U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Rematch With Lee Yields Historic Outcome July 23, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Eun Jeong Seong's victory on Saturday makes her just the fourth player in history to win multiple U.S. Girls' Junior titles. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

U.S. Girls' Junior Home

When Eun Jeong Seong was informed that the most recent back-to-back U.S. Girls’ Junior champion before her was in 1971, she blanched.

“My mother was born in 1971,” she replied.

No one is calling it ancient history, but Hollis Stacy won the third of her three consecutive titles that year. Since then, only Inbee Park has reached consecutive final matches, but she lost the second one in 2003.

It was a tale of two titles for Seong, who in 2015 held a 4-up advantage over Angel Yin, of Arcadia, Calif., at the lunch break, saw her lead trimmed to two holes on the 28th hole of the match, then closed it out with a winning par for a 3-and-2 victory.

This time, Seong had to play from behind, thanks to six birdies by Lee in the opening 18 holes, as well as a few indifferent shots on her own part. But she trimmed Lee’s lead, which was 5 up as late as the 13th hole, to three holes at the midday break.

“I still knew that I had a lot of golf left, obviously,” said Lee, 17, who defeated Seong, 2 and 1, in their previous head-to-head match, in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinals. “Going into the second 18, I was just thinking, start all over. The wind picks up and the greens get firmer. It’s pretty much a whole different course out there, so I knew anything could happen.”

What happened is that Seong, who was fighting her driver a bit in the morning, got into a much better rhythm.

“Every tournament I think about my swing,” said Seong, No. 25 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. “I need to get on my left side, but sometimes my timing is bad. But it’s OK because I have 36 holes.”

On the second 18, Seong started finishing her tee shots and finding fairways, and she jumped out of the gate, winning three of the first five holes. Her confidence grew along with her expectation that Lee’s morning birdie blitz would even out.

“Her iron shots were so good,” said Seong of Lee’s morning performance. “But every hole is different, and every morning and afternoon is different. I can make it up because she made birdies in the morning, but I didn’t have birdies.”

Seong, who stayed this week with good friend Cindy Ha, who lives in nearby Demarest, N.J., made five birdies and one dramatic eagle in the afternoon to complete her comeback and add her name to the history books. She is one of only four players to have won multiple Girls’ Juniors, and she can match Stacy’s three-peat next July at Boone Valley Golf Club, in Augusta, Mo.

Having won 12 consecutive matches at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club and The Ridgewood Country Club over the past two years, it was time to rest and reflect.

“I’m tired, but it’s a good tired,” said Seong.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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