NESHANIC STATION, N.J. – Alice Jeong experienced match play for the first time here at Neshanic Valley. She caught on quickly, taking down medalist Lisa McCloskey in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, and did so with no small amount of bravado.
With Jeong leading 3 up with four to play, McCloskey, a Curtis Cup player and top collegian at USC, birdied No. 15 and then stepped up to the par-4 16th tee with adrenaline pumping. McCloskey hit a 3-wood 259 yards to 2 feet.
“I knew I had to charge,” Jeong said.
So Jeong, 17, hit her 3-wood to 30 feet, and then drained the putt for eagle on another scorching day in central New Jersey.
Jeong two-putted No. 17 to halve the hole and win the match, 2 and 1. McCloskey walked off the last green wearing a forlorn look. Jeong seemed to be in shock.
“I had really good looks on the back nine, and even on the front,” McCloskey said. “I should’ve made everything. I just couldn’t get my putter going.”
Jeong, who has played in only one other USGA event, learned the word dormie this week, along with simple rules of etiquette, such as the person who won the last hole earns the honor on the next tee regardless of the match’s status.
One thing she didn’t need to learn: mental toughness.
Jeong took up tae kwon do in the third grade and became a second-degree black belt. She quit the sport in the eighth grade but said martial arts taught her how to focus and be aggressive.
“I have that competitive edge, I think,” she said.
Jeong seems to be well-rounded, having taught herself the ukulele from YouTube videos. The SoCal girl said it’s a popular instrument among high-schoolers. She also plays the guitar and a bit of piano and is an altar server during Catholic Mass. Her parents own a sushi restaurant.
Next up for the unheralded but fearless Jeong is Allyssa Ferrell, a Wisconsin native who plays at Michigan State. Ferrell birdied the 18th hole from 4 feet and went one extra hole against UNLV’s Dana Finkelstein.
Neshanic Valley reminds Ferrell of the course on which she qualified in Hartford, Wis. The fescue and farmland and lack of shade trees feel like home. Ferrell, 20, shot 67 to win medalist honors at her local qualifier. This marks the first time she has advanced to match play.
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Short shots: All three Curtis Cup players were dismissed in the Round of 32. In addition to McCloskey, UCLA’s Tiffany Lua lost to Virginia’s Brittany Altomare, 3 and 2. Lua was 5 down through No. 10 and ran out of holes. Emily Tubert, the 2010 WAPL champion, appeared to continue struggling off the tee, losing to former U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Doris Chen, 2 and 1.
- Lakareber Abe, whose parents emigrated from Uganda to the U.S., won 1 up. No black player has ever won a USGA women’s championship.
- Chirapat Jao-Javanil, the 2012 NCAA champion who came to Oklahoma from Thailand, advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 2-up victory over Karen Chung.
- Fourteen-year-old Allisen Corpuz of Honolulu is the youngest player left in the field. She defeated Chieh Peng of Taiwan, 3 and 2.