by Rhonda Glenn
NESHANIC STATION, N.J. (June 20, 2012) -– Medalist Lisa McCloskey, 20, of Houston, Texas, past champion Emily Tubert, 20, of Burbank, Calif., and 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Doris Chen, 19, of Bradenton, Fla., won first-round matches on Wednesday in the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at the 6,221-yard, par-72 Neshanic Valley Golf Course.
McCloskey’s encounter with Hana Ku, 16, of Basking Ridge, N.J., ended on the 18th hole, 1 up.
“The first 12 holes, I played as bad as I can play,” McCloskey said. “Hana made it a lot harder than I expected. She made some key putts and didn’t make any mistakes.”
Twelve strokes separated the two in stroke-play qualifying. McCloskey, a 2012 USA Curtis Cup player, posted a 7-under total of 137 over 36 holes, while Ku, a volunteer at the USGA Museum in nearby Far Hills during her summer break from high school, eked out the final match-play berth in a 4-for-3 playoff after shooting 5-over 149.
“I had two goals today; to play all 18 holes and to make her birdie or par to win the hole,” Ku said. “I had such a great experience out there today, playing with a great player like her. I definitely learned a lot from it.”
McCloskey jumped to a 1-up lead at the first hole. But Ku charged back. She won the 10th hole with a par, the 11th with a birdie and when McCloskey three-putted the 12th hole, Ku’s par won the hole to go 3 up.
“I made the dumbest three-putt,” McCloskey said. “But I just pulled it together after that and my putting kind of came together.”
McCloskey’s rally began with a birdie on the 13th hole, where she hit a 9-iron to within 15 feet of the hole and made the putt. A 3-foot birdie putt at the 14th pulled her to within striking distance of Ku’s 1-up lead. At the 15th, McCloskey left her approach shot 15 feet below the hole and made the birdie putt.
At the 17th, a par-3 hole, both players hit safely to the green. First up, Ku rammed in a 25-footer for a birdie. McCloskey had to make her 12-footer to halve the hole. She rolled it in.
“That birdie was huge,” McCloskey said. “I needed to make it to remain all square. Luckily, I did.”
McCloskey’s par on the 18th gave her the win and earned her a second-round match Thursday morning against Alice Jeong, 17, of Gardena, Calif., a 5-and-3 winner over Julie Shutler of Manteca, Calif. Ku is headed to a U.S. Girls’ Junior sectional qualifier on Thursday in Philadelphia.
Two of McCloskey’s USA Curtis Cup teammates also survived. Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights, Calif., defeated fellow Southern Californian Victoria Fallgren of Lakewood, 3 and 2. Tubert defeated Katie Rose Higgins of Charleston, S.C., 2 and 1.
Tubert, a rising junior at the University of Arkansas, was mystified at the state of her game. “I feel lucky to get out of this match,” she said. “The trouble started on numbers four and five. I hit the weirdest tee balls and went from 2 up to 1 down in just three holes!”
Tubert was conceded an eagle-2 on the 295-yard, par-4 seventh. Hitting a slight draw with her 3-wood into a crosswind, Tubert watched her ball roll onto the green to within 10 feet of the hole.
Higgins missed the green on her second shot. When her chip came to rest outside of Tubert’s putt, she conceded the eagle and the match was square. Another conceded birdie at the eighth hole gave Tubert a 1-up lead.
After the victory, Tubert headed for the practice tee.
“I need to work out some stuff on the range and I definitely need to sort out my tee ball,” she said.
Tubert faces Doris Chen of Bradenton, Fla., a University of Southern California rising sophomore, in Thursday’s second round, a match featuring a pair of USGA champions from 2010
Lea Garner, 18, of Washington Terrace, Utah, upset Steffi Neisen, 20, of New Prague, Minn., 5 and 3. Neisen finished one stroke behind McCloskey in qualifying and was the No. 3 seed in the bracket.
The youngest remaining contestant is Allison Corpuz, 14, of Honolulu, Hawaii, who defeated 21-year-old Kelsey Vines of San Antonio, 2 and 1. Corpuz just completed the ninth grade at The Punahou School and four years ago surpassed Michelle Wie as the youngest competitor in WAPL history.
Also advancing to the second round was 2011 WAPL semifinalist Annie Park of Levittown, N.Y. She defeated Caroline Inglis of Eugene, Ore., 6 and 5, and will next face two-time Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup player Sally Watson.