U.S. Girls' Junior: Ardina, Jutanugarn in finals

by Julie Williams

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (July 22, 2011) -– Multiple times in her semifinal match against Dottie Ardina, Yu Liu would putt out, sit down just off the green and then throw her hands up in the air in mock frustration as Ardina narrowly missed a birdie putt.

“It’s good!” Liu, 15, would yell with a big smile, before moving slowly to the next tee box in an oppressive Midwest heat that engulfed Olympia Fields Country Club on Friday.

Liu and Ardina’s match was more like a never-ending game of “horse” than the semifinals at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. After six and a half rounds in the heat and humidity, both players spent much of the afternoon limping down the fairways, feet overrun with blisters.

Ardina eventually won the marathon match as Liu bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17. Walking slowly back to the cool lower level of the Olympia Fields clubhouse, Liu explained with a weary smile that she hadn’t been on top of her game that afternoon. Heat, she insisted, wasn’t a factor.

“I live in China and it’s much hotter than this,” she said.

Liu, in her first U.S. Golf Association championship, spent the afternoon outdriving Ardina. But Ardina is used to that. She may not have length off the tee, but she has an uncanny ability to get up and down.

“That’s what people say – I mean that’s my magic,” Ardina said with a big grin. “It feels so great if you beat your competitor if they hit so long and they’re so tall and you beat them. It feels so good to me because everybody says I’m tiny.”

Put Ardina in the small-but-mighty category – or as she described herself in a USGA questionnaire under the human interest information section, “I’m small but terrible.”

Playing in her final U.S. Girls’ Junior, the 17-year-old from the Phillipines isn’t shy – she wants to win this week. Or at least, she wants to do better than the last major match-play tournaments she played in and reached the finals. Ardina lost to Jaclyn Jansen at the 2010 Women’s Western Amateur, and to Taylor Karle in 2009.

Ardina is in Olympia Fields this week with friend and teammate Andrea Unson, who lost to Emma Talley in the first round of match play. Unson’s father Renato, who followed Ardina’s matches Friday, said the girls spend much of their summer in the U.S., as there isn’t even the opportunity for girls to play high school golf back home in the Phillipines.

All that stands between Ardina and a USGA trophy is Ariya Jutanugarn, the 15-year-old from Thailand who made short work of Amy Lee Friday afternoon, winning her semifinal match, 8 and 6.

Jutanugarn – who hits a long, straight ball and isn’t afraid to chase pins – has only been past the 15th hole in two of four matches so far this week.

Ardina has played with Ariya’s olders sister Moriya many times at the Callaway Junior World Championships (where Ardina has won three titles). She calls the Jutanugarn sisters good friends of hers.

“It’s going to be a good and tough match for tomorrow, I’m excited to play with her,” Ardina said.

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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