Charlotte, N.C. (July 21, 2006) – Through four matches, 16-year-old medalist Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., was unstoppable. That changed in Friday’s semifinal match against Vicky Hurst, 16, of Melbourne, Fla., at Carmel Country Club.
|Jenny Shin, driving on No. 8 during her semifinal match, would be the second-youngest champion if she can win on Saturday. (Christopher Record/USGA)
Hurst moved on to Saturday’s 36-hole final with a 2-and-1 victory over Harigae. She’ll face 13-year-old Jenny Shin of Torrance, Calif., who eliminated Alexandra Bodemann of Palm City, Fla., 2 and 1. This is the first year the Girls’ Junior will use the 36-hole format, which was increased from 18 holes.
If Shin wins, she would become the second-youngest champion after Aree Song Wongluekiet who won in 1999. “I don’t think it is really about age,” said Shin. “It’s about how much you practice and how much talent you have. It matters more how good you are.”
Still, she seemed stunned to be in the final after setting a goal of reaching the quarterfinal.
“I came this far but I didn’t expect this to happen,” said Shin, who had gotten dizzy from fatigue on the 11th hole in her afternoon match. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches were conducted Friday.
Hurst echoed those same sentiments after knocking off the medalist.
“After I won today’s first match, I was like, ‘Can I do this?’” said Hurst, who registered nine fairways and 12 greens against Harigae.
That’s because coming into the championship’s fifth match, Harigae had methodically defeated her four opponents by playing near-flawless golf. No match had gone beyond the 15th hole.
After shooting the equivalent of 6 under in her quarterfinal win against Stephanie Kono, 16, of Honolulu, Hawaii, Harigae had moved to 19 under for the event, which also included her stroke-play score. She had carded just one bogey until meeting Hurst. She did strike 10 fairways and 11 greens, but she battled a loose swing during the duel.
The see-saw battle turned in Hurst’s favor on the 13th hole when she sank a 15-footer for birdie. Both agreed that was the key point. That put Hurst 1 up. Three holes later, the climactic moment occurred when Harigae mistakenly used a 7-wood to get out of a fairway bunker. She hit the ball thin before the sphere hit the lip and went out of bounds 150 yards away. She eventually absorbed double bogey thanks to the penalty while Hurst won the hole with a bogey.
“I thought I could get out but I couldn’t,” said a disappointed Harigae. “My caddied wanted me to use a 5-iron, which I should have done in the first place.”
On No. 17, Harigae couldn’t get up and down before conceding.
“I just gave it to her – gave it to her,” said Harigae after her second defeat in a Girls’ Junior semifinal. “I said, ‘Here you go. Take it to the final.’”
Hurst, who idolized Payne Stewart while growing up, wears hats similar to the ones he wore when he played. Her friends sometimes send them to her. She wears a royal blue one for good luck.
|Vicky Hurst said her late father is always in the back of her mind. (Christopher Record/USGA)
In April, two months before she’d play in her first Women’s Open, Hurst’s 61-year-old father Joe Hurst died from complications due to a stroke. He influenced her to play golf.
“It’s really hard, I guess,” said Hurst. “He’d be really proud especially with me going to the Open. It was his favorite event.”
Now she’ll face Shin, who she admittedly knew little about. What she did find out was that Shin coasted to a 3-up margin after the first six holes. If she looked at the stat sheet, she’d see that Shin struck 11 of 13 fairways and 13 of 17 greens. And that she took 32 putts.
Bodemann cut it to 1 down after the eighth hole but not before Shin got it back on No. 9 with a par to her opponent’s double bogey.
On No. 11 she became so fatigued that she got dizzy and couldn’t even drink water, she said. The condition worsened on the 12th green when she had a chance to sink a short birdie putt.
“On the putt for birdie, I didn’t even try,” she said. “I just took par.”
But a 24-footer for par to halve the 14th hole rejuvenated her. She won No. 15 with a par to Bodemann’s second double bogey of the match. Bodemann’s approach shot had gone in a hazard, leading to a penalty stroke.
“I came out and did my best,” said Bodemann, who won the Western Junior last week. “You can’t win them all.
“I’m tired. It was a good warm-up playing last week but it also takes a toll, having to play 18 holes for six days straight and then having the heat.”
Saturday’s 36-hole final is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 10 national championships for amateurs conducted annually by the USGA. The Association also conducts the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Open.
Story written by Ken Klavon, USGA Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.
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Results from the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of match play Friday at the 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the 6,396-yard, par-72 Carmel Country Club:
Mina Harigae def. Stephanie Kono, 4 and 3
Vicky Hurst def. Tanya Wadhwa, 19 holes
Alexandra Bodemann def. Ellen Mueller, 4 and 3
Jenny Shin def. Michelle Shin, 4 and 3
Vicky Hurst def. Mina Harigae, 2 and 1
Jenny Shin def. Alexandra Shin, 2 and 1
7 a.m. Vicky Hurst, Melbourne, Fla. vs. Jenny Shin, Torrance, Calif.