U.S. Girls' Junior: First round finished after weather issues

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (July 23, 2008)--Stroke-play medalist Lisa McCloskey, 16, of Montgomery, Texas, easily advanced in Wednesday’s first round of match play at the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being played at the 6,265-yard, par-71 Hartford Golf Club.

On a weather-plagued day that saw three delays totaling five hours and 12 minutes, McCloskey got off to a quick start against Christine Song, 17, of Fullerton, Calif., winning the first three holes with a par, bogey and birdie.

Song would cut the deficit to 1-down with pars on the fourth and fifth holes, but McCloskey came back to birdie the ninth, 10th and 12th holes to earn a 5 & 3 victory shortly before play was suspended for a third time, a delay that would last two hours and 36 minutes.

“I was lucky enough to have a lead before those two big rain delays,” said McCloskey, who is playing in her fourth Girls’ Junior. “It’s hard because you go out there and you’re ready to play and it starts raining really hard. It’s tough, but most people are used to it.”

For McCloskey, who admitted she’s more comfortable in a stroke-play format, getting through the first match was a relief.

“It feels good, although there are many matches left,” she said. “But you have to win the first one to keep on going, so it feels good.”

Also finishing just before the third weather delay was 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim, 16, of Pahoa, Hawaii, who recorded three consecutive birdies starting at the par-5 ninth to take control against Stacy Kim of Yorba Linda, Calif., en route to a 5 & 4 victory.

Kimberly Kim, who is trying to become the seventh golfer in USGA history to claim both the Women’s Amateur and Girls’ Junior titles, said she wasn’t bothered by the dreary weather.

“I like the rain,” she said. “It’s better than the heat. I wanted it to rain all day, but I didn’t want delays.”

Despite her pedigree – in addition to being the youngest Women’s Amateur champion she is also a veteran of USA Curtis Cup and Women’s World Amateur teams and has played in three U.S. Women’s Opens – Kim doesn’t consider herself a favorite.

“I’m not one of those people who shows up and is like, ‘I’m going to win,’ “ she said.

Defending champion Kristen Park, 15, of Buena Park, Calif., needed extra holes to outlast 15-year-old Veronica Valerio of Temecula, Calif.

Park won No. 15 with a birdie and remained 1 up until the par-4 18th, when she missed a 6-foot par putt and Valerio converted hers from 2 feet.

“I think I was just too aggressive on that,” said Park. “It’s a tough green and I left it on the wrong side.”

Her chance for redemption came on the first extra hole. After Valerio made her 10-footer for bogey, Park converted her 6-footer for par and the win.

“I didn’t think of that putt as a putt to win,” said Park, who is trying to become the first repeat champion since Hollis Stacy won three consecutive Girls’ Juniors from 1969-71. “It was just another putt.”

Also needing extra holes to advance was 2006 Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin, 15, of Torrance, Calif. Shin made a 21-footer for birdie on the 20th hole to oust 13-year-old Esther Lee of Los Alamitos, Calif.

Madison Pressel, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla., advanced to the second round for the first time in three Girls’ Junior appearances but it wasn’t easy. Pressel, the younger sister of 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner Morgan Pressel, was the equivalent of seven over par in her match against Anna Jang of Aiea, Hawaii, but still managed to earn a 1-up victory.

“I didn’t play my best, but it starts all over tomorrow,” said Pressel. “[Match play] is a great game.”

One match was still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness at 8:11 p.m. Rachel Rohanna of Waynesburg, Pa., and Julie Yang of Phoenix, Ariz., are all square after 17 holes, will resume their match at 7:30 Thursday morning.

The 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior continues with the second and third rounds Thursday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Friday and the championship concludes with Saturday’s 36-hole final.

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

--Story courtesy USGA

ABOUT THE U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur

The Girls Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the USGA. The event is open to female golfers who have not reached their 18th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 18.4. 36 hole stroke play qualifying from which 64 players advance to match play. Regional qualifying held at sites around the United States.

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