By David Shefter, USGA
NORMAN, Okla. – Stroke play co-medalist Doris Chen and Lauren Diaz-Yi will meet in Saturday’s 36-hole championship match of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, being conducted at the 6,351-yard, par-72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Chen, 20, of Bradenton, Fla., and Diaz-Yi, 18, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., each won a pair of matches on Friday to reach the final.
Chen defeated two Oklahoman golfers, first going 19 holes in the morning to eliminate University of Oklahoma senior and local favorite Anne-Catherine Tanguay in the quarterfinals before easily downing Oklahoma State University sophomore Julie Yang, 5 and 4, in the afternoon. Chen, the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, is vying to become the third player to win the U.S. Girls’ Junior and WAPL, joining Lori Castillo and the late Heather Farr.
Last month, Chen, a rising junior at the University of Southern California, helped the Trojans win the NCAA Division I title by a record 21 strokes.
This week at the WAPL, she shared stroke-play medalist honors with teammate and NCAA individual title winner Annie Park, who was eliminated in the first round of match play.
But statistics aren’t on her side; the last medalist to win the WAPL was Candie Kung, of Chinese Taipei, who defeated Missy Farr-Kaye, 2 up, at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in suburban Chicago.
Diaz-Yi twice needed just 15 holes to eliminate Krystal Quihuis and fellow Southern Californian Raychelle Santos in the quarterfinals and semifinals by 4-and-3 margins.
The Women’s Amateur Public Links began with 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play which began Wednesday. Five rounds of match play were conducted prior to Saturday’s final.
Both finalists are exempt into the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.), and the champion also receives an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.
The WAPL is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
After a morning round against Tanguay in front of a decidedly pro-Sooner gallery, Chen settled her nerves and focused on the semifinals. She won five of the first six holes – two with birdies (third and fifth) – to grab a 5-up lead.
“I really didn’t get a full warm-up this morning,” said Chen. “I got the green speed figured out. I hit it better and I putted better as well. It was just a little adjustment with my swing, my focus and my putting.”
Chen lost the seventh hole with a bogey, but back-to-back birdies on 10 and 11 put her comfortably in command for a second USGA championship.
“I don’t even want to think [about that] too much,” said Chen, a qualifier for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. “I just want to play the same game I have all week. I [will] definitely have some inspiring thoughts [from that Girls’ Junior title]. I think that definitely will help me [in the final].”
Added Yang, “I'm not upset at all. This is the best I've done so far in the WAPL. This gives me a lot of confidence and it will help me down the road.”
Diaz-Yi won six holes in an eight-hole stretch on the outward nine to take a commanding 5-up lead over Santos into the turn.
“At the beginning of the round, I was all over the place,” said Santos. “I was losing holes with bogeys and doubles. On the back nine, I hit some better drives.
“She was just solid and I knew she was going to be in the fairway. I wasn't.”
As fatigue set in on the second nine, Diaz-Yi made consecutive bogeys to see her advantage trimmed to 3 up after 13 holes. But she halved 14 and won the par-3 15th with a par to reach her first-ever USGA final.
“I was really tired,” said Diaz-Yi. “I was 5 up after nine and I just wanted to be steady … and not do anything crazy. I had a couple of slips here and there.”
Concerning her matchup with the more-experienced Chen, Diaz-Yi plans on keeping her expectations low.
“I am just going to rest and just crash,” said Diaz-Yi of her preparations. “Playing with Doris is going to be a lot of fun. She’s a U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. She knows what it’s like to be there … She birdied 18 to extend her quarterfinal match. That’s Doris.
“She’s going to be very competitive and it’s not going to be an easy match … Honestly, what do I have to lose? ”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.