Medalist Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., survived a marathon day of golf on Thursday at Poppy Hills Golf Course, winning three matches covering a total of 43 holes to advance to the Quarterfinals of the weather-delayed 70th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
For the third consecutive day, fog delayed the start of play, which has created havoc with the schedule and forced competitors into longer-than-normal days. Li was one of four competitors to complete her Round-of-16 match before play was suspended for the day due to darkness shortly after 8 p.m. PDT.
The Round of 16 will resume on Friday at 7 a.m. – weather permitting – followed by the scheduled Quarterfinal and Semifinal matches. The 36-hole championship match is set for Saturday. So far this week, fog has caused delays totaling 9¼ hours.
Li, No. 10 in the latest Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), had her Round-of-64 match suspended after nine holes on Wednesday night due to fog and darkness, and then needed to hole a birdie putt on the par-5 18th to outlast No. 64 seed Cory Lopez, of Mexico, 1 up.
She then rallied from an early deficit to defeat Jing Wen Lu, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, 3 and 2, before grinding out a 1-up victory over Amari Avery, 14, of Riverside, Calif.
Against Avery, Li built as much as a 4-up lead through eight holes before the Southern Californian began to peck away at the deficit. Avery, who played 42 holes on Thursday, had a chance to force extra holes for a third consecutive match, but missed an uphill 20-footer for birdie on the 18th green. Li then stepped up and converted her short par putt to earn her first trip to the Quarterfinals in four U.S. Girls’ Junior appearances.
“I played really badly on the back nine,” said Li, who shot 11-under 131 in stroke play to miss the 36-hole championship record by a stroke. “I could have ended a lot earlier. But I mean, making that 4-footer on the last hole definitely gives me confidence [going into Friday].”
Li, who helped the USA reclaim the Curtis Cup last month at Quaker Ridge Golf Club, will face Doey Choi, 18, of Australia after Choi dispatched 2016 Girls’ Junior semifinalist Yujeong Son, 17, of Norman, 2 and 1. The key moment came on the 15th green where Choi, competing in her first U.S. Girls’ Junior, made a birdie to go 2 up with three to play. Two ensuing pars closed out the match. Choi is bidding to become the second Australian to win this championship – Minjee Lee won in 2012.
“I’m really excited,” said Choi. “I played quite solid today, which is nice. I’m getting used to the conditions out there, so it was comfortable when I was playing today.”
Choi’s fellow Aussie, Stephanie Kyriacou, wasn’t so fortunate, as Alexa Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla., earned a hard-fought 1-up victory in the Round of 16. The youngest remaining competitor stuffed a knockdown pitching wedge on the 118-yard, par-3 17th hole to 6 feet for a winning birdie. Kyriacou had one last chance to force extra holes on No. 18, but missed a 12-footer from below the hole.
“I’m just so happy that we got [the match] in,” said Pano, who completed her opening-round match before darkness on Wednesday and played 33 holes on Thursday. “I know a bunch of my friends [had a lot of golf to play] and I felt awfully for them. It was really nice to come out, relax and do a regular routine.”