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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Barbin's game warms up for Junior Tour win at Frog Hollow

   Austin Barbin of Elkton, Md. enjoyed a Saturday that finally felt a little spring-like with mild temperatures as he carded a 3-over-par 74 to take top honors in the 16-to-18 age group in a Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour stop at Frog Hollow Golf Club in Middletown, Del.
   Barbin, who earned a trip to the U.S. Junior Amateur at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. last summer, had three birdies and an eagle on the 6,371-yard, par-71 Frog Hollow layout.
   He also claimed low-Barbin honors at Frog Hollow with Zachary Barbin finishing 13th in the 16-to-18 age group with an 89 and Evan Barbin finishing in a tie for fifth in the 13-to-15 age group with an 85.
   Nikita Romanov of Wilmington, Del. was the runnerup to Austin Barbin with a 78. Romanov, the Junior Tour’s Player of the Year in the 13-to-15 division a year ago, was coming off a sweep of a pair of Junior Tour events at the Jersey Shore as the 2017 season teed off last weekend.
   Kaden Kinard of New Castle, Del. finished third with a 79 and Alec Ryden of Moorestown, N.J. and Liam Ward of Malvern shared fourth place, each carding an 80. Casey Dao of Elkins Park took sixth with an 81, Jackson Paradee of Dover, Del. was seventh with an 82 and Simon Asadoorian of Richboro was eighth with an 83.
   Bryan Donato of Chester Springs and Akira Pavey of Dover, Del. rounded out the top 10 as they shared ninth place at 85.
   Franklin Zhu of Warren, N.J. won the 13-to-15 division with a 6-over 77 that was highlighted by a birdie on the par-4 15th hole. William Brown of Clarks Summit was the runnerup with an 82.
   Jack Cooley of Chadds Ford and James Ulsh of Carlisle finished in a tie for third, each posting an 84. Evan Barbin of those Elkton, Md. Barbins shared fifth place with William Pabst of Roaring Brook Township and Matthew Lafond of Blue Bell at 85.
   John Girone of Bear Del. finished eighth with an 88, Stephen Cain of Yardley was ninth with a 90 and Kevin Motil of Sewell, N.J. rounded out the top 10 with a 93.
   Olivia Perry of Millsboro, Del. claimed her first Junior Tour win, taking top honors in the 16-to-18 division with a 93. The Downingtown contingent rounded out the rest of the division’s top finishers as Shae Cabaddu was the runnerup with a 94, Lily Byrne was third with a 99 and Sarah Fernandes took fourth with a 101.
   Elizabeth Beek, a sixth-grader at Wissahickon Middle School, continued her domination of the 13-to-15 division, firing a sparkling 77 for her ninth straight Junior Tour win. Beek, the reigning Junior Tour 13-to-15 Player of the Year, finished her round in style with a birdie at the par-5 18th hole. It looks like Beek is gearing up for a big summer on the golf course.
   Eden Richmond of Princeton, N.J. was the runnerup to Beek with an 89. Kathleen Mark of Media finished third with an  95, Riley Quartermain of Bryn Mawr took fourth with a 97 and Niosha Parvisi of Gladwyne was fifth with a 103.
   Matthew Normand of Lumberton, N.J. finished up with a birdie on the par-4 ninth hole to best the field of nine-holers with a 5-over 40 on the front nine at Frog Hollow. Sawyer Brockstedt of Rehoboth, Del. was the runnerup with a 43.
   Benjamin Saggers of West Chester took third with a 43 and Daniel Shin of Horsham and Hunter Probst of Bear Creek shared fourth, each carding a 49. Nicholas Joyce of Quakertown took sixth with a 51 and Sydney Yermish of Wynnewood was seventh with a 52.
   Kevin Lafond of Blue Bell and Michael Dignazio of Wilmington, Del. finished in a tie for eighth at 53 and Megan Adelman of Bryn Mawr rounded out the top 10 with a 54.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Maguire, Carta fuel fast start for Duke in LSU Tiger Golf Classic

   With its two best players playing some pretty fine golf, Duke jumped out to a 13-shot lead Friday after two rounds of the LSU Tiger Golf Classic at The University Club in Baton Rouge, La.
   Originally scheduled as a three-day event, tournament organizers called an audible with a forecast for bad weather Saturday in the Bayou and decided to make it a double-round Friday. The teams will get the day off Saturday and then finish off, as scheduled, with 18 holes Sunday. Defending team champion Duke didn’t seem to mind the change of plans.
   The Blue Devils’ Leona Maguire, a junior from Ireland and the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), surged to a five-shot lead in the individual chase with teammate Virginia Elena Carta, a sophomore from Italy and the reigning NCAA individual champion, one of her closest pursuers in a tie for second.
   With that kind of 1-2 punch, the Blue Devils, No. 11 in the latest Golfstat rankings, opened with a 3-under-par 285 over the 6,247-yard, par-72 University Club layout and added a 2-under 586 in the afternoon for a 5-under 571 total.
   No. 19 Oklahoma bounced back from an opening-round 298 with a 2-under 286 in the afternoon to get a share of second with No. 15 Arkansas, which had rounds of 293 and 291, at 8-over 584.
   No. 29 N.C. State is alone in fourth at 12-over 588 after an afternoon 298. No. 27 SMU and No. 53 Denver are tied for fifth at 19-over 595 in the strong 15-team field. The Mustangs bounced back from an opening-round 301 with a 294 in the afternoon and the Pioneers improved from an opening-round 300 with a 295 in round 2.
   Maguire certainly played like the best amateur player in the world, firing a 5-under 67 in the morning and coming back with a 4-under 68 in the afternoon for a 9-under 135 total.
   Carta, No. 14 in the Women’s WAGR and the runnerup in the U.S. Women’s Amateur last summer at Rolling Green Golf Club, was slowed this spring while she recovered from having her tonsils removed. She opened up with a 1-over 73, but fired a 5-under 67 in the afternoon and is tied for second at 4-under 140.
   Carta was joined at that figure by Washington’s Julianne Alvarez, a sophomore from New Zealand and one of the heroes of the Huskies’ dramatic run to the NCAA team title a year ago. Alvarez had a pair of 70s.
   Gurbani Singh, a junior from India, backed up Duke’s dynamic duo with rounds of 71 and 76 that left her tied for 13th at 3-over 147. Ana Belac, a freshman from Slovenia, is tied for 44th at 9-over 153 after a 3-over 75 in the afternoon and Sandy Choi, a senior from South Korea, is tied for 53rd at 155 with an 81 in the afternoon after opening with a solid 2-over 74.
   Leona Maguire’s twin sister Lisa is competing as an individual and is tied for 65th with rounds of 81 and 77.
   Arkansas was led by Cara Gorlei, a sophomore from South Africa who added a 2-under 70 to her opening-round 72 and is alone in fourth, two shots behind Carta and Alvarez at 2-under 142.
N.C. State’s Sarah Bae, a senior from Pinehurst, N.C., is alone in fifth place at 1-under 143. Bae had one of just four sub-70 rounds recorded Friday when she opened with a 3-under 69. She added a 74 in the afternoon.
   SMU’s Lindsey McCurdy, a senior from Kyle, Texas, and Kansas’ Yi-Tsen Chou, a freshman from Taiwan, are tied for sixth at even-par 144. Both went 71-73 for the day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Strong amateur roster of six will play in ANA Inspiration

   Andrea Lee, who is having a spectacular freshman season at Stanford, and Eun Jeong Seong, who recorded an unprecedented USGA double last summer, will get to renew their friendly rivalry next week on a major stage.
   Lee and Seong are two of the six amateur invitees who will get to tee it up in the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the year which gets under way Thursday at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course of Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. With apologies to the event’s corporate sponsor, but it will always be the Dinah Shore to me.
   At age 16 last summer, Seong captured victories in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club, the William Flynn gem in Springfield, Delaware County. In both cases, the South Korean had to get past Lee to claim those trophies.
   In the 36-hole Girls’ Junior final, Seong had to rally to defeat Lee, who hails from Hermosa Beach, Calif., 4 and 2, to become the first repeat winner of the event since Hollis Stacy won her third straight in 1971.
   A couple of weeks later at Rolling Green, Seong and Lee ran into each other again, this time in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Amateur. I got to see a lot of the match and it wasn’t decided until Lee’s par putt on the 18th hole somehow stayed out of the cup to give Seong a hard-fought 1-up victory. (You can find my blog post on that match Aug. 5, 2016).
   A couple of days later, Seong rolled in a dramatic 40-foot birdie putt on the 36th hole to edge Italy’s Virginia Elena Carta, who had won the NCAA individual title as a freshman at Duke earlier in the year, 1-up. The Girls’ Junior-Women’s Amateur double had never been done before.
   Seong, No. 12 in the latest Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), had a couple of strong showings in professional events late in 2016. She finished tied for 18th in KEB Hana Bank Championship, an LPGA event played in her native South Korea in October. Her 3-under total included a sparkling 6-under 66 in the second round.
   Seong then finished in a tie for sixth at the Oates Vic Open, a Ladies European Tour event in Australia in December. She threw a couple of 68s on the board in that one.
   Lee headed for Stanford, where she is the best player on the No. 1 team in the latest Golfstat rankings. Lee, No. 9 in the Women’s WAGR has won three tournaments and is the No. 2 player in college golf, again according to Golfstat.
   Lee isn’t the only Stanford freshman who will tee it up in the ANA Inspiration. Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, No. 4 in the Women’s WAGR, will also be in the field. Valenzuela represented Switzerland in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last summer, finishing 21st in a field largely populated by professionals.
   Valenzuela is making a return trip to the ANA Inspiration and was one of two amateurs to make the cut a year ago.
   The other will also be back in the field, 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, No. 2 in the Women’s WAGR. Valenzuela and O’Sullivan, of Chandler, Ariz., finished tied for 65th a year ago.
   It looked like O’Sullivan was about to turn pro at one point last year. She had committed to play college golf at Southern California, but reconsidered that decision. O’Sullivan and Lee were teammates on the U.S. Curtis Cup team that fell to a talented Great Britain & Ireland side in Ireland.
   A 2016 schedule tightened worldwide by the return of golf to the Olympics left O’Sullivan with a tough call and she decided to tee it up in the Ricoh Women’s British Open rather than defend her Women’s Amateur title at Rolling Green.
   But just when it seemed like O’Sullivan was ready to turn pro, she reconsidered again and started accepting college offers. Late last year she announced she would join the Duke program beginning in the fall of 2017. She will join her Curtis Cup rival, Ireland’s Leona Maguire, a junior with the Blue Devils who sits atop the Women’s WAGR.
   Also in the field at Mission Hills will be South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh, the runnerup to UCLA’s Bronte Law in voting for the Annika Award last year. I got to see the talented left-hander, No. 7 in the Women’s WAGR, quite a bit at Rolling Green last summer. She was ousted in the round of 16 by very talented Japanese teenager Nasa Hataoka in a crackling match (Got a blog post on that, too, Aug. 4, 2016).
   Dambaugh teamed with Lee and Mariel Galdiano, a freshman at UCLA, to help the United States finish sixth in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico. She shared the lead after the opening round of the LPGA Qualifying School Final Stage at the end of 2016 – Hataoka, the youngest player in the field, was a shot back in a tie for third – although Dambaugh wasn’t really planning to turn pro right then and there, a decision she might have faced had she finished in the top 20.
   Dambaugh faded out of the top 20 in the 90-hole marathon at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., but earned some status for the Symetra Tour when she does turn pro after completing her senior season with the Gamecocks. Hataoka did earn a Tour card.
   Rounding out the group of six amateurs invited to play in the ANA Inspiration is Thailand’s Paphangkorn Tavalanakit, the 2016 American Junior Golf Association Rolex Junior Player of the Year. I didn’t catch Tavalanakit at Rolling Green, but she was there. She made it to the round of 16 before falling, 1-up, to France’s Mathilda Cappeliez, who was on her way to a second straight Women’s Amateur semifinal appearance.
   Tavalanakit has committed to join the UCLA program in the fall.
   One more amateur will be added to the field after this weekend’s ANA Junior Inspiration at Mission Hills. The winner will get to move to the big stage.