U.S. Girls' Junior: Semifinals are set

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (July 26, 2008)--Past champion Jenny Shin of Torrance, Calif., led the quarterfinal winners Saturday at the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being played at the 6,265-yard, par-71 Hartford Golf Club.

The 15-year old Shin, who won the 2006 Girls’ Junior, advanced with a 1-up win over 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinalist Lindy Duncan, 17, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Joining Shin in Saturday afternoon’s semifinals will be Kristina Wong, 17, of Vestal, N.Y.; and two 13-year-olds, Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., and Alexis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla.

After falling down early, Shin came back to build a 2-up lead with a birdie on the par-4 13th. A bogey by Shin on the 15th allowed Duncan to cut the deficit to 1 down, but the two traded pars on the final three holes to allow Shin to hold on for the narrow victory.

For Shin, it was another step closer to becoming the fourth player to win at least two Girls’ Junior Championships. A year ago, her hopes of repeating were dashed when she struggled in stroke-play qualifying and missed the cut.

“Last year it was so much pressure that I missed the cut,” said Shin. “I’m actually prepared this year so those kinds of things don’t happen. I was just nervous by the fact that I was the defending champion.”

Shin’s semifinal opponent will be Thompson, who fell down quickly in her quarterfinal match against 16-year-old Stephanie Kim of Orlando, Fla., and was 2-down after eight holes.

But a conceded eagle at the ninth and a birdie at No. 11 squared the match, and Thompson then went on to record three consecutive birdies, starting at the 15th to earn a 3 & 1 victory.

“I didn’t play too well on the first nine but I started making birdies on the back so that helped,” said Thompson, a second-round victim at the Girls’ Junior a year ago.

Thompson, who made headlines a year ago when she became the youngest U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in history, said the experience playing in front of large crowds is beneficial.

“It helps a lot,” said Thompson, who also played in the 2008 Women’s Open. “I was definitely nervous at the Open but it was more excitement nervous. Coming into here, it’s still a really big golf tournament and I’m still a little nervous but not as nervous. I just really want to do well.”

In her quarterfinal match against stroke-play medalist Lisa McCloskey, 16, of Montgomery, Texas, Wong never trailed and built a 4-up lead after eight holes. McCloskey chipped away at the lead with birdies at the ninth, 10th and 12th holes, but bogeys at the next two returned Wong’s lead to 3-up. Despite a bogey at No. 16, Wong claimed a 3 & 1 win over McCloskey.

“It was really difficult,” said Wong, a five-time Girls’ Junior participant, about the match. “She is an amazing player. We’ve been playing in the last few tournaments together and I know she is really solid. I mentally prepared myself for this round, to stay patient and stay steady, because I know she is a good player.”

Chung, who is trying to become the second-youngest Girls’ Junior champion in history, earned a 1-up victory over Courtney Gunter, 17, of Matthews, N.C. The two players were all square heading to the par-4, 403-yard 18th. Chung short-sided her approach shot to the left of the green but hit a magnificent chip to three feet. After Gunter missed her 6-footer for par, Chung converted hers for the win.

“My caddie was like, ‘if you land it on the wrong spot it’s going to roll down (away from the flagstick),’ “ said Chung. “I got so scared. Let’s just not knock this past the hole. And I landed it exactly where I wanted it. I made the putt.”

The lone Girls’ Junior rookie among the semifinalists, Chung admitted to being surprised to find herself among the final four players.

“I can’t imagine myself in the semifinals,” she said.

The 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship continues with the semifinal matches Saturday afternoon and concludes with Sunday’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

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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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