Then builds 4-up lead in first half of Girls Jr. final
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – At the halfway point of the U.S. Girls’ Junior final, the momentum is in Gabriella Then’s corner. The 17-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., took a 4-up lead into the lunchroom Saturday at Sycamore Hills.
The first half of the morning was familiar Then, but Lakareber Abe kept pace better than many of Then’s earlier opponents. Then birdied two of her first three holes to take a 2-up lead to the fourth hole.
Abe, the stronger player off the tee, pulled the match back to all square after winning Nos. 8 and 9.
Then’s lead came from her rally into the clubhouse. She made four consecutive birdies from Nos. 15-17, and also won No. 13 with a par to Abe’s bogey. Then nearly swung out of her shoes on the 18th tee, but put her ball in a hazard that runs down the left side of the fairway. She took a penalty shot and pulled out left of the hazard, advanced her ball to just short of the green then got up and down for a bogey to tie Abe and keep her 4-up advantage.
This is the last U.S. Girls’ Junior start for both Abe and Then. Then, ranked No. 32 by Golfweek, won the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions in 2011, arguably her biggest victory. Abe, No. 44, has knocked at the door of a USGA Championship before, advancing to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2012.
Abe and Then have roomed together twice already this summer for junior tournaments. Though old friends, they were equally focused on Saturday morning – a USGA final is no time for small talk.