OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Give the award for best fight on a steamy Wednesday at the U.S. Girls’ Junior to Lakareber Abe. The 15-year-old from Angleton, Texas, gave No. 2-seeded Casie Cathrea quite a scare at Olympia Fields’ South Course before fading on the closing holes.
Cathrea, 15, of Livermore, Calif., immediately went up on Abe with a birdie on the first hole but had to give back that advantage with a bogey at the second. Abe led the match or was tied with Cathrea until No. 16, when Cathrea rallied with a timely birdie. Coming into the clubhouse, Abe struggled with her chipping, finishing with a flubbed chip at No. 18 before conceding the match. Cathrea won, 2 up.
It was an afternoon of aggressive play out of Cathrea and Abe. Cathrea fought a swing tempo that she conceded was just “a little off” while Abe fired at pins.
“I wasn’t very consistent the first couple holes,” Cathrea said, noting that Abe’s lead created some stress.
2.) Familiar feeling: Win or lose, count on Karen Chung to greet spectators, friends and media with a smile after a round of golf. At the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the 17-year-old is especially relaxed. This is a course on which she feels comfortable.
Chung, of Livingston, N.J., is one of two Girls’ Junior runners-up in this field (the other is 2010 runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh). In 2008, at age 14, Chung lost to Lexi Thompson. Chung hasn’t been back to the final match since, but there’s still a peace of mind that comes with this tournament. Olympia Fields marks her fourth Girls’ Junior start.
“It is definitely more comfortable than other tournaments,” she said. “Still gotta get my head in it and practice.”
That wasn’t a problem Wednesday in the first round of match play, as Chung beat Marijosse Navarro of Mexico, 3 and 2, then greeted friends Alison Lee and Annie Park on the putting green for some extra practice. Chung will draw Paige Lee, of Fulsom, Calif., in the Round of 32.
This could be a big week for Chung, who seemed to have found her game earlier this summer after struggling in the past year. Chung won the AJGA Thunderbird International in May, then managed a T-10 at the Rolex Tournament of Champions.
Something of a perfectionist, she still wasn’t pleased. But after losing in the first round last year at the Country Club of North Carolina, Chung is happy to be coming back tomorrow.
“After Thunderbird, I haven’t been playing as well as I hoped, but this makes up for it,” Chung said with a smile.
3.) Turning the tables: Take Yueer Cindy Feng off the injured list. After sitting out part of the early spring season with a wrist injury, and fighting her game through the first part of the summer, Feng advanced to the second round of match play with a 6-and-5 victory over Mariko Tumangan.
For Tumangan, a Stanford commit from San Jose, Calif., it was exactly the opposite of how the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior played out. Tumangan beat Marissa Dodd, 8 and 6, then went on to beat Casey Danielson, 4 and 3.
But having rid her game of the duck hooks, Feng is a lot to handle. With four career AJGA invitational titles, the Orlando, Fla., resident is waiting on her USGA breakthrough.
“All the USGA events – aside from the Open, obviously – they’re all match play after the stroke (play), so that’s very different because match play, there’s more luck involved and more how you’re feeling that day, so it’s more one-on-one instead of just playing your own game,” Feng said. “You have to play a lot of strategy.”
4.) The big time: Perhaps Summar Roachell is just the kind of strategy player about which Feng is talking. Roachell shone in her first true match-play test on the national stage last year at the Country Club of North Carolina, ousting Chung in the first round. A year later, Roachell remembers Chung as an excellent competitor, and the match as a personal game-changer.
“I had been playing a bunch, and it was just so different going that level up,” she said. “To beat her, I was like, I can hang with these girls now.”
Slightly out of breath after a 3-and-1 win over Brooke Henderson, Roachell explained how she had managed to match the pressure that Henderson applied throughout the round with each great shot. Consider that Roachell might be selling herself short, as she led from the 10th hole on.
“Coming into these bigger tournaments, the better competition you’re playing, the better you’re going to get,” Roachell said.
Soon, Roachell might be on the flip side of that statement.
5.) Wasting no time: Temperatures soared into the high-90s Wednesday in suburban Chicago as 32 first-round matches worked their way around the course.
A cresting Gabriella Then put together the shortest match, defeating Lou Daniela Uy, 7 and 6. Put stroke-play medalist Ariya Jutanugarn into the quick-dispatch department, too: The 15-year-old from Thailand beat Marissa Chow, 6 and 4.
Jisoo Keel of Canada was the only player to win in overtime. She defeated Kayli Quinton on the 19th hole.