Women's Western Junior: Washington's Suzie Tran exceeds her goals, wins the final
Suzie Tran shows the joy of sinking the winning putt (Western G.A. photo)
Suzie Tran shows the joy of sinking the winning putt (Western G.A. photo)

Suzie Tran stood on the 15th hole at Greenbriar Hills Country Club, wiped the sweat off her brow and took a deep breath.

She sat 2-down in the final of the 96th Women’s Western Junior against Lisa Herman, a 15-year-old from Jenks, Oklahoma, who appeared unbeatable after sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 13.

“Lisa was on fire, so I knew I just had to keep hoping the putter would get hot and I’d start to see some go in,” Tran said. “I couldn’t give up.”

The putter got hot, indeed.

Tran – a 17-year-old from Poulsbo, Washington – embarked on a four-hole run that gave her the championship. She started by launching a drive down the 15th fairway, hitting her approach to eight feet and rolling in the birdie putt to cut the deficit to 1 down.

“Once I made one, I told myself we could just keep going,” she said.

On the 165-yard, par-3 16th, Tran hit a high draw that curled over the right bunker and settled within 10 feet of the flagstick. Tran’s birdie putt never left the hole and dropped in the cup to tie the match.

It was the lone birdie recorded on No. 16 across the four rounds of match play.

Tran and Herman each recorded pars on the 17th, leaving the match – and the Icely Cup – to be decided on the par-4 18th. After each player found the fairway off the tee, Herman hit her approach onto the right side of the sprawling green, leaving her nearly 60 feet from the hole.

“I had 125 yards between me and the hole,” Tran said. “I was just imagining a nice, smooth swing, hoping I could get it on the green and give myself a putt to win.”

A nice, smooth swing helped Tran’s ball settle just 12 feet from the hole. Herman wouldn’t go down without a fight. Her birdie attempt rode the sloping green and trickled to three feet.

With the par conceded, Tran had an opportunity to complete the comeback and win with a birdie. Tran pumped her fist in the air as the ball dropped to the center of the cup.

“Watching it go in was such a special feeling,” Tran said. “That match was such a grind with how amazing Lisa was playing, and to be able to pull it out in the end was a really amazing rush.”

The duo battled through temperatures well over 100 degrees in the St. Louis area, trading birdies in a back-and-forth match.

Herman – who defeated medalist Kennedy Swedick, of Albany, New York, in 20 holes in the semifinals – jumped out to a strong start by winning the first three holes. Tran, fresh off a 3-and-1 win over Vilda Westh Blanc of Sweden in the semifinals, responded by winning the next two.

Herman led steadily over the next nine holes until Tran took over.

“I’m really happy with how I played this entire week,” Herman said. “It was disappointing to come up one shot short, but Suzie played really well, and I hope I can play even better next year.”

With the win, Tran joins past Western Junior champions like Candie Kung (1998), Christie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972, 1973, 1974). Tran, a University of Michigan verbal commit, is the second Wolverine to win the Women’s Western Junior in the past three years, joining Mara Janess, who won at Aurora Country Club in 2021.

“I came into the week just hoping to make match play,” Tran said. “I think I can call the week a success.”

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ABOUT THE Women's Western Junior

The The Western Golf Association (WGA) has partnered with the Women’s Western Golf Association to administer the Women’s Western Junior, which was first held in 1920. The championship features an outstanding field of competitors, many of whom go on to become top amateur and college players. Notable past champions include Cristie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993) and Nancy Lopez (1972-74).

The field is comprised of top-ranked amateurs who are 18 years or younger and carry a handicap index of 9.4 or lower. The tournament begins with 36 holes of stroke play to establish 16 match play qualifiers.

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