Historic Triumph for Korean Teenager Seong

Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club, Sabah

Seong Eun-jeong retained her US Girls’ Junior Championship trophy. Picture by USGA
Seong Eun-jeong retained her US Girls’ Junior Championship trophy. Picture by USGA

New Jersey, United States: Korean Seong Eun-jeong rallied from an early deficit to defeat Andrea Lee, 4 and 2, in the final match to win the 68th US Girls’ Junior Championship.
In so doing, she became the first back-to-back champion since Hollis Stacy won her third straight in 1971.
“It’s a little bit different feel than last year,” said Seong. “Last year, it was a little bit hard. But I trusted myself today, and I have confidence. This morning was so hard because I was losing five-down, but it was okay because I had a lot of holes (left).”
Seong, who was five-down through 13 holes of the 36-hole match, is only the third player to win consecutive titles, joining Stacy and Judy Eller (1957 and 1958). Stacy also won three US Women’s Open Championships.
The 16-year-old champion joined Stacy, Eller and Nancy Lopez (1972 and 1974) as the fourth multiple winner of the championship.
In the morning round, 17-year-old Lee, an incoming freshman at Stanford University, won six of the first 11 holes to stake a five-up lead. However, the 2015 champion rebounded to win three of the next four holes, two by birdies, to cut Lee’s lead to three-up through 15 holes.
Lee, a three-time quarter-finalist in five Girls’ Juniors, added her sixth birdie (against two bogeys) of the morning 18 on the par-four 16th for a four-up advantage, but lost the 18th with bogey for a lead of three-up at the lunch break.
Seong, who had made three birdies and four bogeys, won four of the last seven holes for a swing in momentum as the players reached the half-way point.
“I’m proud of myself,” said Lee, a member of last month’s USA Curtis Cup team. “This is my first time reaching the finals of a USGA championship and I’m just really thankful to have gotten this far. It was a great match today against my friend, and I played really well in the morning, had her down, but she just played really great in the afternoon.”
Seong, runner-up in the 2014 US Women’s Amateur Public Links, began the afternoon 18 with a flourish, winning holes 19, 22 and 23 to square the match.
The pair swapped the next four holes to keep the match square, but then Seong made her move.
She made a seven-foot birdie putt on the 29th hole to gain her first lead of the match. Faced with an uphill, almost-blind third shot from the left edge of the fairway on the next hole, the par-five 30th, Seong launched a 60-degree wedge from 42 yards that hit the flagstick and dropped in the hole for a winning eagle and a two-up lead.
On the 32nd, Seong won with a par when Lee three-putted the sloping green for a three-up lead. After the pair halved the par-three 33rd, Seong hit the green in regulation on the 34th and Lee missed the green in the back-left rough. Lee’s chip stopped 15 short of the hole.
Seong acknowledges the applause of the gallery. Picture by USGA
Seong acknowledges the applause of the gallery. Picture by USGA

Seong then holed a 40-foot birdie putt to win the hole and the match.
The pair had previously met in the quarter-finals of the 2014 US Women’s Amateur, with Lee taking a 2-and-1 victory and a place in the semi-finals.
The 2016 US Girls’ Junior Championship consisted of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play.
The winner receives a gold medal and custody of the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy for one year while both Seong and Lee gain exemptions into next month’s US Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club.

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