(Pebble Beach, Calif.) - Competitors in the 70th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship have had two opponents this week: a challenging Poppy Hills Golf Course and Northern California coastal fog.
On Tuesday, the second round of stroke play was delayed 4½ hours, and a day later, the suspended round could not be started until 9:45 a.m. PDT, a delay of 2 hours, 45 minutes.
The first Round-of-64 match went off the first tee at 3:45 p.m., and six matches never started before darkness and heavy fog halted play for the day shortly after 8 p.m. Matches are set to resume at 7 a.m. on Thursday, weather permitting. The completion of the Round of 32, as well as the Round of 16 are scheduled to be contested on Thursday.
The quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for Friday, with the 36-hole championship match on Saturday.
Sisters Yu Wen Lu, 15, and Jing Wen Lu, 18, both from the People’s Republic of China and competing in their first U.S. Girls’ Junior, were two of the five competitors to finish; the former defeating Haeley Wotnosky, 2 and 1, and the latter edging Maria Jose Martinez Almeida, of Mexico, 1 up. Almeida’s younger sister, Maria Fernanda, also was eliminated on Wednesday by Heeji Kim, 16, of the Republic of Korea, 5 and 4.
Alexa Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla., lost the opening hole to University of Oregon rising sophomore Shotika Phadungmartvorakul, 18, of Bakersfield, Calif., before winning seven of the next 11 holes in rolling to a 6-and-5 victory. Doey Choi, 18, of Australia, built as much as a 4-up lead on 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball co-runner-up Ya Chun Chang, of Chinese Taipei, before settling for a 2-and-1 victory.
Round 2 of stroke play concluded slightly after 1 p.m. with Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., officially earning medalist honors for a second consecutive year. The No. 9 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) who helped the USA reclaim the Curtis Cup last month posted a 36-hole total of 11-under 131, one stroke shy of the championship record. She is the seventh player to win consecutive Girls’ Juniors.
Fellow Northern Californian Yealimi Noh, 16, of Concord, who won last week’s Girls Junior PGA Championship with a record 24-under-par total, made a strong bid to match Li, getting to 8 under par thru 25 holes before settling for a 1-under 70 and a 6-under 136 total.
The cut for match play came at 9-over 151 with a 14-for-10 playoff deciding the final spots in the draw. The playoff was conducted on holes 17 and 18 and lasted four holes and 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Abbey Daniel, 17, of Covington, La., and Elizabeth Caldarelli, 18, of Scottsdale, Ariz., each recorded holes-in-one on the 134-yard 17th hole. Daniel’s came with a pitching wedge during the second round of stroke play, while Caldarelli aced the hole with a 9-iron on the third playoff hole of the 14-for-10 playoff. They are the 19th and 20th holes-in-one in U.S. Girls’ Junior history, and the first since 2012.
Notable players who failed to qualify for match play include 2017 semifinalist Elizabeth Moon, 2017 quarterfinalist Ami Gianchandani and four-time U.S. Girls’ Junior qualifier Malia Nam.
Stacy Lewis, a 12-time LPGA Tour winner, was on the grounds Wednesday. Lewis’ husband, Gerrod Chadwell, is the head women’s golf coach at the University of Houston and is here recruiting future players. Lewis played her final tournament of 2018 last weekend in Sylvania, Ohio, before taking a hiatus for the impending birth of the couple’s first child.
Eight of the 16 past Drive, Chip & Putt finalists qualified for match play, including medalist Lucy Li, who won the 10-11 division in the inaugural year (2014).
The youngest (11-year-old Avery Zweig) and oldest (18-year-old Elizabeth Caldarelli) competitors in the field this week qualified for match play.
All seven golfers in the top 100 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) advanced to match play, as did all eight of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open competitors.
Of the 64 players in match play, 39 are Americans and 25 are internationals. California leads the way with 15 players.
Yu Wen Lu, 15, of the People’s Republic of China on playing in the fog:
“A few holes, I just kind of had to wait it out. On the 15th hole, the second shot, I could barely see the pin. I just waited for like a minute for the fog to clear. If we would have had to play one more hole, I don’t think we would have made it because the fog was getting pretty heavy.”
Lu on completing her Round-of-64 match:
“It’s really bad right now, so I am really happy we got [the match] done today.”
Yealimi Noh (66-70–166), 16, of Concord, Calif., on not using a caddie during stroke play:
“My friend (Yoonhee Kim) came up to caddie for me in match play. In stroke play, I like playing by myself. A caddie is OK, but I like being in my own zone. Even raking bunkers and pushing a cart is part of my routine. It’s what I do in [most junior tournaments] because we don’t have caddies.”
Noh on having to complete the second round on Wednesday after another fog delay:
“I really wish we were able to get in more holes yesterday and not have that really big delay. The second round, when I was playing at 6:30 [p.m.], I was hitting it really, really well. My putting was good. Everything was clicking, but I wasn’t able to continue [due to darkness].”