Chen rolls to 6-shot Golfweek Junior victory
REUNION, Fla. - Few words were spoken in the final three-ball Sunday at the Golfweek Junior Invitational. With Doris Chen three strokes ahead of the pack, Vivian Chen and Ri Hyang Park concentrated instead on catching the U.S. Girls’ Junior champion.
Neither could accomplish the feat as Doris pulled away from the field with a 1-under 71, logging a six-stroke victory with her 1-under 143 total at the Reunion Resort Independence Course.
Golfweek Junior Invite (Final Rd.)
Doris Chen and Sam Chun are the winners of the Golfweek Junior Invitational on Sunday at the Reunion Resort.
It’s the first victory since the Girls’ Junior for Chen, who has become known for her consistency in all aspects of the game. Since that memorable week in July, Chen’s confidence is noticeably heightened, and she also credits an improved mental game to the week-long march to match-play domination.
Chen’s final round at Reunion was uncharacteristic in one category: accuracy. Chen failed to hit a single fairway on the back nine. Part of that is a recent switch to a new Titleist driver, a move that has added about 10 yards to her drives, which used to average about 220 yards. Though precise off the tee, Chen is noticeably shorter than most of her peers.
“I was playing good on the front nine. Basically I hit almost every green and putted well but on my second nine I didn’t hit any fairways,” Chen said of Sunday’s round. “It was a tough day.”
Chen had four birdies on the back side – her first nine – but took a step back at the par-4 second with a double bogey. She rammed in a six-footer for par at the final hole with authority, walking off the green with little expression before finding out she had come out decisively on top.
As for adding another title to her year, Chen, ranked No. 12 by Golfweek, is relishing the feeling. It’s her first stroke-play title of the year, after the Girls’ Junior and a win at an IMG match-play event in May.
“I feel like today I could have played better, struggling on my second nine, but I’m happy,” she said.
Park, who finished second at 5-over 149, has won two International Junior Golf Tour events so far this year and finished runner-up in a third event. She is in her final year at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy and will play for Miami in the fall.
Park left Reunion with big plans to concentrate on her putting stroke before returning to action over Thanksgiving break at the AJGA’s Polo Golf Junior Invitational. Park entered the day four shots behind Chen, and could never mount a charge.
“I hit the ball well, but just didn’t make enough birdie putts,” said Park, who had three birdies on the day at Nos. 16-18.
Monifa Sealy, a student at the Gary Gilchrist Academy, rounded out the top 3, finishing with a 7-over 151. Despite being unable to capitalize on a handful of birdie opportunities, Sealy improved from a 76 to a 75 Sunday, capping the round with a birdie at the par-4 18th.
“Today was real good, I was more confident through the ball and had better club selection,” she said.
Summar Roachell, who advanced to the second round of match play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, and Amira Alexander, who advanced to the second round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, were T-4 at 8-over 152. Vivian Chen also finished finished with a share of fourth after slipping from a first-round 75 to a 77.
Samantha Wagner, Gemma Dryburgh and Michaela Owen made up a three-way tie for seventh another shot back.