U.S. Junior Girls: Ko, Jutanugarn move on
Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko

DALY CITY, Calif. (July 18, 2012) -- Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko rolled to easy victories during Wednesday’s first round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,291-yard, par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club.

World No. 1 Ko only needed 12 holes to eliminate Mikayla Harmon, of Gilbert, Ariz., 7 and 6, while medalist and now World No. 2 Jutanugarn also cruised to a 6-and-5 victory over Ji Eun Baik, of Newnan, Ga.

Despite her wide margin of victory, Ko, 15, of New Zealand had to come from behind after dropping the first hole to Harmon with a bogey.

“I had a great drive, and I nearly shanked [my approach shot] and it went way right,” said Ko, who will meet Hee Wook Choi, of San Diego, Calif., Thursday morning in the round of 32. ‘I was like, ‘Ooh, what is today going to bring me?’ ”

In the end, the day brought victory, as Ko immediately won the second hole to square the match and never again trailed. She shot the equivalent of four under par, with the usual match-play concessions.

“I don’t think there were much negatives in my round today,” said the second-seeded Ko, winner of the 2012 Australian Amateur and New South Wales Open. “It’s good to see my scores improving day by day.”

Top-seeded Jutanugarn continued her mastery of the Girls’ Junior. The defending champion threw six birdies at Baik en route to shooting the equivalent of six under par.

“I’m really excited because I played a lot better than yesterday and the day before,” said a confident Jutanugarn.

Next to try and stop the Jutanugarn reign will be 2010 runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh. The 17-year-old from Goose Creek, S.C., trailed by as many as three holes to Minjia Luo, of San Diego, Calif.

But Dambaugh used her come-from-behind experiences at previous Girls’ Juniors to her advantage and took the match, 1 up, with a par at the 18th.

“I tried not to get too down on myself and always have fun, and let it come to me,” said Dambaugh, who will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2013. “I couldn’t really read putts well. I just didn’t have many fall for me. Luckily, I made it through.”

Julia Beck, of Austin, Texas, and Rinko Mitsunaga, of Roswell, Ga., scored the day’s major upsets, eliminating third-seeded Annie Park (4 and 3) and fourth-seeded Jordan Ferreira (3 and 2), respectively. Both players survived Tuesday night’s 12-for-4 playoff for the final match-play berths.

Mitsunaga, a 15-year-old who competed in this month’s U.S. Women’s Open, suffered from debilitating leg pain early in the match, something she pins on her competitive schedule over the past few weeks.

“At about the fourth hole, my legs started really hurting and I couldn’t walk,” said Mitsunaga, who is competing in her third Girls’ Junior. “I couldn’t focus for a few holes, but I pulled it together. I just got lucky and birdied the holes that I needed to.”

Nicole Morales, 16, of South Salem, N.Y., had the round of the day, winning her first eight holes en route to a 9-and-8 rout of Tennessean Lauren Johnson.

“I could have gone nine up through nine,” said Morales, winner of the 2011 Polo Golf Junior Classic. “I had a birdie putt up the hill and it was about an inch short. But no complaints – I was really happy with the way I played today and hopefully I’ll bring into tomorrow.”

Morales will square off next with Kathleen Scavo, of Benicia, Calif. Scavo, one of two Northern Californians remaining, eliminated Texan Lindsey McCurdy, 1 up.

Karen Chung, the 2008 runner-up from Livingston, N.J., drained a clutch 13-foot birdie on the 18th hole to force extra holes against Courtney Dow, of Frisco, Texas. Chung, in her final year of Girls’ Junior eligibility, took the victory in 19 holes and will face Casie Cathrea, a local favorite from Livermore, Calif., in Thursday’s second round.

Other notables to advance included 2012 Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up Ashlan Ramsey (5 and 4 over Danielle Lee), 2011 Girls’ Junior semifinalists Amy Lee (5 and 4 over Jennifer Yu) and Yu Liu (3 and 2 over Lyberty Anderson), and 2012 Mexican Women’s Amateur champion Marijosse Navarro (3 and 2 over Bailey Tardy).

The U.S. Girls’ Junior continues Thursday with the second and third rounds of match play. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are on Friday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Saturday.

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

ABOUT THE U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur

The Girls Junior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted by the USGA. The event is open to female golfers who have not reached their 18th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 18.4. 36 hole stroke play qualifying from which 64 players advance to match play. Regional qualifying held at sites around the United States.

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