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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lees, Cleary make the cut in Girls Junior PGA Championship at Kearney Hill


   For the second straight year, Kaitlyn Lees and Jennifer Cleary, representing the Philadelphia Section PGA, made the cut in the Girls Junior PGA Championship.
   Lees, a recent Agnes Irwin graduate, fired a sparkling 4-under-par 68 Tuesday at the Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky. for a 36-hole total of 2-under 142 that left her among a group of 10 players tied for 23rd after two rounds of the 72-hole event.
   Cleary, a Tower Hill junior, carded her second straight even-par 72 and is in the group tied for 37th at even-par 144. Cleary and Lees earned their tickets to Kearney Hill in last month’s Philadelphia Girls Junior PGA Championship at Riverton Country Club.
   Lees, who is headed for Dartmouth later this summer, finished tied for 49th in the Girls Junior PGA Championship a year ago at The Country Club of St. Albans’ Lewis and Clark Course in St. Albans, Mo. Cleary finished tied for 65th.
   Lees, who plays out of Philadelphia Country Club and Merion Golf Club, is making the stops in the final summer of her junior career count. Last month she won the Pennsylvania Junior Girls’ crown for the third time in the last four years. She shook off a double bogey early in Monday’s opening round at Kearney Hill and posted a 2-over 74.
   After a bogey at the fourth hole Tuesday, Lees got down to business in the middle of her round. She rattled off four birdies in a five-hole stretch at seven, eight, 10 and 11 to get it to 3-under for the round. After a bogey at 13, Lees regrouped with birdies and 16 and 18 to finish with a flourish.
   One of the players in the group along with Lees tied for 23rd at 2-under is Ami Gianchandani, a recent Pingry School graduate from Wachtung, N.J. who made a remarkable run to the quarterfinals in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
   Gianchandani posted her second straight 71 Tuesday for a 142 total. She and Lees will probably be running into each other quite a bit on the golf course the next four years as Gianchandani will join the Yale program later this summer.
   The third member of the Philadelphia Section PGA contingent at Kearney Hill, Archmere Academy junior Phoebe Brinker, struggled to an 80 Tuesday and failed to make the cut, which fell at 148. Brinker had opened with a solid 74 and ended up at 154.
   Brinker finished tied for 21st at St. Albans a year ago. She and Cleary joined forces to help Delaware finish second in the final playing of the USGA Women’s State Team Championship at The Club at Las Campanas’ Sunrise Course in Santa Fe, N.M. last fall with Brinker finishing second in    the individual scoring.
   A couple of western Pennsylvania standouts just missed the 36-hole cut.
   North Allegheny senior Caroline Wrigley bounced back from an opening-round 76 with a 1-over 73, but was one off the cut line at 149. Wrigley finished third in the PIAA Class AAA Championship last fall.
   The PIAA Class AAA champion last fall, Pine Richland senior Lauren Freyvogel, was another shot behind Wrigley at 150. Freyvogel added a 76 to her opening-round 74.
   Leading the way after two rounds is Yealimi Noh of Carlsbad, Calif., the runnerup a year ago at St. Albans. Noh put together a sparkling seven-birdie, no-bogey 65 Tuesday after opening with a 66 Monday and holds a one-shot lead at 13-under 131.
   Erica Shepherd of Greenwood, Ind., the winner of the U.S. Girls’ Junior last summer at Boone
Valley, is a shot behind Noh at 12-under 132 after the Duke recruit added a 67 to her opening-round 65.
   Alexa Melton of Covina, Calif., who is headed for Pepperdine at the end of next summer, fired quite the opening salvo in this event with a brilliant 9-under 63 Monday. She cooled off with a 2-under 70 and is alone in third at 11-under 133.
   Alexa Pano, the 13-year-old phenom from Lake Worth, Fla., nearly matched Melton’s effort in her second round Tuesday. She birdied six of her first eight holes in a 6-under front-nine 30 on her way to an 8-under 64 that left her alone in fourth place at 10-under 134. Pano qualified for match play as a 12-year-old in last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club.
   Defending champion Rose Zhang, who matched the tournament record with a remarkable 20-under total at St. Albans at age 14 a year ago, is at it again. The Irvine, Calif. resident added a 5-under 67 to her opening-round 68 and is tied for fifth at 9-under 135.
   She is joined at that figure by 2016 Girls Junior PGA Championship winner Lucy Li, the remarkable 15-year-old from Redwood Shores, Calif. Li, a deserving No. 9 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, opened with a 66 Monday before backing off a little with a 69 Tuesday.
   All Li did last month was help the United States roll to a 17-3 demolition of a decent Great Britain & Ireland team in the Curtis Cup Match at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. Nobody had more fun at Quaker Ridge than Li did and, I suspect, the rest of her teammates, college stars all of them, had a little more fun than they thought they would because of the presence of their precocious junior teammate.




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