BARRINGTON, R.I. (Aug. 10, 2011) -- Elyse Smidinger of Crofton, Md., the 64th match-play qualifier, scored an upset on Wednesday when she defeated co-medalist Jihee Kim of Korea, 2 and 1, in the first round of match play round of the 111th U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,339-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
But the other stroke-play medalist, 14-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, avoided an early exit with a 4-and-3 victory over Lauren Dobashi of Gold River, Calif., and then headed for the practice putting green.
b_daniellekanginsideWednesday Defending champion Danielle Kang advanced with a 3-and-2 win. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)“I wasn’t that pleased,” said Ko. “It was okay but I didn’t make any birdies and my putting wasn’t that good. It’s something I need to work on. I need that desperately.”
Defending champion Danielle Kang, 18, of Westlake Village, Calif., edged Talia Campbell of Dallas, Texas. Kang trailed as late as the ninth hole, and her birdie on the par-3 10th hole squared the match. Kang won the 13th, 15th and 16th holes with pars to win, 3 and 2.
“I actually didn’t play so great today, so I pretended my birdies were eagles,” said Kang. “I’m just going to have fun. I play golf to have fun, not to stress.”
The 17-year-old Smidinger closed out the upset against Kim by making a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.
Smidinger was one of five players vying Tuesday for the one remaining match-play berth. When she parred the second playoff hole, she advanced to play Kim, who shot qualifying scores of 66-70—136.
“I was expecting another 66 from her,” said Smidinger. “I was nervous. The butterflies were going.”
But Kim played some loose shots early in the match and Smidinger was 4 up after nine holes.
“On the first four holes I hit every shot,” said Smidinger. “All of my shots were really good and I thought, ‘I can do this. I can compete against her.’”
Smidinger was 2 up at the 17th hole, a par 3. Kim’s ball was lying just off the green. When Smidinger holed the putt, the match was over.
“My dad (Eric, her caddie) and I were working together reading the greens and on that one he told me to just trust it,” said Smidinger.A two-sport athlete, Smidinger won the Maryland State Level 6 Gymnastics championship before giving up the sport at age 13 to concentrate on golf.
Kim, who shot a 63 in helping Korea win last fall’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Argentina by 17 strokes, admitted to being nervous about competing in match play for the first time. Tournaments in her native Korea are conducted at stroke play, but she adjusted to the different format quickly. “She was good about it,” said Smidinger. “She conceded putts and she knew about honors.”
Emma Talley, 17, of Princeton, Ky., and the No. 4 seed from qualifying also advanced by defeating Shu-Yin Lu of Chinese Taipei, 5 and 3.
For Talley, it was a happier result than her state high school championship three years ago when she thought she had won by five strokes, only to discover she had signed an incorrect scorecard.
“I said, ‘Oh, snap!’” Talley said. “When I told the official, he started crying with me. I knew what was going to happen, but I had to do it.”
Admission of the error led to Talley’s disqualification. She won the tournament the very next year. “A lot of people were very supportive,” Talley said. “I still get letters today.”
Two other USGA champions were first-round winners. The 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, Ariya Jutanugarn, 15, of Thailand, survived a tight match with Sophia Popov, 18, of Germany, winning with a birdie on the 19th hole, while 2009 Girls’ Junior champion Amy Anderson, 19, of Oxbow, N.D., also posted a 1-up win over Cyna Rodriguez of the Philippines.
In Thursday’s second round, Jutanugarn plays Lindy Duncan, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Smidinger will face Brooke Pancake, 21, of Chattanooga, Tenn. Kang faces Talley and Ko goes against Stephanie Kono, 21, a 2010 USA Curtis Cup player from Honolulu. The youngest remaining contestant, 13-year-old Mackenzie Brooke Henderson of Canada, will play 20-year-old Tiffany Lua, a 2010 USA Curtis Cup player from Rowland Heights, Calif.
Eight first-round matches went extra holes, including Annie Park’s 24-hole victory over Calle Nielson. Nineteen of the 32 matches went at least 18 holes.
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.