PARAMUS, NJ (July 19, 2016) -- Hye-Jin Choi, of the Republic of Korea, and Sadie Englemann, of Austin, Texas, shared medalist honors on Tuesday with 36-hole scores of 5-under-par 141 after two rounds of stroke play at the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on The Ridgewood Country Club’s 6,406-yard, par-73 composite course.
The 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, which begin Wednesday and conclude with Saturday’s 36-hole championship.
Both players pushed past defending champion Eun Jeong Seong, 16, of the Republic of Korea, who held the first-day lead with a 6-under 67, but posted a 3-over 76 Tuesday to trail the medalists by two strokes. Jayna Choi, 15, of Collierville, Tenn., who was a semifinalist in the 2015 championship, joined Seong at 3-under 143.
The 16-year-old Choi, low amateur in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, posted a 2-under 71, and Englemann, a ninth-grader at Austin’s West Lake High School, shot a 1-under 72 to lead the stroke-play scoring. Both played in the morning wave and saw their position improve as Seong, playing in the afternoon, posted four bogeys on her inward nine.
“I had a lot of birdie chances but it was so windy today that I felt I had to play safe,” said Choi, who is No. 15 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) through an interpreter. “When I was playing safer, I wasn’t as close. Match play is ahead of us but I played great overall. I can’t pinpoint what I did best.”
Englemann, a petite 14-year-old who earned 2015 Rolex Junior honorable mention All-America honors, was surprised by her finish.
“All I wanted was to make the cut,” she said. “It was nowhere in my mind. It’s amazing. This is one of the first tournaments that I’ve scored well in. This summer has been a turning point in my game. I made the birdies when I had to.”
Seong, who is No. 25 in the WAGR and was the runner-up in 2014 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and a U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinalist the same year at age 14, was not fazed by her score on the second day.
“My irons and putting were not so good today,” said Seong. “The pin locations were harder than yesterday. I’m still OK. I had many chances but I just didn’t make them. I wanted to play great, but I didn’t. I hit the rough and made some bogeys.”
In addition to Seong, the other two USGA champions in the field, Hailee Cooper, of Montgomery, Texas (2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Kaitlyn Papp) and Mika Liu, of Beverly Hills, Calif. (2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Rinko Mitsunaga) also easily qualified for match play.
Andrea Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., joined fellow USA Curtis Cup Team member Liu in the match-play field.
Kelly Sim, 16, of Edgewater, N.J., advanced to match play, but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Her scheduled Round-of-64 opponent, Calista Reyes, will win her match by disqualification. The other two competitors from New Jersey, Ami Gianchandani, 16, of Short Hills; and Yoona Kim, 14, of Oradell, failed to make the field of 64 for match play.
Nicole Whiston, 15, of San Diego, Calif., made a birdie on the par-3 15th hole, the first playoff hole, to earn the 64th and final spot in match play, ousting three other players.
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.
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