FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (July 24, 2014) – Cindy Ha reached the semifinals of last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. This week, she’s following the same script at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
Ha, 17, of Demarest, N.J., notched a 2-and-1 victory over stroke-play medalist Angel Yin, 15, of Arcadia, Calif., in the round of 16 Thursday afternoon to reach the quarterfinals of the 2014 championship, being held at Forest Highlands Golf Club.
"I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” said Ha, who earlier in the day defeated Yealimi Noh, 3 and 2, in the round of 32. “She hits the ball a mile and seeing her swing, kind of intimidates you a little.”
Joining her in the quarterfinals are Brigitte Dunne, of Camarillo, Calif.; Princess Mary Superal, of the Philippines; 2013 Girls’ Junior semifinalist Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif.; Marijosse Navarro, of Mexico; 2014 U.S. Women’s Open competitor Andrea Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.; Shelly Shin, of Australia; and Binny Lee, of Frisco, Texas.
Play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior was suspended at 3:47 p.m. MST for dangerous weather conditions and resumed at 5:32 p.m.
With the match all-square at No. 15, Ha was faced with a 25-foot birdie putt that would give her a 1-up lead.
“I thought, cruise it down there, get it to a tap-in putt and it just happened to go it,” said Ha, who starts her collegiate career at Vanderbilt University next month. “I just got that momentum.”
Ha won the 16th with a 4-foot par, and ultimately took the victory with a two-putt par at No. 17. Despite playing in her 14th round in 13 days, Ha refused to cut herself any slack on the golf course.
“Everyone here has played multiple events coming into the U.S. Girls’ (Junior),” said Ha, who credits her best friend Robynn Ree, who lost in Thursday morning’s round of 32, with helping to keep her calm. “You have to think of yourself as an equal player and with the same circumstances.”
Dunne, Ha’s quarterfinal opponent, never trailed in her 4-and-3 win over Mary Janiga. The 17-year-old already has one major victory under her belt this month, having won the North & South Junior Championship at Pinehurst No. 6.
Andrea Lee found herself 2 down at the turn against Gigi Stoll, 17, of Tigard, Ore. But bogeys by Stoll at Nos. 10 and 11 that brought the match back to all square, along with the weather delay, breathed new life into Lee’s game.
“I still knew that I had nine holes left,” said Lee, 15, who was the lone amateur in the Girls’ Junior field to make the cut at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open. “I was trying to stay positive and keep myself calm after the delay.”
Lee’s birdie from 6 feet at No. 12 earned her first lead of the match. She extended the lead to 2 up with another birdie at the 14th hole and closed out the victory on the 17th green.
“It was really tight and I’m just really happy with the way I played,” said Lee, who has already won the Rolex Tournament of Champions and Yani Tseng Invitational this summer. “She fought too and it was a tough match overall.”
Lee’s path to the semifinals runs through Navarro, who at 17 is already a three-time Women’s Mexican Amateur champion. Navarro lost Nos. 4-6 to Shannon Brooks, but won the ensuing three holes to square the match. After a tight inward nine that saw Brooks force extra holes with a birdie at the par-5 18th, Navarro birdied the 19th hole to advance.
Wu is looking to duplicate, and ultimately better, her 2013 semifinal showing. The 17-year-old trailed by two after five holes to Rose Huang. But sparked by an eagle at the par-4 sixth hole, Wu squared the match at No. 8, and carded birdies at Nos. 12, 15 and 16 for the 4-and-2 win.
Superal stands in Wu’s way of reaching the semifinals. After two easy victories, the 17-year-old from the Philippines faced her first real challenge in Kristen Gillman, who had a 2-up lead through six holes. But Superal’s birdies at Nos. 7 and 10 squared the match, and Gillman bogeyed the par-4 13th to give Superal her first lead. That advantage was all Superal needed, cruising in to a 3-and-1 win.
Shin, a 16-year-old member of Golf Australia’s national junior squad, notched the quickest victory of the round of 16. She only needed 13 holes to eliminate Clare Amelia Legaspi, 6 and 5. Binny Lee, Shin’s quarterfinal opponent, eliminated Sofia Chabon by a 2-up margin.
The 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final at 9:30 a.m. MST on Saturday.
Golf Channel will have live coverage of Saturday’s championship final from 5-7 p.m. MST, preceded by taped coverage of the semifinal round on Friday from 7:30-9:30 p.m. MST.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
-photo courtesy of USGA
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