Wu sets tournament record in winning Annika Invitational

Bethany Wu during the Annika Invitational at Reunion Resort.

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Andrea Lee2016CA68.07
2Kristen Gillman2016TX69.29
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.34
4Angel Yin2017CA70.13
5Megan Khang2015MA70.49

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Bethany Wu’s final putt dropped for her Annika Invitational victory Jan. 21, a soft rain was falling at the 18th green of Reunion Resort’s Watson Course. By the time Wu ducked into the scoring tent with a 5-under 67, the day had turned from very scorable to very wet.

It was a quiet way to end a big round and a big week for the 16-year-old Wu, who landed her most significant career victory to date with the Annika title. At 10-under 206 for 54 holes, Wu also owns the tournament scoring record. She’s the first player in the event’s five-year history to get in the red by double digits. The next-lowest score was Victoria Tanco’s winning 5-under 211 in 2010.

Tuesday, it’s back to high school for Wu. She had to move back her flight home to Diamond Bar, Calif., after playing her way into Monday’s final group, but an AJGA invitational title is well worth the inconvenience. There will be plenty of homework when she returns.

Wu’s next goal golf-wise is a spot on the 2013 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team. A spot on the Wyndham Cup West team also would be nice.

“I like team golf,” she said.

Wu owns two other AJGA titles in addition to the Annika, and said the night before the final round at Reunion that she was ready to defend her two-shot lead on Denmark’s Emily Pederson and fellow Californian Amy Lee. The last time that happened, at the AJGA Junior at Centennial this summer, Wu extended her margin of victory to five shots.

On Monday, Wu birdied two of her first three holes in unsettled weather. With almost no wind and an intermittent drizzle, scoring conditions were nearly ideal. With more birdies at Nos. 8, 16 and 17, Wu reached 67, her lowest round of the tournament.

“I just told myself to keep calm and just think about having fun toward the end,” she said. “Just don’t think about the lead or anything.”

She didn’t allow herself to think that she might win until the final putt, a tap-in for par at the 18th. It shows Wu has come a long way since her Annika debut in 2011, when she turned in 2-under 34 during the final round, went 5 over on the back nine and finished with a 77 for a share of 34th place.

Karen Chung also shot 67 on Monday to move from T-4 to tied for second with Pedersen. Chung, who will arrive at USC in the fall, knows the secrets to scoring well on the Watson Course after spending six months living in Orlando and working with swing coach Andrew Park out of nearby ChampionsGate.

The petite Chung still sports a large brace on her right knee after two car accidents in late 2012. The first happened shortly after the Junior Ryder Cup in September, and the second happened the day before the Polo Golf Junior Invitational in November. After the first, Chung’s knee had to be popped back into place. Her mother, Ivy, was driving when both accidents occurred.

Chung, who won the AJGA Thunderbird International in 2011 for her lone invitational victory, is happy to be back on track. She failed to qualify for the match-play bracket at the Polo, and withdrew from the Ping Invitational before that.

“Coming in here, I didn’t really have high expectations," Chung said. "I just wanted to get top 10 or something. This is good stuff.”

Chung hails from Livingston, N.J., and took a sizable amount of time off in the winter. She crammed her practice into the days leading up to the Annika. Like Wu, she’s humble about the week.

“It was kind of like a praying and a luck kind of thing,” Chung said.

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