DUPONT, Wash. – She will go down in golf history as the answer to a trivia question: Who was the winner of the 38th and last U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship?
The answer is Fumie (Alice) Jo of Shanghai, China, who beat Eun Jeong Seong of South Korean 3 and 2 in the 36-hole WAPL final at The Home Course.
Alice Jo also became the first golfer from mainland China – male or female – to win a U.S. Golf Association title.
Those who follow her instructions will call her Alice, not Fumie. When you are 15 (Alice’s age) and have just won a national championship in the United States, you are a national hero in China and can be called just about anything you want.
Alice may have been in Wonderland when she beat the heavily favored Seong, who set a WAPL 18-hole record with a 64 in the second round of qualifying (she shot 70 in the first qualifying round).
“I think I was really lucky to beat her today,” Jo said of the 14-year-old Seong. “She is very good.”
Maybe so, but Jo never trailed in the final. She birdied the third hole to take the lead, and she was 2 up after the first 18 holes.
During the second 18 holes, Jo stretched the margin to 3-up before losing both the sixth and seventh holes with consecutive three-putts. With her lead reduced to 1 up, she played tenaciously: three birdies, five pars and a bogey in the final nine holes of the match.
That was enough to orchestrate a farewell song for Seong. “She made some putts, and I didn’t,” Seong said. “I can’t play that well every time. There are ups and downs.”
Fumie wants to be called Alice, and her mother, who caddied for two 18-hole rounds of qualifying and seven 18-hole rounds of match play, also was adamant about her English name – Joy Jo.
“Many of us have names you couldn’t spell or pronounce. Kai is my English name,” explained Kai Chang, general manager of Yani Tseng International/China, an organization supported by LPGA star Yani Tseng.
Yani Tseng International/China runs a golf academy and sponsors a series of tournaments. This mission is shared by Yani Tseng International/Taiwan, with Yani’s father, Mao Hsin Tseng, as general manager.
Chang talked openly about another phenomenon – junior golfers in Asia who do not attend school.
“There is a widespread belief,” Chang said, “that if you go to school, you can’t devote enough time to golf. So most of the young (Asian) golfers don’t go to school at all. They practice and play golf all day.”
Alice, on the other hand, is a full-time student at an international school in Shanghai, China. As confirmed by Joy Jo, her parents insist that she go to school. Her father, according to Alice, is involved in the automotive business in China, which reportedly is booming.
Alice, who speaks impeccable English, spent three years in New York between the ages of 3 and 6. She has lived in China since then.
“Alice is the top golfer in our program (Yani Tseng International/China),” Chang said. “She is playing all summer in golf tournaments in the United States. But, please, it is important that everybody knows that all our golfers attend school as well as play golf. Yani believes deeply in this.”
Chang said that 20 other junior golfers from China are in this country with Alice. When he looks to the future, Chang sees China developing an unending stream of world-class golfers.
“More than the Koreans, maybe,” he said hopefully.
Chang didn’t even blink when asked about two finalists in a women’s national championship being 14 and 15 years old. “Alice is the best right now,” he said, “but there will be others. They are gifted athletes, and they are receiving the very best training. Winning this championship, it’s true that Alice will be a national hero.”
With her victory, Alice earns exemptions to the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships, as well as the next two U.S. Girls’ Junior Championships (she declined the invitation to the 2014 Girls’ Junior, which starts Monday, July 21).
“The greatest day of my life,” said Alice, who at 15 undoubtedly will have many more glorious golf days in her lifetime.