Tanco survives marathon match at Girls’ Jr.
PINEHURST, N.C. – After engaging in a back-and-forth battle with Victoria Tanco on a sweltering hot morning at the Country Club of North Carolina, all that stood between Ariya Jutanugarn and a spot in the third round of match play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior was a left-to-right 3-footer on the 18th green.
As a crowd gathered around the elevated green and Tanco stood nearby with a birdie in her pocket, Jutanugarn stepped up to the ball and tapped it toward the hole. It’s difficult to say who was more stunned by the vicious lip out that followed: Jutanugarn or the crowd. Regardless, Jutanugarn had to regroup after the loss of hole and proceed to the first tee to engage in sudden death with Tanco.
Jutanugarn and Tanco had traded the lead for much of the morning, with Jutanugarn getting to 2 up by the fifth hole. Tanco battled back with a clutch par to Jutanugarn’s bogey at the sixth and drained a 30-footer for birdie from the back fringe at the seventh to draw even again.
The back nine was a similar story as Tanco lost holes 12 and 13 with bogeys. Tanco battled back to all square again, but Jutanugarn went 1 up after a Tanco bogey on 16 and stayed there, losing the advantage, the momentum and eventually the match with the missed putt at 18.
As the two made their way through the first six extra holes, neither could get an advantage on the other. Tanco finally ended the marathon match with a par at No. 7, their 25th hole, as Jutanugarn failed to get up and down for the tie.
“So bad,” were the first words to come out of Jutanugarn’s mouth when asked about the putt that could have sealed the deal for her. “I don’t know why I miss.”
Had Jutanugarn been able to pull off the win against Tanco, it would have been the second time she had ousted the top-ranked junior early in the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Jutanugarn sent Alexis Thompson packing after the Round of 16 at last year’s championship.
It’s already been a successful year for the 14-year-old from Thailand. She won medalist honors at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in June, and also played in the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club earlier this month. She’ll close a whirlwind summer in the United States next month at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Tanco, meanwhile, had a mere 40 minutes to shake off the fatigue from the morning match, grab lunch and rehydrate before she was due back at the first tee for her second match of the day. She will face Kristen Park, the 2007 U.S. Girls’ Junior, in the Round of 16.