DUPONT, Wash. – Fumie (Alice) Jo won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, never trailing in her 3-and-2 victory over Eun Jeong Seong at The Home Course and forever etching her name in United States Golf Association history.
Jo, 15, is the first USGA champion from the mainland of the People’s Republic of China. She is the second-youngest champion in WAPL history, following 13-year-old Michelle Wie in 2003. She is also the final winner in the 38-year history of the Women’s Amateur Public Links, as the championship has been officially retired following today’s completion of play.“In China, I think everyone will be talking about (my victory),” said Jo, a ninth-grader in Shanghai who was playing in her first USGA championship. “I'm just really happy.”
Seong, 14, of the Republic of Korea, joins Jo in the WAPL record books. She set 18- and 36-hole scoring records during Monday and Tuesday’s stroke-play rounds on her way to earning medalist honors.
“My stroke-play (performance) was exceptional and I played really well,” said Seong. “I could not play that well all the time. There were some ups and downs.”
The Jo-Seong match was also the first and only all-international final in championship history.
Jo was twice able to take a 3-up lead during the morning round. The first came at No. 11, when she stuffed her wedge approach to 3 feet and made birdie. Her bogey at the par-4 12th after coming up short of the green dropped her lead to two. However, Seong was forced to concede the par-3 14th after her drive found the water behind the green and Jo stuck her tee shot to 6 feet.
Jo’s lead again fell to 2 up after her drive at the par-4 18th found a fairway bunker. She made the green in three, but her 40-foot par attempt came up just short. Seong’s 30-foot birdie putt just skimmed the right side of the hole, and her par was conceded.
Following the midday break, it looked like the pressure was getting to Jo. After Seong stuck her tee shot at the 24th hole within inches, Jo three-putted for bogey. Then at No. 25, a par 3, she left her tee shot well short of the green and then hit her birdie putt too hard, sending the ball off the back of the green. Her lead was back to a tenuous 1-up margin.
“I was really nervous … because I knew she was going to play very aggressively,” said Jo. “She was just going to go for the flag.”
As she had throughout the week, Jo turned to her mother and caddie, Joy, for calming advice.
“She kept telling me to relax, not feel too nervous,” said Jo. “She was a big help.”
Mom’s comforting words had an immediate effect. Jo executed a masterful chip from the rough at No. 28, landing 4 feet from the hole. She made the birdie putt to go 2 up.
She regained her 3-up lead at the par-3 30th hole, when Seong’s par putt clipped the right edge of the hole and rolled out.
Jo ultimately took the victory on the 16th green, the 34th hole of the final match. Seong’s second shot flew over the back of the green, while Jo’s ball sat in the front fringe. Seong’s chip flew high and rolled 30 feet below the hole.
Jo lagged her putt to 6 feet, and when Seong’s par attempt slid over the right edge of the hole, she conceded the hole and the match.
Despite taking the loss after dominating stroke play, Seong was able to take some lessons from the week.
“I learned from watching other players play, especially putting and short game,” said Seong. “That will help a lot for next week (at the U.S. Girls’ Junior).”
In victory, Jo receives a gold medal and custody of the Robert F. Dwyer Trophy for one year. She also receives exemptions into the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships and the next two U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships. As the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior begins in two days, Jo has declined that exemption due to the quick turnaround. However, she is expected to be in the field at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be held August 4-10 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.
Seong receives also an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior. She had already qualified for both championships.
This was the final playing of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Beginning in 2015, the USGA will conduct the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, with the first being held May 9-13 at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
The United States Golf Association annually conducts 13 national championships, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.