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Notebook: Balcazar's Eagle Habit, a Filipino Focus and a Slam-Dunk Putt

By Adam Zielonka and Lisa D. Mickey

| Jul 22, 2015 | Tulsa, Okla.

Maria Balcazar celebrated with her caddie after discovering she holed out for eagle to win her match. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Maria Balcazar has proven once again she has a flair for the dramatic. When competing in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May with her friend Maria Fassi as her teammate, Balcazar made an eagle 2 on the par-4 16th hole to seal their Round of 32 match victory over Olivia Herrick and Samantha Sommers, 3 and 2.

Two months later, Balcazar defeated Hannah O’Sullivan in the Round of 64 of the U.S. Girls’ Junior in similar fashion—by holing out for eagle on her 19th hole.

“We had 151 [yards] and I hit my 7-iron 155, and we had a little wind so I just told my caddie, I feel 7 will be good,” Balcazar, 17, said. “Making my swings, I was like, ‘Just relax.’

“We saw it was a pretty good shot, and there were two people near the green who just go, ‘Wow,’ but we didn’t know it was in until I got to the green,” she explained.

The eagle was an exclamation point at the end of a tightly contested match between Balcazar and O’Sullivan, a 17-year-old who competed in the 2012 and 2015 U.S. Women’s Opens and was a semifinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“I knew Hannah was a pretty good player, and I hadn’t played with her before, but everyone knows Hannah O’Sullivan. She played in the U.S. Open and everything,” the native of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, said. “I think [beating her] gives me a little bit of confidence in my game.”

After dropping Nos. 2 and 3, Balcazar won three straight holes from Nos. 4 through 6. According to Balcazar, she had the opportunity to go 2 up, but a couple of missed putts prevented that.

“But I didn’t take that as anything. I just [played] shot by shot, and that worked a lot,” she said.

Balcazar might not need another eagle in her Round-of-32 match against Angel Yin, but if she makes one, she can just add it to her growing highlight reel.

Filipino Players Draw From Superal’s Success

Golf talent from the Philippines has been on full display in Tulsa this week, one year after Princess Mary Superal won the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior to become the first Philippines-born player to win a USGA championship.

Superal is now 18 and no longer eligible for the Girls’ Junior, but six players from the Philippines qualified for this year’s championship. The three to advance to match play – Annika Cedo, Lois Kaye Go and Pauline Del Rosario – are each participating in their first USGA championship.

One Round-of-64 match pitted Cedo and Go head to head, ensuring at least one Filipino player would advance to the Round of 32 and one would be eliminated.

Cedo led for most of the match, but never by a wide margin. Go kept it close and had a 40-foot putt on No. 18 that could have won the hole and extended the match. She read it well but the ball stopped inches short of the cup, and Cedo survived, 1 up.

The competitive match proved the Philippines pipeline of young golf talent didn’t cease with Superal – a role model for Cedo.

“The thing I like about Princess is that when she’s on the course, her mental game is really strong, no matter how difficult the course is,” Cedo said. “She doesn’t mind it, she just plays her game and it works for her.”

Del Rosario lost her match today, but she said she’s drawn on experience training with Superal in the Philippines.

“She’s a great teammate. I love training with her, I love going out on games with her,” Del Rosario said. “She’s a great player and I’d love to be like her.”

Cedo, now the only Filipino player left in the field, advances to face Muni He in the Round of 32.

“I’m glad that I get to represent the Philippines and I’m glad to be here in this prestigious event,” Cedo said.

She’ll have even more to be glad about if she can retain the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy for her home nation.

Murez’s Last-Hole Heroics

Four players from Mexico made it to match play, and for a while it looked like it would be a clean 4-0 sweep for the nation in the Round of 64. Evelyn Arguelles, Maria Balcazar and Maria Fassi posted wins, and compatriot Monica Dibildox was 2 up with three holes to play against Marni Murez of Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Murez, however, had a different plan. After winning the 16th and 17th holes, the match was all square heading to 18.

Dibildox hit her approach shot to about 12 feet below the flagstick, giving her a solid chance for birdie. Murez, on the other hand, landed her approach shot on the back collar of the hole about 40 feet above the hole, leaving the Californian with a speedy downhill putt. First to putt from off the green, Murez hit her putt firmly and the ball appeared to be speeding through the green and perhaps off the front of the putting surface. Instead, it hit the hole and clunked in for an emphatic birdie. When Diblidox missed her putt, the match was over.

"I hit it way too hard," said Murez, shaking her head as she walked off the green. "Good thing it went in."

Just like Murez, the other winner was match play, which again showed its unpredictable side.

More from the 2015 U.S. Girls' Junior