UCLA teammates to square off at Women's Am

Stephanie Kono defeated Lydia Ko, 3 & 2, during the Round of 32 at the U. S. Women's Amateur Championship at Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington, Rhode Island.

BARRINGTON, R.I. - Watching Stephanie Kono play golf could induce sleep. Not because of her pace of play but because of the smooth, metronome-like tempo of her swing. It matches the speed at which the soft-spoken Kono seems to function in the rest of her life.

The UCLA senior knocked off co-medalist Lydia Ko in the Round of 32 on Thursday at Rhode Island Country Club. Kono, a veteran on the U.S. Golf Association tournament circuit, is playing in her 21st championship but she has yet to win a title. She admits to feeling old by that stat, and it doesn't help when paired against a 14-year-old such as Ko. In fact, the days when Kono, 21, was in Ko's shoes are so far gone that she hardly can remember them.

"At 14, I played in my third U.S. Girls'. Honestly, I think I lost to Inbee Park in the second round, and I remember being intimidated, being out there with a lot of really good players," Kono said.

Perhaps Kono one day will be remembered in a Ko interview in the category of greats to whom she fell along the way.

Kono advanced through the first round of match play by what might be considered a gift. She beat Madeleine Sheils in 19 holes after not holding the lead until the extra hole. She shakes her head at the close call, but maybe it's the match-play equivalent to a member's bounce.

It's clearly a Bruin's world here at Rhode Island Country Club. And for now, the rest of the field is just living in it. Three members of the NCAA Championship-winning team advanced to match play, as did incoming freshman Erynne Lee. Entering the Round of 16, all four are still alive, but that's bound to change before the quarterfinals, as Kono and junior teammate Tiffany Lua will meet.

Kono and Lua have met twice before in USGA match play, both times at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. Kono leads the series, 2-0, but already this summer Kono lost to another teammate, Brianna Do, in the WAPL quarterfinals.

"I play with (Lua) every day, and I know she doesn't miss too many shots," Kono said of the third-round match.

Lua, who felt equally ancient during her second-round match against Mackenzie Brooke Henderson, a 13-year-old from Canada, laughed off her age

"I don't think I had a mindset," Lua said, laughing. "Find ball, hit ball."

Expect plenty of "smack talk," as Lua calls it, during the Bruins matchup, though none of it serious.

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