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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Li comes on strong to earn share of medalist honors with Selin in U.S. Women's Amateur

   The legend of Lucy Li continues to grow.
   Needing some birdies to catch South Korea’s Hyun Selin for medalist honors in Tuesday’s second round of qualifying for match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, Tenn., the 15-year-old from Redwood Shores, Calif. dialed up some birdies.
   Li hit every green in regulation – how maddening would that be in match play – and made six birdies and nary a bogey as she fired a sparkling 6-under 65 and did indeed catch Selin to share medalist honors with a 9-under 133 total.
   Combined with the medalist honors she earned in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship a couple of weeks ago on the strength of a spectacular opening-round 62 at the Poppy Hills Golf Course on northern California’s Monterey Peninsula, Li became just the third player in USGA history to win medalist honors in the two championships in the same year.
   Li , No. 9 in the latest Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), and the 17-year-old Selin matched the qualifying record, a mark Li almost took down. Her birdie putt on her last hole of the day, the ninth at The Golf Club of Tennessee, fell inches short. The 133 total put up by Li and Selin matched the total recorded by Mariel Galdiano, a teammate of Li’s on the United States’ winning Curtis Cup team earlier this year, two years ago at Rolling Green Golf Club.
   The runnerup to Galdiano at Rolling Green? A 13-year-old Lucy Li, who was two shots behind Galdiano at 135. The people at Rolling Green are still trying to figure out how a 13-year-old kid did that to their golf course.
   Starting at the 10th, Li birdied 11, 13, 17 and 18 as she inexorably closed in on the target Selin had set earlier in the day. Li made the two more birdies she’d need at the third and eighth holes before just missing for the record at the ninth. Li had opened with a 3-under 68 Monday.
   Selin, who was one of seven players who trailed first-round leader Alexa Pano by a shot with a 67, had  one more birdie than Li did Tuesday with seven, but a couple of bogeys left her with a 5-under 66.
   It was a disappointing day for the local contingent at The Golf Club of Tennessee.
   North Carolina junior Brynn Walker, the two-time state champion at Radnor who plays out of St. Davids Golf Club, bounced back from an opening-round 78 with a 2-over 73, but her 151 total was six shots shy of the cutoff for match play.
   Nine players will vie for the final spot in match play first thing Wednesday morning after finishing at 3-over 145, the lowest cutoff score in U.S. Women’s Amateur history.
   Nobody knows better than Walker, who has been in the Tar Heels’ starting lineup in every tournament since she arrived in Chapel Hill, how competitive it is out there. Walker was 2-under for her round after making her third birdie of the day at the 11th, but double bogeys at 13 and 15 dropped her back to 2-over for the round.
   Meghan Stasi, the South Jersey native who is a four-time winner of the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Championship, also landed on 151, adding a 75 to her opening-round 76.
   Also ending up at 151 was Penn State senior Lauren Waller, who lost to Walker in a playoff in the 2014 PIAA Class AAA Championship as a senior at Canon-McMillan. Waller added a 76 to her opening-round 75.
   Waller’s Penn State classmate, Jackie Rogowicz, a two-time PIAA runnerup at Pennsbury, added a 76 to her opening-round 80 for a 156 total. It hasn’t been a terrible summer for Rogowicz, who also played her way into the field in the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the Stockton Seaview Resort’s Bay Course in Galloway Township, N.J.
   Finishing in third place in qualifying at 7-under 135 was Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey, a two-time member of the Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team who is No. 21 in the Women’s WAGR. Mehaffey, a junior at Arizona State, fired a 3-under 68 Tuesday after opening up with a 67.
   Mehaffey helped the Sun Devils capture the 2017 NCCA title in her freshman season at Arizona State.
   Pano, the 13-year-old from Lake Worth, Fla. who fell in the final of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Poppy Hills to Yealimi Noh, Jaclyn Lee, the Big Ten champion at Ohio State from Canada, and Japan’s Suzuka Yamaguchi shared fourth place, each ending up at 6-under 136.
   After leading the field with a sparkling 5-under 66 in Monday’s opening round, Pano carded a solid 1-under 70. Pano knocked off Li, 1-up, in what sounded like a tremendous semifinal match at Poppy Hills. It might also have been the beginning of a respectful rivalry that could last for 20 years or more.
   Lee, who finished tied for fifth in the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. this spring, carded her second straight 3-under 68. Yamaguchi had opened with a 67 and posted a 2-under 69 to join the group at 136.
   Really nice effort to finish seventh alone by 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship winner Lauren Greenlief, a 27-year-old from Ashburn, Va. Greenlief, a Virginia product, was one of three co-medalists in qualifying in last fall’s Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek Course in Houston. She lost in the round-of-16 to eventual champion Kelsey Chugg.
   Greenlief fired a 4-under 67 Tuesday after opening up with a 70 for a 5-under 137 total.
   Let the matches begin.

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