Fort Wayne (incnow.tv)- – “You're going to play your friends and there's nothing you can do.”
Those words from U.S. Girls’ Junior stroke-play medalist Bailey Tardy spoke volumes about her 1-up victory over Abbey Carlson during Wednesday’s first round of match play at the 2013 championship, being conducted at Sycamore Hills Golf Club. Sometimes victory isn’t always sweet.
The 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship is open to female amateur golfers under the age of 18. It consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Tardy and Carlson are very close friends, having been East teammates at the Wyndham Cup held earlier this month. When Carlson grabbed the last championship match-play berth by winning Tuesday’s playoff, Tardy knew that their faceoff would be bittersweet.
“Today was really hard,” said Tardy, 16, of Norcross, Ga. “I was happy she won the playoff, but it was really sad that we had to play each other and one of us was going to get beat.”
Tardy went to the par-5 15th facing a 2-down deficit. However, she knew that her superior length off the tee, aided by the wind at her back, could work to her advantage. Both players went for the green in two and while Carlson was unable to convert her up-and-down, Tardy successfully reached the green and won the hole with a two-putt birdie.
“That was kind of a turning point and got all my adrenaline flowing,” said Tardy, who used that adrenaline to launch her tee shot at the par-4 17th 40 yards longer than usual. Her short par putt was conceded and when Carlson sent her par attempt past the hole, the match was all square.
In front of her future college coach, Josh Brewer of the University of Georgia, Tardy neatly placed her approach to the par-4 18th in the center of the green, and her short par putt was conceded. Carlson was unable to make par, giving Tardy the 1-up victory.
“It was really hard to make birdies today. Nothing was going in for me,” said Tardy, who reached her pre-championship goal of bettering her 2012 Girls’ Junior performance, when she lost in the first round to Marijosse Navarro. “In the end it didn't matter. It was stressful, but I won.”
Sabrina Bonanno made a comeback of her own, but one of much larger proportions. The 17-year-old from Norridge, Ill., found herself 4 down after six holes in her match with Aliea Clark, having shot the equivalent of five over, with the usual match-play concessions.
“I was ready to be just like, OK, well it's hers,” said Bonanno. “Making the turn, I started to get some shots to go in, saving some good bunker shots and then they just started going in even more.”
Bonanno’s 3-under inward nine, combined with Clark’s sudden struggles, erased her deficit and brought the match to all square heading to the par-4 18th. Clark’s approach found the left greenside bunker, while Bonanno’s ball settled in the rough between the bunker and green, about 10 yards shy of the hole.
“I was just (thinking), don't skull it across the green, because that's just something I would do,” said Bonanno. “Somehow I was calm.”
Her chip shot neatly bounced off the flagstick, giving Bonanno a tap-in par and a hard-earned victory. She knows how lucky she is to be moving on in the championship.
“If that was stroke play, I would have put myself out of the tournament,” said Bonanno. “But in match play, anything goes.”
Like Bonanno, Maria Fassi was 4 down in her match with Allisen Corpuz. The 15-year-old from Mexico rattled off a string of three consecutive birdies at holes 12-14 and capped the comeback with an eagle-3 at the par-5 15th to square the match. Corpuz held strong and sent the match to extra holes, but Fassi birdied the par-5 second hole to win in 20 holes.
At the young age of 15, Megan Khang is already a seasoned Girls’ Junior competitor. She is competing in her fifth championship, having first qualified at age 11 in 2009. When she saw her competitor Alice Chen send her tee shot into the trees at the par-4 eighth, the experienced Khang knew it was time to make her move.
“I went up to my chip thinking, just get it on the green and two putt and I would probably still win the hole,” said Khang, who did just that to square the match. “That's when things started to turn in my favor.”
Khang, of Rockland, Mass., converted a 21-foot birdie at the par-4 ninth to take a 1-up lead and never looked back. She ultimately took a 2-and-1 victory with an aggressive approach from 110 yards, sticking it to 3 feet for birdie and the win.
Defending champion Minjee Lee showed the field that she would not easily relinquish her hold on the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy. The 17-year-old Australian never trailed in her 5-and-4 victory over Kaitlyn Papp.
Second-seeded Lilia Khatu Vu advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Alexis Monet Flores. Andrea Lee, who held the lead following the first round of stroke play, bounced back from a difficult Tuesday and captured a 4-and-2 victory over Sarah Burnham.
Three players with recent U.S. Women’s Open experience advanced to Thursday’s second round. Casie Cathrea, the low amateur at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club, won the last three holes to take a 2-up victory over Lyberty Anderson, while Yueer Feng, who played in her third Women’s Open this year, quickly dispatched Dana Gattone by a 7-and-6 margin, the most lopsided match of the first round. 2012 Women’s Open competitor Hannah O’Sullivan eliminated Emily Mahar by a 6-and-5 margin.
Two sets of sisters reached match play, but in each duo, the younger sister failed to advance. Hana Ku and Gabriella Then won their first-round matches, while younger siblings Anina Ku and Angella Then were eliminated.
One notable who was eliminated from the championship today was Amy Lee, a semifinalist at the 2011 Girls’ Junior. She fell, 3 and 2, to Emily Campbell.
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