Underdogs make up Girls’ Junior final four

(clockwise from top left) Doris Chen, Gyeol Park, Ally McDonald and Katelyn Dambaugh

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Andrea Lee2016CA68.27
2Kristen Gillman2016TX68.46
3Angel Yin2017CA69.65
4Mariel Galdiano2016HI70.37
5Clare Amelia Legaspi2016CA70.56

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PINEHURST, N.C. – The U.S. Girls’ Junior took a decidedly different turn Friday morning as three of the top players remaining were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Medalist Danielle Kang, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior Victoria Tanco and Northern California wonder-child Mariko Tumangan all made an early exit from the Country Club of North Carolina.

Playing in the first match of the morning against Doris Chen, a semifinalist at the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior, Kang couldn’t match Chen’s flawless play. Kang bogeyed Nos. 6 and 8 to go 2 down before getting one back with a birdie at the ninth.

Kang thought she had finally swung the momentum in her favor when she dropped a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th. Chen, normally a very reserved player, quickly poured in her 6-footer for birdie and let out an uncharacteristic “whoop.” Kang went for the green in two at the par-5 18th, ended up in a bunker and couldn’t get the birdie she needed to extend the match.

“She just doesn’t make a mistake,” Kang said. “It’s really impressive.”

Kang, playing in her final juniro event, left the 18th green to a crowd of Pinehurst locals handing out fist bumps and cheers of “You’ll get them next time.” The crowd reassembled moments later to watch as Tanco met the same fate as Kang. 

Tanco was matched against Ally McDonald, the Mississippi State commit who was fresh off wins over Kyle Roig and Ginger Howard Thursday. Tanco was 3 down by the fourth hole, but picked up momentum after the turn with a hard-fought par from the right fringe at the 10th. She got the mach back to all square by the 14th, only to overshoot the par-3 16th, bogey, and go one down. She hit long again at the 17th, matching pars with McDonald, and made another unspectacular par at the 18th to quietly exit the tournament.

Tanco started the week with an 80 in stroke-play qualifying, but fought back to win long matches over Gabriella Then and Ariya Jutanugarn before a decisive victory over Kristen Park in the Round of 16.

Little-known McDonald, playing in just her second U.S. Girls’ Junior, is taking it one match at a time and so far, seeing stellar results.

“I know Victora could have played much better and I left the door open on a few holes and she took advantage of it,” McDonald said. “I just want to take it one match at a time. It was a great match.”

In a much more decisive victory, Korea’s Gyeol Park took down Tumangan, 3 and 2, as Tumangan struggled to channel the sharp play she had displayed so far this week. Tumangan struggled on the greens, and was unable to drop putts when she needed them. After three-putting the seventh to tie Park, Tumangan made a big birdie at the par-3 eighth before again failing to capitalize on her length off the tee at the ninth.

Tumangan pulled to all square for the final time with a 25-footer for birdie at No. 12 before losing the next three holes.

Katelyn Dambaugh, of Goose Creek, S.C., earned the last semifinal spot with her 2-and-1 win over 13-year-old Stephanie Liu. 

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