CHARLESTON, S.C. – It’s been a few years since Annie Park and Kelly Shon played head to head. The third round of match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur was kind of like a reunion.
Few words were spoken Thursday between the two Long Islanders, who spent their formative years playing among a group of talented young golfers that includes St. Johns’ Harin Lee, South Carolina’s Suzie Lee and Georgetown’s Alice Choi. There were the requisite lines of “that’s good” and “nice shot,” but with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line, each player focused on her own game.
Shon, a Princeton senior from Port Washington, N.Y., had Park, the USC sophomore from Levittown, N.Y., 3 down by the fourth hole. The match fluctuated between 2 down and 3 down for the rest of the front nine until Park began chipping away at the lead.
“Her putting is just so good,” Park said. “… She’s just a great putter, a great pressure putter.”
As Shon got more aggressive with her lead – she flew the green at No. 13, landed on the back of 14 green then landed in a sand trap behind 17 – Park tuned in her own putting. She won three consecutive holes from Nos. 11-13 to square the match.
Park parred No. 17 to go 1 up, then matched pars with Shon at No. 18 for the 1-up victory. Her subsequent quarterfinal berth is the farthest she’s advanced in this championship
Park’s maiden semester at USC ended in a postseason sweep and national player of the year honors, but match play seemed to have her number. After finishing as stroke-play co-medalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links the next month, Park lost in the first round, 6 and 4.
“I hadn’t played match (play) in more than a year,” she said. “It kind of felt weird playing my first match.”
Park made it to the quarterfinals at the North & South Women’s Amateur last month, and this week secured the No. 28 seed on the match-play bracket. The middle of the bracket is the best spot from which to advance in a U.S. Golf Association championship, she explained.
In still and steamy Charleston weather, fatigue and dehydration were a factor for the entire field on Thursday, the only double day of matches at this tournament. That Park turned her match so mightily so late in the day says something about her resolve. She began building momentum on the eighth hole.
“I just wanted to change how I played compared to the front nine because the front nine, I was kind of weird,” she said. “I couldn’t really get anything going.”
For Shon, Park ended a match-play run that was heavy on superstition even though Shon hardly played like she needed it. She wore ribbed white crew socks around the Country Club of Charleston all week because they seemed lucky. On Thursday, she refused to change them for the second match even though she admits she could have used a fresh pair.
Shon heads back to Princeton this fall for her final season. She won twice last year as a junior, including the Ivy League Championship, and was ranked 89 by Golfweek by year’s end.
She and Park seem bound to meet again, on Long Island or otherwise.
“I thought it would be really fun,” Shon said after the match. “And it was.”