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Daily Digest: Hou Starts Strong, Joyous Junior Days Recalled


| Jul 18, 2016 | Paramus, N.J.

Yu Sang Hou is two weeks removed from her start in the U.S. Women's Open. (USGA/Russell Kirk)

U.S. Girls' Junior Home

With a bogey-free, 3-under-par 70 on Monday at The Ridgewood Country Club, Yu Sang Hou carried herself with poise and confidence as she positioned herself near the top of the leader board. Hou, who turned 17 on Sunday, advanced to the Round of 32 in her U.S. Girls’ Junior debut last year, but the Chinese Taipei native is using a more recent experience as inspiration for her second start in this championship.

Two weeks ago, Hou teed it up at CordeValle in the U.S. Women’s Open, and while her rounds of 83-76 put her outside the cut line, she took a lot from her turn in the competition.

“I think it really helped for this championship. It’s really good experience, and it taught me to be more focused on every shot, because sometimes I care too much about something else,” said Hou, whose sister and 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball partner, Yu Chiang, is also in the field this week. “It was so cool. I was really nervous at the Women’s Open and my caddie just kept telling me to relax and enjoy it, so I did that and I played better in the second round.”

Hou is one of four players in the field at Ridgewood to have competed at CordeValle, along with Mika Liu, Erica Shepherd and Hye-Jin Choi, who finished as the low amateur.

Platt-Klaus Fondly Recalls Girls' Junior Days

A lot of happy memories from her own days in junior golf have come flooding back this week for Margaret Platt-Klaus, the teaching professional at Ridgewood Country Club – host of the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Platt-Klaus, who was a member of the victorious 1990 USA Curtis Cup Team as Margaret Platt, describes her junior and amateur years as “a blink of an eye” en route to the five years she spent as an LPGA Tour player.

“I hope they enjoy the golf as much as I do and enjoy the experience they’re having right now,” she said. “I’m still good friends with players I met while competing in junior golf. We all grew up together.”

With her dual perspective as a golf instructor and a former touring professional, Platt-Klaus marvels at the quality of players she has seen this week.

“In my day as a junior, maybe 50 percent of the field was really good,” said Platt-Klaus, who was an All-America player at Auburn University. “Now, 99 percent of the players in the field are fantastic competitors with good, strong, technically solid golf swings. Junior golf for girls has come a long way.”

Members of The Ridgewood Country Club are accustomed to watching PGA Tour professionals compete on their course in The Barclays, having hosted it three times since 2008, with the 2018 event also slated here. This week they will see the world’s top junior girls play the same course for the right to hold the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy, which is sitting in the club’s foyer with names such as Mickey Wright, Nancy Lopez, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson engraved on it.

“I’ve told our members that this is the world championship of junior girls’ golf,” said Platt-Klaus, who has worked as a teaching instructor for 15 years. “This is the crème de la crème of players their age.”

Platt-Klaus is now a wife and mom with a daughter, Kristin, 13, and a son, Kirk, 12. Sometimes, during the process of cleaning closets or drawers in their home, she runs across news clippings from her days competing in USGA championships.

“Sometimes I really do go down memory lane when I run across those things,” she said. “As a kid, the whole experience you get at these championships might not mean as much when it’s happening, but as you get older, you realize how much something like a USGA medal means and how hard they are to get.”

While the players in this week’s championship field are in an age range where they could be her children, Platt-Klaus admits that she is hoping for a shot to add one more USGA medal to her collection. She turns 50 next year, which means she will be eligible to compete in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Senior Open, set for 2018 at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.

“I’ve had time to reflect on my career and this week, I’ve had a chance to see a lot of players competing in their first national championship,” she added. “Match play is so exciting because anybody can win at any time, and it’s even more exciting to do it at a USGA championship.”

‘Tricky’ Ninth Hole Forcing Precision Shots

Competitors are being tested from their very first shot at The Ridgewood Country Club, and depending on whether they begin the round on No. 1 or No. 10, many players are facing their toughest challenge on their final hole.

Those who teed off on No. 10 are finishing on Ridgewood’s ninth hole, a par 4 that measures 365 yards in Round 1.

Competitors in the morning wave found the ninth hole – with its 4.718 stroke average – the toughest hole. Only two of the 78 players in the morning wave made birdie, while 41 made bogey or higher.

What is making the ninth so difficult? A pair of competitors offered their perspective.

“The green is really difficult,” said Yu Sang Hou after making par on No. 9 to cap off a 3-under 70. “I think it is so important to keep the ball in the fairway on this hole for a good score. My putting was pretty good today so that helped a lot.”

For others, one mistake on the ninth proved costly.

“Number nine is definitely playing tricky,” Josie Anderson said after a double-bogey 6 on her finishing hole. “I had a chip from the right rough, and hit it almost perfectly, but it rolled all the way down the hill on the left. So I chipped up again, didn’t quite make it and it rolled all the way back down again. Finally, I chipped it past the pin and made a putt for double.”

Anderson  noted that No. 9 is far from the only challenging putting surface at Ridgewood.

“It’s hard to find a stopping point on the greens,” said Anderson. “They are all pretty tricky.”

Items contributed by Lisa D. Mickey, David Uhrmacher and Scott Lipsky.

68th U.S. Girls' Junior