BARRINGTON, R.I. (Aug. 11, 2011) -- Defending champion Danielle Kang of Westlake Village, Calif., swept two matches on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 111th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at the 6,399-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
Kang, 21, defeated Cindy Ha of Demarest, N.J., 2 and 1, in the third round. She will meet Demi Frances Runas, 19, of Torrance, Calif., in the quarterfinals. Runas took 19 holes to edge Lisa McCloskey, 20, of Montgomery, Texas.
Kang had a tight match with Ha. The 14-year-old Ha led by a 1-up margin as late as the 12th hole. On the 14th, Kang drop-kicked an 8-iron shot. “I knew the only thing that would cause that was taking the club back inside,” Kang said. “I corrected it and made three straight birdies.”
Kang’s correction helped her to fire her iron shots close to the flagsticks. She made a 3-foot birdie putt on the 15th and an 8-footer on the 16th to go 2 up with two holes to play. When she hit her tee shot to within 2 feet of the hole on the par-3 17th, Ha conceded the putt and the match.
“I was unsure of myself until No. 15,” Kang said, “and for somebody young, Cindy is really good. It was whoever made minimum mistakes. We’re both tired.”
Two 21-year-olds head the brackets and are the oldest players remaining in the field. Brooke Pancake of Chattanooga, Tenn., defeated Nicole Morales, 15, of South Salem, N.Y., 4 and 3, to advance in the first bracket. Stephanie Kono of Honolulu defeated her UCLA teammate, Tiffany Lua, 20, of Rowland Heights, Calif., 3 and 2. Kono and Lua were also teammates on the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team.
“Against a good friend, it’s hard,” Kono said. “We play with each other all the time in college, so I say, ‘Oh yeah, Lu!’ when she makes a putt. Tiff missed a few putts in the beginning of our match.”
Kono was 4 up after eight holes. She squandered a hole on the ninth when she bogeyed and lost the 12th hole to a birdie before finally closing out Lua on the 16th.
“I’m going to have to toughen it up a little to take on my next opponent,” said Kono.
Kono will play Austin Ernst, 19, of Seneca, S.C., in the quarterfinals. Ernst, NCAA Division I Women’s Golf champion, was confident in her 3-and-2 victory over Lee Lopez, 21, of Whittier, Calif.
“I’m a confident person,” Ernst said with a grin after the match. She got off to a fine start, holing three consecutive birdie putts of 12, 40 and 8 feet, beginning at the 4th hole, to take a 4-up lead. “But I blocked it out-of-bounds on No. 7, then three-putted nine, so I had to settle down.”
Ernst, now 2 up, made a good 4-foot putt to save par on the 10th hole. She putted well thereafter but it was a fine chip that closed out the match.
On the par-4 16th hole, Ernst was dormie-3. All she had to do was get down in two strokes from a downhill lie in thick grass. The hole was cut on a little rise on a slick green, 18 feet away. Ernst played a masterful shot with her 60-degree wedge and almost holed it. Her par won the match.
Moriya Jutanugarn, 17, of Thailand edged Victoria Tanco, 17, of Bradenton, Fla., 1 up. A breathless Jutanugarn ran up the hill to the clubhouse after her win. “I played really good,” she said. “I had, like, five birdies! (She had six.) On 17, I chipped it in. She’s a really good player, but she lipped out. I knew all I had to do was hit the green on 18 and, oh no, I hit it wide right! But I got it up and down.”
The chip-in on No. 17 gave her a 1-up lead and the up-and-down for a par on No. 18 won the match. Jutanugarn’s 15-year-old sister, Ariya, the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, will caddie for her in the quarterfinal match against Casey Danielson, 16, of Osceola, Wis. Danielson defeated Lindy Duncan, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on the 19th hole.
After Friday’s quarterfinals, the semifinals will be played on Saturday. The U.S. Women’s Amateur concludes with the 36-hole final on Sunday.
The Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which ten are strictly for amateurs.