Tiffany Joh, 21, of San Diego, Calif., defeated Jennifer Song, 18, of Korea, 2 and 1, in Saturday’s 36-hole final to capture her second U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at the 6,158-yard, par-73 Erin Hills Golf Course.
Overcoming a sluggish morning round and inconsistent putting, Joh, a senior-to-be at UCLA became just the fifth player in the WAPL’s 32-year history to win multiple titles, joining Kelly Fuiks (1977, 78), Lori Castillo (1979, 80), Pearl Sinn (1988, 89) and Jo Jo Robertson (1995, 97). Joh defeated Kimberly, Kim, of Hilo, Hawaii, in 2006 at Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo, Colo.
“It means everything,” said Joh, who dedicated her title to the father of her college roommate (Beth Wallace), Chuck Wallace, who died six weeks ago of cancer. “I think back when I first won it, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just kind of out there thinking, oh, bonus rounds. I get to play another round. I think I stumbled into it. Afterwards, I realized how much it did for my confidence.
“I think winning this time around when I really wanted it, it was that much more meaningful.”
Song, an incoming freshman at cross-town rival University of Southern California, never trailed until the 33rd hole of the match. Up to that point, Song, who was the co-low amateur at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles, played consistent golf and capitalized on putting errors by Joh to take a 2-up lead at lunch.
“I felt like I was in control [until] the last few holes,” said Song, who has qualified for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. “I felt I was not myself. I was thinking ahead of myself. That was the mistake.”
The morning 18 saw a back-and-forth affair. Song took a 1-up lead after the first hole with a par. Joh, the runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Division I Championships and a member of the recently victorious USA Curtis Cup team, responded by winning the second with a birdie. Song the built a 2-up lead through seven holes, but Joh trimmed the deficit by landing an approach shot from 70 yards to 4 feet for a winning birdie at No. 8. Song regained her 2-up advantage with a par at the ninth after Joh failed to get up and down for par from a greenside bunker.
Joh squared the match for the final time in the morning with a winning par at 13. However, Song was able to regain a 2-up advantage heading into the afternoon session by carding winning pars at 15 and 17.
“I played okay,” said Joh of her morning round. “I have to stop three-putting. I left a lot of strokes out there.”
After the lunch break, Joh stayed true to her word.
Song did not trail until the par-4 15th, the 33rd hole of the match, as Joh’s putter finally returned to form. Joh, who squared the match with a two-putt birdie at the 32nd hole, seized momentum by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at 15 and Song failed to answer from 12 foot. Song’s putting woes continued at the par-3 34 th hole when she three-putted from 25 feet. Her 4-footer for par burned the left edge, the result she said of a misread. Joh coaxed her 21-footer from the fringe to 3 feet and converted the winning par putt to go dormie 2.
At the par-4 35th hole, both golfers had chances for birdie; Song from 25 feet and Joh from 8. When both missed, the par putts were conceded, ending the match.
With the usual match-play concessions, Joh shot the equivalent of five under par, while Song was at two over. In 2006, Joh was 11 under par over 31 holes, including a hole-out for an eagle-2.
“The first 27 holes weren't very beautiful,” said Joh. “After the first round I just kind of sat on the putting green and looked at my ball and tried to convince myself that I was still a good putter, and I think that helped when the pressure got high towards the end.”
Joh now heads back to Los Angeles for two sessions of summer school. Her next major competition will be the U.S. Women’s Amateur in early August at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. Song will play in the Women’s Open and also compete at the Women’s Amateur.
Leading into the summer, Joh had finished runner-up to USC several times, including at the NCAA Division I Championship, when the Trojans edged the Bruins by six strokes to win the team title. USC also beat out UCLA at the Pacific-10 Conference Championship, although Joh won the individual title.
“It was on my mind, but not like that,” said Joh about the USC rivalry. “It was more like … how much [ribbing] is [UCLA teammate and reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion] Maria [Jose Uribe] going to give me for coming in second again or something. But it’s really not something that concerns me at all.”
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship is one of 13 national championships conducted by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.