OLYMPIA FIELD, ILL. (July 20, 2011) – Stroke-play medalist Ariya Jutanugarn was among 32 players to advance through Wednesday’s first round of match play at the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,403-yard, par 72 South Course at Olympia Fields Country Club.
The heat wave continued to play a major factor, with the players subjected to heat indices of 110 degrees and above. By looking at the scoreboard, it would seem that the players were determined to spend as little time in the heat as possible. Only eight of the 32 matches went the scheduled 18-hole distance.
Jutanugarn, 15, emerged from stroke-play qualifying as the only player able to break par. However, her first-round match with 17-year old Marissa Chow, of Honolulu, Hawaii, did not start as easily as she expected. Chow’s opening birdie on the par-4 first hole gave her an early 1-up lead, and put the Bangkok-native Jutanugarn into unfamiliar territory.
“I play match play a lot, and on the first hole, I never lose, I’m never down,” said Jutanugarn, the winner of the 2011 Rolex Girls Junior Championship. “But today she went up on the first hole, and I felt like, “Oh my God!
“She’s a very nice player, but I knew that if I wanted to beat her, I’d have to make birdie.”
Chow carried the 1-up advantage to the par-3 fifth, where her bogey evened the match. From there, Jutanugarn never looked back, recording six birdies over the next nine holes (with the usual match-play concessions) for a 6-and-4 victory.
Her caddie sister, Moriya, was more than happy with the quick victory.
“She’s so tired,” said Jutanugarn of her sister. “She told me, ‘I don’t want to walk anymore!’ She wanted me to get done so fast.”
Jutanugarn will face Sarah Schmelzel, 17, of Phoenix, Ariz., in Thursday morning’s round of 32. Schmelzel defeated Thailand’s Suchaya Tangkamolprasert by a 1-up margin.
Also with an easy victory on Wednesday was Gabriella Then, 15, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., who never trailed en route to a 7-and-6 victory over Lou Daniela Uy of the Philippines.
Then, who competed in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open, won the opening three holes of the match to quickly build a 3-hole lead over Uy.
“The fact that I won the first couple, it gave me confidence in my swing,” said Then, who defeated Jutanugarn in a playoff to win the 2011 Rolex Tournament of Champions. “I just kept playing strong from there. I just played really good all way until number 12.”
A clutch 7-foot par putt to halve the par-4 sixth served as the catalyst for the rest of Then’s commanding round, which culminated with the largest winning margin of the day.
“When I made that [putt],” she said, “that was really uplifting because my putting saved me and I still had that lead.”
2008 Girls’ Junior runner-up Karen Chung, 16, of Livingston, N.J., had amassed a 3-up lead over Mexico’s Marijosse Navarro by the fifth hole of their match. However, three Chung bogeys just as quickly brought things back to all square, a five-hole stretch she referred to as “nervewracking.”
“I thought I was having a heart attack,” said Chung, who won the 2011 Thunderbird International Junior. “My putting came back to me on the back nine and I started making some putts. I started hitting my shots a little bit closer.”
Chung ultimately regained her 3-up lead and took the match, 3 and 2.
2010 Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh, 15, of Goose Creek, S.C., made for a runner-up sweep on Wednesday, as she eliminated 2011 Women’s Open competitor Mariel Galdiano by a 5-and-4 margin.
Dambaugh will meet Canadian Jisoo Keel in the round of 32. Keel, 15, survived the day’s only extra-holes match, needing 19 holes to defeat Kayli Quinton, 17, of Houston, Texas.
While Keel led for much of the opening stretch, it was Quinton who took a 2-up lead to the par-4 16th. Keel was able to pull within one with a birdie. After halving the 17th, Keel knew what she needed to do to extend her championship chances.
“I hit an amazing drive, the first good drive of the day, and she just didn’t hit one too well,” said Keel, who lost in the first round last year to eventual champion Doris Chen.
“Kayli just made a couple mistakes here and there and she made double [bogey]. I made birdie so we had to go an extra hole.”
After another perfect drive on the 19th hole, Keel burned the lip of the hole with her birdie attempt. However, Quinton’s missed 4-footer gave the match to Keel.
“She’d been making a lot of putts today, ridiculously long ones,” said Keel, an Order of Merit qualifier for the 2011 CN Canadian Women’s Open. “But she just made a mistake on that hole and I just parred that to get that match.
“Kayli and I had a really intense match. She’s a really talented player.”
Also advancing to the second round was 16-year-old Annie Park, of Levittown, N.Y., who scored a come-from-behind 4-and-3 win over Oregon’s Caroline Inglis. Park advanced to the semifinals of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, defeating stroke-play medalist Cheyenne Woods along the way.
Park will face 2011 Women’s Open competitor Mariah Stackhouse on Thursday morning. Stackhouse, 17, of Riverdale, Ga., defeated Rachel Dai, 5 and 4.
Casie Cathrea and Eimi Koga, who finished second and third, respectively, in stroke-play qualifying, each advanced, while 2010 quarterfinalists Stephanie Liu and Mariko Tumangan were both eliminated.
The 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior will continue with the second and third rounds on Thursday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are on Friday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
View results for U.S. Girls' Junior Golf Championship