Incoming Stanford freshman Ye grinds out U.S. Girls' Junior win
Lei Ye (USGA/Steve Gibbons)
Lei Ye (USGA/Steve Gibbons)

The spoils are many for a U.S. Girls’ Junior victory, and Lei Ye stands to reap them. The 18-year-old incoming Stanford freshman defeated Jillian Bourdage Saturday in the 36-hole final at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis. Expect to see Ye at the U.S. Women’s Amateur next month, plus the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open.

Ye earned every start, because Bourdage hardly folded easily. Seven times in the championship match, Bourdage managed to win a hole after losing the previous one. That played a big role in the length of the match. It went all the way to the 36th hole, at which point Bourdage, a 17-year-old from Tamarac, Fla., had an opportunity to force extra holes by making a 5 footer.

She stroked what she thought was a perfect putt. But this time, the ball trailed off to the left at the very end, sending Bourdage to her knees in disbelief.

Ye, 18, then stepped up and converted her 3-foot par putt to secure a 1-up victory, becoming the second player from China to win a USGA championship.

“This tournament is the ultimate achievement of junior golf, so yeah, it's been a perfect ending,” said Ye, who played her final junior competition this week.

“That last putt, though it was three feet, I was definitely nervous. It's a big putt. I just told myself, you've practiced this thousands and thousands of times, you could do it in your sleep.”

For Ye, her big moment came at the par-4 17th in the afternoon – the 35th hole.

Ye took an aggressive line off the tee on the dogleg-right, leaving just 105 yards to the flagstick. Her approach with a gap wedge stopped 6 feet from the flagstick and she calmly converted.

"On 17 I saw her hit it left, and I thought it might have gone in the water (the ball stayed dry),” said Ye. “I mean, it didn't change too much how I was going to approach that shot because it was 105 yards, which is a wedge shot, which I have been hitting well this week, so I just thought that I'd land it about 100 [yards], a couple yards right on that slope and have it carry it down towards the flag.”

Ye’s last major win was at the Annika Invitational in early 2018. She also won a junior event in China later that year and made two pro starts in China, then was runner-up at the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational to start a year in which she also was invited to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (she missed the 36-hole cut).

The Girls’ Junior win should relieve from pressure from Ye’s immediate future.

“I think it's definitely a relief, especially knowing that the Women's Open qualifier is going to be around [NCAA] regionals, around finals … there's going to be a lot going on,” she said. “So yeah, having that is really amazing. And the Augusta one, it's the golf course. It's the golf course to play around here, you know. So hopefully I can go back and do better this year [after missing the cut in April].”

Ye will see several Stanford players at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, including fellow incoming freshman Brooke Seay, whom she defeated in the quarterfinals on Friday. Also in the field is 2016 runner-up and world No. 5 Albane Valenzuela, two-time USA Curtis Cup competitor Andrea Lee, and 2016 USA Curtis Cup competitor and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion Mika Liu.

Quotes and information from the USGA used in this report

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ABOUT THE U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur

The Girls Junior Amateur is one of 14 national championships conducted by the USGA. The event is open to female golfers who have not reached their 19th birthday prior to the close of competition and whose USGA Handicap Index does not exceed 9.4. 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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