CARMEL, Calif. — It was a hectic week for 15-year-old Jessica Luo of San Jose, but it ended perfectly.
A junior at Lynbrook High, Luo was again the definition of steady on the course, leading to a 5 and 3 win over San Ramon’s Yoonhee Kim in Saturday’s 18-hole finale of the annual California Women’s Amateur Championship at par-72 Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club. With the victory, Luo, who was making her CWAC debut, joins an impressive list of former champions including current LPGA Tour members Mina Harigae and Natalie Gulbis and women’s golf legend Juli Inkster.
“It’s surreal and amazing,” said Luo, who played her final 31 holes of the championship at 1-under par with just two bogeys. “It’s my first time playing in this event. When I saw the list of champions…it’s just incredible.”
Now a member of that club herself, Luo didn’t just deal with the stress of competition all week. Following Monday’s stroke play qualifying round, she drove back home to San Jose, only to find out that her Tuesday Round of 64 tee time was around 7 :15 a.m. Luo and her father got a hotel room for Tuesday night, but each day on, and with each win that moved her further in the brackets, Luo had to find a new hotel room to stay in.
Call it one of the other caveats of match play.
“There were a lot of hotel rooms and a lot of different beds. It was very hectic,” Luo said. “Thankfully, my mother and brother came down on Friday and brought me some different clothes.”
Over her six matches, the only time Luo ever trailed was in the semifinals versus Benicia’s Kathleen Scavo. The deficit only lasted four holes. In the quarterfinals, the No.9 seeded Luo knocked off No.1 seed Alison Lillie of Fullerton, 5 and 3.
Against Kim, it was again just making pars that made the big difference. Again, Luo also set the tone early. She’d jump out to a quick 2-up through the first two holes thanks in part to a birdie on the par-5 1st after her stiffing her approach with within a few feet of the flagstick.
Kim cut the deficit to 1-up after a rare Luo bogey on the par-3 5th, but from there Luo, a member of the Junior Tour of Northern California, never wavered.
“I try never to think of results. You never know what’s going to happen. I just take it shot by shot,” Luo said. “It was great playing with Yoonhee. Her and her mom are the best.”
Kim, 17, who had her mother Suzanne on the bag as caddie, couldn’t find a rhythm on the back-nine. The No.2 seed bogeyed holes No.10, No.12 and No.13 to push Luo’s lead to 4-up with five holes to play. On the par-5 15th, Kim’s second shot went out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey.
“This is the farthest I’ve ever gone in this championship. It’s a great field. I’m not upset with how I played,” said Kim, who’s already verbally committed to UC Davis for the fall of 2016. “I just wasn’t getting yardages right, both on the green and in the fairways. Jessica is a great person.”
View results for California Women's Amateur Golf Championship