CLIFTON, NJ (July 28, 2016) -- Through the first three rounds of match-play, Alice Chen of Neshanic Valley had accumulated 12 birdies. Of course, there was a rash of bogeys, too, some that nearly prevented her from reaching the finals of the NJSGA 91st Women’s Amateur Championship at sparkling 6,2467 yard Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton.
Chen, who won this championship in 2013, needed 20 holes to beat the 2015 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, Tara Fleming of New Jersey National after Chen led by four holes at one point in the match. A 25-foot putt on the 20th hole got her the right to play in the 18-hole final and face her Furman University teammate, Taylor Totland of Hollywood, who was seeking to become only the second woman to win the championship three straight years.
But there was no denying Chen, who lost to Totland in the event’s semifinals the past two years. Chen racked up six birdies and shot five-under-par for the 3 and 2 victory over Totland, who returns to Furman as a senior while Chen has two collegiate years remaining.
Totland had defeated Noelle Martz of Hyatt Hills, 5 and 3, in the morning semifinals.
“You can always play better, but I’m really happy with the way I played, six birdies and only one bogey. I’ve been playing pretty well in the first three days, but there have been some ‘oops.’
“This round was really clean. Just being around my teammate and playing on a great golf course like this made it a great day. It’s kind of funny playing with each other. We’re like mirror images. I know what she’s going to do and she knows what I’m going to do. We have the same process putting an the same bunker set-up,” said Chen, who has dominated NJSGA Women’s play, winning two Junior Championships, two Amateur championships, one Public Links and one Four-Ball, with Allison Herring of TPC Jasna Polana.
In 2017, Chen and Totland will play together in the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball, when “we can just cheer for each other on every shot,” Chen said.
Chen and Totland are the top two players on the Furman team. In the Southern Conference Championship, Chen was T-1 and Totland was third.
“Alice didn’t make a mistake. We both shot under par. She putted great and played amazing,” Totland said. “You can’t control when somebody else plays like that. It’s been a great week for me and I got good practice for the U.S. Amateur next week at Rolling Green (Springfield, Pa.).
Eight of the first nine holes were won, with only one halved. Chen birdied holes six (par 4), seven (par-five) and eight (par 3) to go 3-up. Totland rallied with birdies on the par-4 ninth and par-5 11th to close the deficit to one hole.
But Chen birdied the par-4 12th, a water hole she bogeyed in the morning, then added a par victory on the par-3 15th. Her par on No. 16 ended the match.
“I wasn’t down after the close math in the semifinals. I was focused on the opportunity to play a beautiful golf course against one of my closest friends. I was striking it well and putting well. I always look forward and not back. I focused on being confident in my ability and I gave it my best today,” Chen said.
After defeating Fleming, Chen was looking forward to one of her biggest matches of the year.
“I feel excited to meet Taylor in the finals. It’s the first time we’re meeting in the finals. There’s no one I’d rather meet. She’s my friend and my teammate. We’ll keep the trophy for Furman no matter what happens.
“The hard part of match play is that if you mess up a few things here and there, you can go from four up to all square in a hurry,” said Chen, who attended Montgomery High School. “I love the greens here. They are fast but they are true.”
Totland, as well, was looking forward to meeting Chen.
“I know we’ll be cheering for each other. I want to stick to my game plan and commit to my shots. We know each other’s games because we play together. We’ve known each other since we’re eight or nine years old. We have so much in common.”
View results for New Jersey Women's Amateur Golf Championship