BARRINGTON, R.I. (Aug. 12, 2011) -- Barrington, R.I. – Defending champion Danielle Kang of Westlake Village, Calif., kept her chances alive to become the first repeat champion in 15 years in the 111th U.S. Women’s Amateur at the 6,399-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
Kang won her quarterfinal match on Friday to join Brooke Pancake of Chattanooga, Tenn., Austin Ernst of Seneca, S.C., and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand in Saturday’s semifinal round. Kang, 21, ousted Demi Frances Runas, 19, of Torrance, Calif., 4 and 3.
The last defending champion to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur was Kelli Kuehne in 1996. Ironically, the last Women’s Amateur held at Rhode Island C.C. (1987) also saw the defending champion (Kay Cockerill) claim the title.
Kang took a 1-up lead with a par at the second hole and never trailed. Runas squared the match at the fifth hole with a birdie but at the 11th, Kang won the hole with a par and again took a 1-up lead. She finished the match with five consecutive pars while Runas made four bogeys in the same stretch.
“Pars won holes,” said Kang. “I made a lot of good putts but they just didn’t go in. It was a waiting game today.”
Pancake, 21, was never ahead in her match against Erynne Lee, 18, of Silverdale, Wash., until the 21st hole when her par won the hole and the match. Lee was 2 up after the fourth hole and 1 up as late as the 15th hole.
“I was 2 holes down after the fourth and she wasn’t making any mistakes,” said Pancake. “I told my caddie I was going to have to hit my irons closer to get back in the match. I’m going to have to play a lot better tomorrow to get into the final.”
Ernst, 19, the 2011 NCAA Division I individual champion, won by the largest margin with a 5-and-4 victory over 2010 USA Curtis Cup player Stephanie Kono, 21, of Honolulu. Even with a 2-up edge after the fifth hole, however, Ernst was a little shaky until the seventh, when she made an 8-foot putt for a par to halve the hole.
“That gave me a little momentum,” said Ernst. “On the eighth I had a chip for a birdie. I had my caddie take the flagstick out and I holed it and won the hole. After that it was, okay, this is yours to win or lose.”
A conceded 1-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole gave Ernst a 4-up lead. On the par-4 14th hole she made a par to Kono’s bogey to win the match.
“It’s great,” Ernst said. “When the week started I definitely wanted to get to this point. It’s been solid golf so far.”
With Jutanugarn’s 2-and-1 victory over Casey Danielson, 16, of Osceola, Wis., the 17-year-old became the youngest of the semifinalists. Jutanugarn, the low amateur at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open, trailed throughout most of the match and didn’t go ahead until the 14th hole when she took her first lead with a birdie.
On the 15th, Jutanugarn three-putted to lose the hole and squaring the match. On the 395-yard par-4 16th, she hit a 7-iron approach shot to within 4 feet of the hole. When she made the birdie putt, she was 1 up with two holes remaining. A par from the fringe on the 17th hole and Danielson’s double bogey sent Jutanugarn into the semis.
“She is so good,” said Jutanugarn of Danielson. “She makes a lot of putts. Yesterday, I made everything but I don’t have the confidence today. I think it’s the putting. Today it’s like miss, miss, miss.”
Jutanugarn’s sister Ariya, the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion who lost in the second round, caddied for her sister. Moriya said Ariya gives her confidence. “If she can do it, I can do it,” she said.
In Saturday’s semifinal matches, Pancake faces Kang while Ernst goes against Jutanugarn. The Women’s Amateur concludes with a scheduled 36-hole final on Sunday.
The Women’s Amateur is one of 13 national championships annually conducted by the United States Golf Association, of which 10 are strictly for amateurs.