WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (July 26, 2008)--Thirteen-year-olds Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., and Alexis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., each won two matches Saturday to advance to Sunday’s championship final of the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior, being played at the 6,265-yard, par-71 Hartford Golf Club.
Thompson earned a 2 & 1 semifinal victory over 2006 Girls’ Junior champion Jenny Shin, 15, of Torrance, Calif., while Chung prevailed in a marathon 26-hole affair against Kristina Wong, 17, of Vestal, N.Y.
Chung, playing in her first USGA championship, held a 2-up advantage after 16 holes against Wong, a five-time Girls’ Junior participant. But Chung three-putted the 17th from 20 feet and hit her approach shot on No. 18 out of bounds. Wong converted her 5-footer for par and the two headed for extra holes.
Despite losing her lead, Chung, who has only been playing golf for three years, didn’t panic.
“I told myself, it’s all square and it’s not over,” she said.
After the two bogeyed the first extra hole, both settled down and traded pars on the next six holes. Chung had a golden chance at the 23rd hole, the par-4 fifth, but missed a 4-foot birdie putt. On the 26th hole, the 209-yard par-3 eighth, Wong missed an uphill 4-footer for par to give Chung the win in what was the longest match in Girls’ Junior history. The previous longest match was 25 holes, during the 1980 championship.
For Chung, not only is the Girls’ Junior her first USGA championship, it is her first match-play event. She admitted to having low expectations coming into the week at Hartford G.C.
“I feel like I’m in my dream or something,” said Chung, who would be the second-youngest champion in history, after 1999 winner Aree Song Wonglukiet. “This is surreal. I didn’t even think I would come this far.”
Thompson had a much easier time in her match against Shin, winning the second hole with a par. She would never trail, building a 3-up lead after 15 holes and holding on to dash Shin’s hopes of a second Girls’ Junior title.
For Thompson, who made headlines a year ago when she became the youngest U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in history, there has been no shortage of highlights in USGA events. She also played in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open and reached the quarterfinals of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur, but admitted reaching her first USGA final was special.
“It means a lot,” said the long-hitting Thompson, also hoping to become the second-youngest Girls’ Junior champ. “This is a really big golf tournament for my summer. I’m really excited playing in the finals tomorrow.”
Despite the recognition her success thus far has brought, Thompson said she didn’t feel she had an advantage over the rest of the field.
“In all golf tournaments there is pretty hard competition,” she said. “Nothing is easy in these big events. Not really. I just play the same way with anybody. I just play my normal game.”
She’ll have that chance Sunday as she and Chung, separated in age by a mere two months and one day, face off for the 60th U.S. Girls’ Junior title. The 36-hole championship final begins at 8 a.m. EDT.
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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