NCAA Championships, while finishing tied for second as an individual. She advanced to the Round of 32 in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur and entered this week at No. 51 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). Tavatanakit, No. 73 in the WAGR, is playing in her first USGA championship, but competed with many of the world’s best players in February when she finished tied for 42nd in the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Alyaa Abdulghany – Lucy Li (7:18 a.m.): Two players who never trailed during their Round-of-64 victories will square off in one of Thursday’s early matches. Li, 13, is the third-youngest player in the field but is already competing in her seventh USGA championship. She bowed out in the Round of 32 in her Girls’ Junior debut last year, but looks primed to make a run at The Ridgewood Country Club. The Redwood Shores, Calif., native was even par with the usual match-play concessions during her 3-and-2 victory on Wednesday over Angela Garvin.

Abdulghany, 17, of Newport Beach, Calif., made her U.S. Girls’ Junior debut in 2015 and her USGA championship debut earlier that year in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. Despite being a relative newcomer on the national scene, she hasn’t needed much time to adjust. Abdulghany and her partner, Ellen Takada, advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes (Ore.) Golf Resort, and she made it to the Round of 16 in last year’s Girls’ Junior. On Wednesday, she was 2 up through nine holes over Ellie Slama before winning four straight holes to notch a 6-and-5 win.

Andrea Lee – Brooke Seay (7:45 a.m.): Lee, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, notched four birdies in a 3-and-2 decision over Kyra Cox to reach the Round of 32. Lee, no stranger to match play in USGA championships, reached the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and the semifinals of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, along with Round-of-32 appearances in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior.

Lee held a 5-up lead before Cox won two of the remaining four holes.

“I played really well overall; my shots were really good, kept them in the fairway and hit them where I needed to,” Lee noted. “I just hope I keep playing the way I am the rest of the week.”

Seay, 15, is playing in her sixth USGA championship and third U.S. Girls’ Junior. Seay sat all square with Belinda Hu after nine holes before winning consecutive holes en route to her 2-and-1 win. She used three birdies in Round 2 of stroke play to qualify for match play as the No. 20 seed.

Kendall Griffin – Beth Lillie (8:12 a.m.): The odds were stacked against these two competitors advancing to Thursday. Lillie, 17, of Fullerton, Calif., was the last player in the field, added just four days before the start of the championship after another player withdrew. Her experience in USGA championships is limited, but significant; she missed the cut in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club. After earning the No. 34 seed in the match-play draw, Lillie built a 3-up lead through 11 holes over Julia Dean on Wednesday, then withstood Dean’s three late birdies to hang on for a 1-up victory.

Griffin, 17, of Sebring, Fla., is playing in her second U.S. Girls’ Junior, and secured a spot in match play with just one stroke to spare. She ended up as the No. 63 seed with a Wednesday match up against co-medalist Sadie Englemann. She lost two of the first three holes before battling back to take the lead on the 13th hole, ultimately prevailing, 1 up. Her best finish in a USGA championship came in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, when she and partner Athena Yang reached the quarterfinals as stroke-play medalists.

Hailee Cooper – Katherine Smith (9:06 a.m.): Cooper, 16, reached the Round of 32 for the second time in her three U.S. Girls’ Junior starts with a 6-and-5 victory over Emma Bradley. The 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-champion is the No. 6 seed, having played the two stroke-play rounds at even par.

“The past few days I’ve made a lot of birdies but I’ve also made a lot of bogeys,” Cooper said. “So today, I feel like I definitely dialed down the bogeys and figured out how to make pars in difficult situations.”

Smith, who defeated Aubree Jones, 4 and 3, is making her second start in the U.S. Girls’ Junior after missing the cut in 2012. She used three birdies on the final five holes to advance to the Round of 32. Smith, the first five-time state junior champion in Minnesota, carded 77-76 to finish stroke play as the No. 38 seed.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org. Cody Manmiller is the championship communications intern for the USGA. Email him at cmanmiller@usga.org

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