Jessica Mason (Western Golf Association photo)
Jessica Mason and her caddie surveyed the first green at Prestwick Country Club, picking out a dark green spot that, if she hit it, would give her a good chance of winning the 95th Women’s Western Junior Championship.
Her putt was perfect, rolling over 30 feet of sloping green and into the cup for a 19-hole victory over Lisa Copeland, of Naperville, Illinois, in the championship match on Friday afternoon. The 18-year-old from Westminster, Colorado, pumped her fists in celebration. She was also a little surprised.
“There was a lot of break,” Mason said. “As it was heading there, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this has a chance. If I hit it hard enough, it’s in.’
“I really didn’t think I was going to make that putt.”
Mason, who plans to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, in the fall, led 2-up in the championship match after wins on Nos. 10 and 11. But bogeys on 13, 14 and 16 meant she had to win the 18th hole to force a playoff.
She found the fairway of the 398-yard par 4 while Copeland drove it into the left trees and had to punch out. Mason’s approach ran just through the green, and she was able to get it up and down for par. When Copeland’s par putt slid by, they were on to the first extra hole.
Both players had lengthy birdie putts on the first green. Mason relied on a read from her caddie, a regular Prestwick caddie named Michael, who filled in for her brother after he had to cancel plans to come to Prestwick at the last minute.
“Michael is just good at reading the greens. He knows where to miss it, and where not to miss it with some of the pins,” Mason said. “He kept me loose all week.”
Mason made the final by beating stroke-play medalist Addison Klonowski 1-up in a back-and-forth match on Friday morning. Copeland defeated 17-year-old Audrey Rischer, of Columbia, Missouri, 2 and 1 in the other semifinal. Copeland won three straight holes to take a 5-up lead through 11, ending Rischer’s run with pars on 16 and 17.
The 14-year-old rarely drove the ball past her playing partners this week, but she applied immense pressure by hitting accurate long irons and fairway woods into greens.
“I think my ball striking is one of the best parts of my game,” Copeland said. “I feel like it gives me a lot of confidence when I stick it closer than my opponent does from shorter distances.”
Mason took notice.
“She’s just a very solid player – I’m just going to say that right now,” Mason said. “She’s going to be very good.”
Mason joins past Western Junior champions like Candie Kung (1998), Christie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972, 1973, 1974). This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lopez’s historic win at the 1972 Western Junior, which was also played at Prestwick.
Lopez went on to repeat as Women’s Western Junior champion in 1973 and 1974 before winning the 1976 Women’s Western Amateur and embarking on a professional career that included 51 professional wins and three major championships.
“She obviously was a great player on the LPGA Tour,” Mason said. “It’s kind of cool that I could share that with her, and have my name on the same trophy as her.”
Match Play Results
Addison Klonowski, Naples, Fla., def. Kate Brody, Grand Blanc, Mich., 2 and 1
Brynn Kort, Henderson, Nev., def. Amelie Phung, Forest Hills, N.Y., 6 and 4
Lauren Pham, Las Vegas, Nev., def. Haley Davis, Ocala, Fla., 2 and 1
Jessica Mason, Westminster, Colo., def. Sayers Allen, Spring Branch, Texas, 1 up
Audrey Rischer, Columbia, Mo., def. Chloe Tarkany, Scottsdale, Az., 5 and 4
Kate Tilma, Wichita, Kan., def. Maria Jose Barragan, Morelia, Mexico, 2 and 1
Luisamariana Mesones, Lima, Peru, def. Vilda Westh Blanc, Sweden, 21 holes
Lisa Copeland, Naperville, Ill., def. Samantha Brown, Westfield, Ind., 21 holes
Klonowski def. Kort, 2 and 1
Mason def. Pham, 5 and 3
Rischer def. Tilma, 1 up
Copeland def. Mesones, 1 up
Mason def. Klonowski, 1 up
Copeland def. Rischer, 2 and 1
Mason def. Copeland, 19 holes
Courtesy of Western Golf Association