Taylor Roberts celebrates her match winning putt on the 19th hole against Haley Moore
AUGUSTA, MO (July 27, 2017) – Taylor Roberts, of Parkland, Fla., the 60th seed in the match-play bracket, birdied the 19th hole on Thursday to defeat Haley Moore, the 20th-ranked amateur in the world, and advance to the quarterfinals of the 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, which is being played on Boone Valley Golf Club’s par-71, 6,311-yard course.
Roberts, 15, lost three consecutive holes to Moore, 18, of Escondido, Calif., slipping to 1 down with two holes to play. She squared the match on the 17th hole, and after the players matched pars on No. 18, Roberts hoisted a 3-hybrid shot to within 5 feet of the hole on the par-4 first. Roberts made the putt to defeat Moore, No. 20 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and the runner-up in the 2016 NCAA Championship.
Roberts is No. 1,852 in the world ranking, but those numbers didn’t matter as they stepped to the tee of the 371-yard, par-4 first hole.
As she had for much of the day, Moore outdrove Roberts, who faced a long, uphill approach shot.
“I hit a 3-hybrid – it was 179 yards, but I played it as 195,” said Roberts. “My caddie told me to aim a little right, but I’m like, I’m going right at it, and it was probably the best shot I’ve ever hit. It was right on the money and then it landed, and I’m like, oh my god, it’s 3 to 5 feet. And then I made the putt, which was incredible.”
Roberts defeated the No. 5 seed, Zoe Campos, in 22 holes in Wednesday’s Round of 64, then she edged Natasha Andrea Oon, of Malaysia, 1 up, in the morning Round of 32 to earn the matchup with Moore. Roberts got to Boone Valley and her first USGA championship by prevailing in a three-hole playoff in sectional qualifying at Hobe Sound (Fla.) Golf Club.
“I guess I’m used to playing under pressure,” said Roberts, who is home-schooled and has verbally committed to Florida State University in 2020. She did not realize that Moore was No. 20 in the world. “I didn’t know a lot of things coming into this week. Every part of it has been incredible.”
Roberts will square off against 29th-seeded Celeste Dao, of Canada, in Friday’s quarterfinal round. Dao, 16, of suburban Montreal, eked out a 19-hole win over 12-year-old Izzy Pellot, of Orlando, Fla., on Thursday morning, then defeated Brianna Navarossa, 4 and 3, in the afternoon.
Jennifer Chang, 17, of Cary, N.C., the No. 16 seed, defeated So Whi Kang, 3 and 2, and Yu-Sang Hou, 2 and 1, to advance to the quarterfinals. Chang, a three-time North Carolina high school champion, is the highest-ranked player in the world in the championship’s final eight at No. 96.
Hou had produced the first of the day’s several upsets in the morning, ousting the championship’s medalist, Lucy Li, who shot rounds of 71-66 to land the No. 1 seed in match play. Li made a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to cut her deficit to one hole, but an errant approach shot on the next hole sealed her defeat.
Chang, who plans to attend the University of Southern California in 2018, will square off against Calista Reyes, of San Diego, in Friday’s quarterfinals. Reyes, 17, topped Karah Sanford, 2 and 1, on Thursday morning before defeating Annick Haczkiewicz in 19 holes in the afternoon. Reyes missed a short putt on No. 18 to end that match, but rebounded for a winning par on the next hole.
“I was really surprised to miss that putt on 18th hole, but I was able to pull it together and tell myself there would be chances to get it back,” said Reyes, one of 24 Californians who qualified for the championship and the last one standing. “I’m super-excited I got this far. It was exciting to see the TV cameras start coming out today.”
The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will both be played on Friday. The championship concludes with a 36-hole final on Saturday, starting at 7 a.m. CDT. FS1 (Fox Sports 1) will broadcast the semifinals and the championship match on July 28 and 29 from 3-5 p.m. and 2-4 p.m., respectively.
Ami Gianchandani, 17, of Watchung, N.J., provided a dramatic finish of her own, saving par from behind the 18th green to defeat the No. 2 seed, Paphangkorn Tavatanakit, of Thailand. Tavatanakit, 17, who is No. 32 in the world and competed in the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago, also hit her approach over the 18th green, then burned the edge of the hole with her par attempt from 10 feet. Gianchandani, who has no world ranking, was bunkered off the tee and her pitch shot left her a 4-foot putt, which she converted to move into the quarterfinals.
“Out of the bunker, I was talking to my caddie, and I said, I have to go for it,” said Gianchandani, the 50th seed, who topped Ellie Szeryk, 3 and 2, in the morning. “It’s on this hole I’m going to win it or lose it. I took a very risky shot with a hybrid.”
“This is my third time playing in this championship and my first time making the cut [into match play], so that was my goal coming here,” she said. “I can’t believe I'm going to the Round of 8.”
She will take on Elizabeth Moon, of Forrest City, Ark., who defeated Ivy Shepherd and No. 7 seed Alexa Pano, both by 3-and-2 margins. Moon, who is competing in her first USGA championship, shot her lowest competitive score, a 66, to earn a place in the field. Moon qualified as the No. 42 seed.
The final quarterfinal pits No. 35 seed Erica Shepherd, of Greenwood, Ind., against No. 11 Youngin Chun, of Gainesville, Fla. Shepherd ousted Yujeong Son, a semifinalist in this championship last year, 2 and 1, in the afternoon after eliminating Nicole Whiston, 3 and 1, in the morning.
“I started off 2 down on the front nine, and I wasn't really hitting it as solid as I had been,” said Shepherd. “So I was kind of down, but then at the turn, I regrouped and won the first hole, and I was on a roll after that.”
Chun, No. 206 in the world, rolled to an 8-and-7 win over Haylin Harris to earn her quarterfinal berth after defeating Stephanie Carras, 2 up, in the morning.
Provided they remain age-eligible, all quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Poppy Hills Golf Course, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (July 16-21). The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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