DUPONT, Wa. – Medalist Eun Jeong Seong made a rousing comeback from 4 down to win her match during Wednesday’s first round of match play the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, being conducted at The Home Course.
“That was so hard,” said a relieved Seong following her victory over Samantha Gotcher, 19, of Clarksville, Tenn.
The 14-year-old from the Republic of Korea, who was experiencing match play for the first time, quickly found herself 2 down through the first three holes. Gotcher, who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, extended her advantage to 4 up at the turn of the 6,169-yard, par-72 course.
“She wasn’t making putts on the front at all,” said Gotcher, a rising sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University. “I was making putts but she wasn’t. But on the back nine, the tables turned.”
Once Seong’s putter caught up with her booming drives, the match turned in her favor. She cut the deficit by one with an eagle at the par-5 10th and kept chipping away.
Gotcher carried a 1-up lead to the par-4 18th. After Gotcher’s birdie attempt from off the back of the green trickled a few feet past the hole, Seong dropped her 30-foot putt to extend the match. Another birdie from 15 feet at the par-4 first hole completed Seong’s hard-fought comeback.
“I played a woman who shot 10 under par, total,” said Gotcher, who suffered a major back injury at the 2013 WAPL and only recently returned to competitive golf. “I was a lot more confident today, and even though I lost on the 19th hole, I proved to myself that I could take her to the 19th hole.”
Seong will next face Grace Na, 21, of Alameda, Calif. Na, who recently finished her collegiate career at Pepperdine University, advanced with a 19-hole win over Sydney Youngblood, 16, of Durant, Okla.
In another exciting comeback, local favorite Katie Lee, 18, of Silverdale, Wash., rallied from a 3-down deficit to upset 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team member Annie Park, 19, of Levittown, N.Y., by a 1-up margin.
“She made a couple of mistakes that I was able to capitalize on,” said Lee, the younger sister of Erynne Lee, Park’s Curtis Cup teammate.
With the match all square, Lee and Park both faced long birdie putts at the 18th. Lee two-putted from 40 feet, but Park’s 4-foot comebacker for par trickled long, handing the victory to Lee.
Lee was well aware of her opponent’s championship pedigree.
“I’ve watched her so many times, at the Curtis Cup and playing with my sister,” said Lee, who will join her sister at UCLA in the fall but does not intend to play on the women’s golf team. “I knew I was playing with Annie so I just thought, OK, try your best.”
Lucy Li, the 11-year-old from Redwood Shores, Calif., who became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history, fell in 19 holes to Alice Chen, 18, of Princeton, N.J.
“It was a battle back and forth all day,” said Chen, who took the victory with a 7-foot birdie from the back of the green. “She really kept me on my toes all round. Every shot, you could expect her to be really close. She was going right at pins.
“She was a lot of fun to play with. She’s only 11 and she already has a lot of sportsmanship.”
Chen, who will attend Furman University in the fall, will play Cindy Ha, 17, of Demarest, N.J., in Thursday’s second round. Ha earned a 2-up victory on Wednesday over Lydia Gumm. Chen and Ha were teammates on the New Jersey team that won the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship.
Defending WAPL champion Lauren Diaz-Yi, 19, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., never trailed en route to a 3-and-2 victory over Robyn Doig, 22, of Canada. Diaz-Yi will next face Harley Dubsky, 18, of Valparaiso, Ind., who needed 19 holes to eliminate Aram Choi, 22, of Canada.
Reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Gabriella Then, 18, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., rallied from an early deficit to take a 3-and-2 victory over Hannah Sodersten, 20, of Fresno, Calif. Lakareber Abe, 18, of Angleton, Texas, who lost to Then in the Girls’ Junior final, was eliminated by Angel Yin, 15, of Arcadia, Calif., 4 and 3.
The 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final at 8 a.m. PDT on Saturday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.