August 7, 2019 9:04:44 AM
What a summer it has been for golfers from the People's Republic of China. Shanshan Feng ended a two-year victory drought on the LPGA Tour in early July. Then two weeks ago, Lei Ye became just the second player from the country to win a USGA championship when she claimed the U.S. Girls' Junior title. And a week earlier, Bo Jin advanced to the U.S. Junior Amateur final.
On Tuesday, Jin's younger sister, Jiarui, made some history of her own in the 119th U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club. The 16-year-old carded a bogey-free, 6-under 66 - matching the lowest score of the week - in the second and final round of stroke play to share medalist honors with fellow teen Alexa Pano.
Pano, 14, of Lake Worth, Fla., the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Girls' Junior, had earlier posted a 4-under 68 for a 36-hole total of 6-under 138.
No playoff was required for the final match-play spots as exactly 64 players posted 3-over 145 or better.
"Me and Angelina [Ye] are really good friends, and we're both from China," said Jin, the first Chinese player to earn medalist honors in the Women's Amateur. "It makes me really happy to see so many Chinese people are playing well. Yeah, it's great, and I will try my best to do well."
Jin, who started on No. 10, played her first nine holes in 2-under 34 before catching fire on her second nine, making birdies on four of the first five holes of the outward nine. Committed to attend the University of Southern California in 2021, Jin had a chance to reach 7 under par for the day and championship, but her 10-footer on the par-5 ninth just missed.
"My putting was really good today, and I made a lot of birdies," Jin said. "And my driver was also good. I made a lot of fairways today, which is really important for this course."
Pano, meanwhile, also made history as she is believed to be the second-youngest medalist in championship history, seven months older than Lydia Ko, who was 14 years, 4 months when she was the co-medalist in 2011 at Rhode Island Country Club.
The No. 37 player in the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking&153; had a strong second nine with four birdies, including a 10-footer on the par-5 ninth, her last of the day.
"I kind of knew because I saw a couple of my friends were at 5 [under], but there aren't many [scoreboards] on the front nine," said Pano on where she stood among the leaders. "I kind of had a little bit of an idea, though.
"The past few years I've been really close to top seed. Last year, I doubled the final hole [and] I was the fifth seed, and the year before I was like maybe seventh seed and I lost in the first round both times. To be honest with you, the higher the seed, I better, I suppose. Like my dad [and caddie] said, I can't go out and play for second."
Pano, who will represent the USA in next month's Junior Solheim Cup in Scotland, and Jin never had to sweat out the cut, even if they were literally sweating on the golf course. Temperatures climbed into the low 90s with a heat index near triple digits.
Incoming Auburn University freshman Megan Schofill, 18, of Monticello, Fla., and Louisville University senior Lauren Hartlage, 21, of Elizabethtown, Ky., each finished one stroke back at 139.
Hartlage, who posted a 71 on Tuesday, had a chance to earn medalist honors outright with a birdie or tie Pano and Jin on No. 18, but a wayward drive led to her only bogey of the day. She began the round with 14 consecutive pars before collecting birdies on Nos. 15 and 17.
"I definitely wanted to make par on the last hole," said Hartlage, who lost in the Round of 64 last year. "It's always not a good feeling getting a bogey. But I feel good about my game, so I'm excited about the next few days.
Schofill, who reached the Round of 32 in last year's U.S. Women's Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee outside of Nashville, is coming off a disappointing showing at SentryWorld two weeks ago in the U.S. Girls' Junior, where she failed to qualify for match play after being in a 13-for-2 playoff. During the break between competitions, Schofill realized it was more mental than physical.
"Just playing a little bit smarter on the golf course," said Schofill after a 2-under 70. "I putted really well here this week, and I just really wanted to make the cut because U.S. Girls' is the first [match-play] cut I've ever missed [in three USGA events].
"If you hit it well off the tee, you set yourself up well for a lot of birdie opportunities, and luckily I've been hitting it pretty straight with my driver, so I've been able to score a good bit this week."
Finishing two strokes back at 4-under 140 were University of Southern California junior Gabriela Ruffels, 19, of Australia; Vanderbilt junior Morgan Baxendale, 20, of Windermere, Fla.; and 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitor Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.
The stroke average improved by 1.3 strokes in Tuesday's second round, from 75.72 to 74.32.
Reigning U.S. Girls' Junior champion Lei Ye, of the People's Republic of China, advanced to match play, but runner-up Jillian Bourdage, of Tamarac, Fla., missed by two strokes.
Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, Calif., a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team, eagled the 361-yard, par-4 14th hole. The 2019 UCLA graduate saw her 94-yard approach with a 54-degree wedge go into the hole on the fly for a 2, one of two eagles on the hole this week. She qualified for match play at 2-under 142. Wu's eagle was one of five recorded during stroke play.
The youngest and oldest competitors in the field - Gianna Clemente, 11, of Warren, Ohio, and Sally Krueger, 61, of San Francisco, Calif. - failed to advance. This was Clemente's first USGA championship and Krueger's 30th, including this year's U.S. Senior Women's Open, where she earned low-amateur honors to garner a spot in this week's championship.
Gina Kim, of Chapel Hill, N.C., made the biggest move in Round 2. The low amateur in the 2019 U.S. Women's Open improved 11 strokes from Monday's 77 to a 6-under 66, matching the lowest round of the week.
Two-time U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion Julia Potter-Bobb, 31, of Indianapolis, Ind., was the lone mid-amateur (25 and older) of the seven in the field to make match play. It was her first time advancing to match play in the U.S. Women's Amateur since 2008.
The lone Mississippi player in the field, Conner Beth Ball, of Starkville, failed to advance, but incoming Mississippi State freshman Ashley Gilliam, of Manchester, Tenn., qualified with a 36-hole total of even-par 144.
Gabriela Ruffels, of Australia, shot 4-under 140 in stroke play. She is the daughter of Wimbledon and US Open mixed doubles runner-up Ray Ruffels, who partnered with hall-of-famer Billie Jean King in both events. He also won the 1977 Australian Open doubles title with Allan Stone. Her mother, Anna-Maria Fernandez, captured the 1981 AIAW singles title at the University of Southern California and helped the Trojans to a pair of AIAW national titles in 1979 and 1980. She won five WTA titles as a pro. Gabriela is a rising junior at USC. Her older brother, Ryan, competes on various professional golf tours.
Some notable USGA champions/past Curtis Cup players also missed the cut, including U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champions Lauren Greenlief (2015), Kelsey Chugg (2017) and Shannon Johnson (2018), along with U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball co-champions Ellen Secor, Mika Liu and Hailee Cooper. Also failing to advance was two-time USA Curtis Cup competitor Mariel Galdiano and 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitor India Clyburn.