By Rhonda Glenn, USGA
BARRINGTON, R.I. (August 9, 2011) -- Lydia Ko, 14, of New Zealand, and Jihee Kim, 17, of Korea, shared stroke-play honors at 7-under-par 136 in the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,399-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
Ko made eight birdies on her way to a second-round 66 on Tuesday. Kim slipped a bit from her opening 66 with a 1-under-par 70, but still matched Ko’s 36-hole total. They finished one stroke ahead of Moriya Jutanugarn, 17, of Thailand, who fired a 67 for a 5-under-par 137 total.
Emma Talley, 17, of Princeton, Ky., finished alone at 138 after a second-round 68.
Ko’s 66 was the round of the day. While she claimed that putting is her weakness, on Tuesday her putter was magical. Teeing off on No. 10 she made her first birdie with a 20-foot putt on the 15th hole. She followed with a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and a 10-foot birdie on No. 18 before making the turn.
A short putt on the first hole gave her another birdie. After a bogey on the third hole, she made four straight birdies on putts ranging from 2 to 36 feet. The 36-footer on the seventh hole was a surprise. “I wasn’t really expecting to make it,” said Ko. “I started being in the zone.”
Kim had 26 putts in Monday’s round but struggled on the greens Tuesday with 31 putts. “It was a tough day,” Kim said through an interpreter, her uncle John Pih. “My shots were working today but my putting was not as good.”
Informed that she was the co-medalist, Kim said, “Tomorrow is another day.” She has never competed in a match-play competition and is nervous going into Wednesday’s first round. All of her tournaments in Korea have been stroke-play events.
Kim and Ko each traveled from a half-world away to play in Rhode Island. Traveling with her coach Guy Wilson and her mother Tina Ko, Lydia Ko made an 18.5-hour flight from Auckland to Boston to play in sectional qualifying for this championship on July 20. The three then began a 30-day golf odyssey in California, where Ko played some of the state’s top courses before traveling back to New England.
Kim, who carded a 63 in last fall’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Argentina to help Korea win by 17 strokes, made a 14-hour flight from Korea. It is her first trip to the United States. While this is also her first U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, it’s also her last amateur competition. She plans to turn professional upon her return to Korea.
Ko is little-known outside of New Zealand. She gained notice from the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, supported by The R&A and the USGA, which gave her the No.-1 ranking among female amateurs. In April she claimed two of her nation’s amateur titles in the same week. She won the New Zealand Stroke Play title by 11 strokes over Cecilia Cho, the world’s No.-2 ranked amateur. She also won the Match Play Championship two days after turning 14, defeating Cho in the final, 4 and 3, to become that event’s youngest champion.
Ko said she will focus on the upcoming match-play rounds by thinking of past success. “I’ll be thinking about the New Zealand Amateur, because I played pretty solid then,” Ko said.
Jutanugarn was low amateur in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor. Satisfied with her second-round 67, Moriya said, “I didn’t have a bogey. This makes me feel good.”
On five holes, Jutanugarn used her putter to save pars. Teeing off on the second nine, she made a 6-foot putt at the 14th hole for her first birdie. She birdied the fifth hole from 3 feet and the sixth hole from 10 feet. Her last birdie was a tap-in on the par-5 eighth hole.
Jutanugarn’s sister, Ariya, won the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior in July. She also qualified for match play, finishing even par and tying for 10th.
The low 64 players advance to Wednesday’s first round of match play. The cut came at 149, seven over par, with five golfers playing off for one spot.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur continues Thursday with rounds two and three, with the quarterfinals and semifinals set for Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Women’s Amateur concludes with the 36-hole championship final Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, of which 10 are strictly for amateurs.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. For questions and comments, e-mail her at email@example.com.