by Christina Lance
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (July 21, 2011) -– Stroke-play medalist Ariya Jutanugarn and 2008 runner-up Karen Chung were among eight players who advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round of match play at the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, conducted on the 6,403-yard, par-72 South Course at Olympia Fields Country Club.
For the first time this week, Bangkok-native Jutanugarn, 15, admitted to noticing the heat, which hovered in the upper 90s all day and easily felt like triple digits. She also finally took some heat from a competitor, as Canada’s Jisoo Keel took her the full 18 holes. This was the first match in which Jutanugarn went past the 15th green.
While Jutanugarn never trailed, Keel never let her get too far ahead. Her lead never exceeded two holes, despite carding six birdies.
“I could make birdies, but I could not save my score, so I had four bogeys,” said Jutanugarn, who upset defending champion Alexis Thompson in 2009’s third round to advance to the Girls’ Junior quarterfinals. “So that’s why [it was] 2 up, 1 up and all square all the time.”
The match went to the 18th all square, and Keel stuck her third shot to a mere 5 feet right of the hole. With the match on the line, Jutanugarn went to her usual source of information and comfort – her caddie-sister, Moriya.
“My sister, she told me, ‘You have to get closer,’ ” said Jutanugarn.
And get it closer she did. Jutanugarn’s chip from 75 yards came to 3 feet, and when Keel’s 5 footer for birdie lipped out, Jutanugarn calmly drained her birdie putt for the win.
“I just hope tomorrow I can make birdies like today and I want to save my score,” said Jutanugarn, the winner of the 2011 Rolex Girls Junior Championship. “I want, tomorrow, no bogeys.”
Jutanugarn advanced to the round of 16 with a steady 4-and-3 win over Sarah Schmelzel in the morning’s round of 32. She took an early 1-up lead when Schmelzel bogeyed the par-4 second hole and went on from there to a four-hole victory.
Jutanugarn will face fellow 15-year-old Gabriella Then of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in Friday’s quarterfinals. It will be a rematch of sorts, as Then defeated Jutanugarn in a one-hole playoff to win the 2011 Rolex Tournament of Champions. Both players also competed in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.
Then has had just as smooth a week as Jutanugarn, with early-round 7-and-6 and 3-and-2 victories under her belt. Her third-round match was no exception, as she needed only 14 holes to defeat Caroline Araskog by a 5-and-4 margin.
Despite the final margin of victory, Then did face her first deficit of match play when Araskog stuck her approach shot to the par-4 first hole to 2 inches and converted the birdie attempt.
“I was kind of like, ‘Come on, let’s go,’” said Then. “I knew we had a lot of holes to go, but once you’re down, it can go any way.”
Then took that notion to heart and quickly regrouped to win the following four holes and ultimately pull away for a comfortable win.
“I just kept going from there,” said Then of that four-hole stretch. “I kept playing consistently and didn’t let her take holes from me.”
Karen Chung, 16, of Livingston, N.J., never trailed for a single hole on Thursday. The 2008 runner-up cruised through the morning round, en route to a 5-and-3 victory over Paige Lee. She was never able to build more than a 2-up lead over 15-year-old Ashlan Ramsey, of Milledgeville, Ga., in the afternoon round, but eventually pulled out a nail-biter 1-up victory.
“My hands were shaking. They’re still shaking,” said Chung, who had not advanced past the third round of a Girls’ Junior since losing to Alexis Thompson in the 2008 championship final.
Chung will face Yu Liu, 15, of the People’s Republic of China in the third match of Friday’s quarterfinal round.
Like Chung, Liu took a 1-up lead to the 18th in her match against Californian Anne Cheng. Despite sending her drive underneath a tree to the right of the fairway, Liu was able to stick her approach from 200 yards to 6 feet and two-putt to halve the hole and take the victory.
“I’m extremely nervous,” said an obviously relieved Liu after the match. “It was really, really tight.”
Friday’s second quarterfinal match will feature Amy Lee and Talia Campbell, who are both competing in their first USGA championship. Lee, 14, of Brea, Calif., knocked off Alison Lee, 1 up, while Campbell, 17, of Dallas, Texas, eliminated 2011 U.S. Women’s Open competitor Mariah Stackhouse by a 4-and-3 margin.
Also advancing were Summar Roachell, who defeated Chung in the first round in 2010, and Girls’ Junior veteran Dottie Ardina. Roachell, a 15-year-old from Conway, Ark., came back from an early deficit to beat Aurora Kan, 5 and 3. Ardina, a native of the Philippines who is competing in her fourth Girls’ Junior at age 17, went the full 18 holes with Yueer Cindy Feng and finally took a 1-up victory.
Defending Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh and 2011 Women’s Open competitor Emma Talley were both defeated in Thursday’s morning round. Casie Cathrea and Eimi Koga, who finished second and third, respectively, in stroke-play qualifying, were also eliminated.
The 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior will continue with the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Friday. The 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.
View results for U.S. Girls' Junior Golf Championship