GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Emma Talley had to this to say to Su-Hyun Oh after a 9-and-8 thrashing in the Round of 16: “You better win it, Su.”
Talley, the 2013 Women’s Amateur champ, suffered the biggest loss at the Women’s Amateur since Angela Park defeated Jennifer Ackerson, 9 and 8, in the third round in 2005.
“This might sound crazy,” said Talley, “but I felt like I hit the ball pretty solid.”
Oh opened play at Nassau Country Club with a course-record 4-under 66. She’s playing in her third Women’s Amateur and has now advanced to the quarterfinals for the third time. Last year, it was Talley who knocked her out of the championship.
“It all just kind of went my way,” said Oh. She’s well aware, however, that in match play, it won’t matter tomorrow if she shot 31 today on the front nine.
Oh, 18, has been away from her home in Australia since mid-June playing tournament golf. She won’t find out until Aug. 18 if she can skip the first stage of LPGA Q-School at the end of this month. She’s hoping to go home for several weeks before competing in the World Amateur Team Championship.
While Australia has yet to pick its team, there’s no doubt that Oh and Minjee Lee, the top-ranked amateur in the world, will be representing the Aussies. Both Lee and Oh will try to earn their 2015 LPGA cards.
Of the eight quarterfinalists, seven are teenagers. Grace Na, 21, is the oldest and the four-year Pepperdine player has one semester left of college to earn her degree. (She started her freshman year in January.) The average age of the quarterfinalists is 16.875.
No one in the field has won a USGA championship, though plenty carry heavy titles. Alison Lee is the only remaining Curtis Cup player in the field after Mariah Stackhouse and Ally McDonald suffered Round 2 losses and Talley went down in the Sweet 16.
Lee drained a birdie putt just inside 10 feet on the 18th hole to push her match against Eimi Koga to extra holes.
“You’ve got to execute this,” Koga said to herself before willing the ball into the hole.
Koga, 18, didn’t play in enough college events last season for Washington to be ranked by Golfweek. Lee, however, ended the 2014 season No. 1 and will attend LPGA Q-School this fall.
Lee, 19, is a picture of elegance on the golf course with her silky swing and model posture. But she shivered on her walk to the 19th hole and ducked in a tent on the first tee to gain composure.
The UCLA standout flooded her mind with clutch moments from the Curtis Cup and Women’s North & South to drown out the bad thoughts. She two-putted from 30 feet to claim victory over Koga, who hit a tree limb on her approach shot, came up short of the green and missed a 5-footer for par.
Still, it was a banner day for Koga, the slender Hawaiian who has a unique perspective after a golf ball hit her in the head during a practice round and led to emergency brain surgery. Koga was back playing golf in two months.
“I think I did quite well,” Koga said almost sheepishly after the match.
That’s an understatement.
On Friday, Lee will face a formidable opponent in Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, the 16-year-old Canadian who already has three professional titles to her credit on the Canadian Women’s Tour. Henderson also tied for 10th to earn low amateur honors at the U.S. Women’s Open.
It will be a talent-rich quarterfinal duel worthy of the 36-hole finale.
Eunjeong Seong burst onto the USGA national scene this summer with an 8-under 64 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, setting a championship record and earning medalist honors. Seong, a powerful 14-year-old who stunned Ally McDonald, 8 and 7, in the second round, eventually finished runner-up at the WAPL.
Another four-year Pepperdine player, Liv Cheng, took Seong to 19 holes before falling with bogey. She’ll next face Andrea Lee, the 15-year-old bound for Stanford in 2016.
Oh was born in South Korea but moved to Australia when she was 8 years old. The family originally traveled Down Under for a one-year holiday but wound up never leaving. Because Oh spoke no English when she arrived in Australia, she tagged along to the golf course with her father out of boredom.
“I didn’t even know what golf was until I moved,” said Oh, “and here I am trying to be a golfer.”
There’s no “trying” to it.