DALY CITY, Calif. -– The fairways at Lake Merced Golf Club didn’t get much attention on Saturday morning. For that matter, the greens-in-regulation column was sporadically marked, too. As Alison Lee and Minjee Lee shook out the early-morning kinks, there were many recovery shots from bunkers and rough.
It’s not the way either advanced to the final match of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, so don’t expect it to continue.
Through the opening 18 holes of the championship match, the all-Lee pairing combined for just five birdies. It began at the par-4 first. Under a cloudless sky and with a small following gathered around the green, Alison holed a 25-footer to take an immediate advantage. By the end of the morning, Minjee led, 1 up.
After textbook tee shots to start the match, both players missed the fairway at the second and halved with bogeys. Minjee evened the match with a par to Alison’s bogey at the fourth.
Minjee built her lead to 2 up with birdies at the par-3 eighth – Alison conceded that putt, of just a few feet – and the par-4 11th. Minjee stuck her approach there to 4 feet. Aside from those few laser-like iron shots, her morning game was based on scraping through the bad holes with up-and-down pars, something she did six times in 18 holes. Five of those earned her a halve.
After the first hole, Alison never could get another putt to fall. She gave herself legitimate chances at birdie at Nos. 7, 12 and 17.
The afternoon 18 amounts to Alison’s last chance to win the U.S Girls’ Junior. The Valencia, Calif., native will turn 18 before next year’s championship. For Minjee, of Perth, Australia, claiming a trophy at the end of the day would make a nice story back home Down Under.
It’s still anyone’s ballgame for the afternoon.