Eun Jeong Seong, of the Republic of Korea, led for all but two holes in a decisive 3-and-2 victory over Angel Yin, of Arcadia, Calif., in the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship’s final on Saturday at Tulsa Country Club.
In what would be her only lead of the day, Yin, 16, sank her 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first hole after the two long-hitters each cut the corner of the dogleg-right opening hole. This was the first time Seong, 15, had lost the first hole since Wednesday’s Round of 64.
She rebounded quickly, however, squaring the match on the next hole with a 13-foot putt for birdie. By the fourth hole, she was 2 up, and Yin would get no closer than that for the remainder of the match.
“I'm happy, I’m very happy,” said a joyful Seong about the win. “I thank my mom, who is in Korea. She cannot sleep because she’s watching the cellphone, and she said every day, cheer up, cheer up and enjoy playing, and she told me I can do it.”
Seong, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up, also credited her experience from that championship with helping her keep calm during today’s final match, a demeanor she needed against a determined Yin.
After finding herself in a tough spot in the back bunker on the 14th hole and facing a 5-down deficit, Yin settled down on No. 15, where she sank a right-to-left 10-footer for birdie. Yin’s par-saving putts on Nos. 16 through 18 held Seong to a 4-up lead heading into the midday break.
“The first 18 was tough,” said Yin, who burned the edges on six putts and failed to take advantage of some good birdie opportunities. “I don't think I played that well, and I kind of just – estimating my score, I was like 3-over. I can say that was like the worst round I played all week.”
“This morning, Angel made so many mistakes on the front nine,” added Seong. “That's why I had confidence. But she play(ed) in the afternoon so very well.”
Yin returned from the break with a birdie on the 19th hole, mimicking her morning’s success on the par-4 first hole. Seong, however, answered with a birdie of her own on No. 21, regaining her 4-up lead.
From Nos. 22 through 30, Yin applied pressure to her opponent. She converted a 12-footer for birdie at the par-3 24th hole. Seong then made her biggest mistake of the championship match at the par-4 28th, hitting her tee shot far to the right and into a water hazard and providing Yin a prime opportunity to attack. Yin’s 3-foot comebacker for par cut the deficit to 2 down.
Sticking to her long-hitting game plan, Seong drove the green on the 245-yard 31st hole, setting up a two-putt birdie that effectively shuttered Yin’s comeback. She ultimately captured the victory with a two-putt par at the 34th hole, after Yin’s 8-footer to extend the match lipped out.
Not only did the match showcase two talented young golfers, it was also a lesson in sportsmanship and camaraderie as the two girls who live an ocean apart walked together on several holes, sharing an umbrella and a laugh.
The umbrella played a crucial role in keeping both players reasonably cool on a hot Tulsa day where temperatures reached the high 90s and heat indices soared into the triple digits.
“I know I have the game because I've been fixing it, and then I came here, and then the heat took me,” said Yin of the stifling Tulsa sunshine. “I'm physically not up with this, especially with the weather.”
Seong and Yin both receive exemptions into the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, to be conducted Aug. 10-16 at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. Both players were already exempt into the championship by virtue of play in previous events. Seong will also receive an exemption into the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be held at Rolling Green Golf Club, in Springfield, Pa., as well as an exemption into all remaining U.S. Girls’ Juniors through her 18th birthday, while Yin receives a three-year Girls’ Junior exemption.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.