What a summer it has been for golfers from the People’s Republic of China. Shanshan Feng ended a two-year victory drought on the LPGA Tour in early July. Then two weeks ago, Lei Ye became just the second player from the country to win a USGA championship when she claimed the US Girls’ Junior title. And a week earlier, Bo Jin advanced to the US Junior Ama-teur final.
On Tuesday, Jin’s younger sister, Jiarui, made some history of her own in the 119th US Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club. The 16-year-old carded a bogey-free, six-under 66 – matching the lowest score of the week – in the second and final round of stroke play to share medallist honours with fellow teen Alexa Pano.
Pano, 14, of Lake Worth, Fla., the runner-up in the 2018 US Girls’ Junior, had earlier posted a four-under 68 for a 36-hole total of six-under 138.
No playoff was required for the final match-play spots as exactly 64 players posted three-over 145 or better.
“Me and Angelina [Ye] are really good friends, and we’re both from China,” said Jin, the first Chinese player to earn medallist honours in the Women’s Amateur. “It makes me really happy to see so many Chinese people are playing well. Yeah, it’s great, and I will try my best to do well.”
Jin, who started on No.10, played her first nine holes in two-under 34 before catching fire on her second nine, making birdies on four of the first five holes of the outward nine. Committed to attend the University of Southern California in 2021, Jin had a chance to reach seven-under par for the day and championship, but her 10-footer on the par-5 9th just missed.
“It makes me really happy to see so many Chinese people are playing well.” – Jiarui Jin
“My putting was really good today, and I made a lot of birdies,” Jin said. “And my driver was also good. I made a lot of fairways today, which is really important for this course.”
Pano, meanwhile, also made history as she is believed to be the second-youngest medallist in championship history, seven months older than Lydia Ko, who was 14 years, four months when she was the co-medallist in 2011 at Rhode Island Country Club.
The No.37 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ had a strong second nine with four birdies, including a 10-footer on the par-5 9th, her last of the day.
“I kind of knew because I saw a couple of my friends were at five [under], but there aren’t many [scoreboards] on the front nine,” said Pano on where she stood among the leaders. “I kind of had a little bit of an idea, though.
“The past few years I’ve been really close to top seed. Last year, I doubled the final hole [and] I was the fifth seed, and the year before I was like maybe seventh seed and I lost in the first round both times. To be honest with you, the higher the seed, I better, I suppose. Like my dad [and caddie] said, I can’t go out and play for second.”
Pano, who will represent the USA in next month’s Junior Solheim Cup in Scotland, and Jin never had to sweat out the cut, even if they were literally sweating on the golf course. Temperatures climbed into the low 90s with a heat index near triple digits.
Incoming Auburn University freshman Megan Schofill, 18, of Monticello, Fla., and Louisville University senior Lauren Hartlage, 21, of Elizabethtown, Ky., each finished one stroke back at 139.
To be honest with you, the higher the seed, I better, I suppose. Like my dad [and caddie] said, I can’t go out and play for second.” – Alexa Pano
Hartlage, who posted a 71 on Tuesday, had a chance to earn medallist honours outright with a birdie or tie Pano and Jin on No.18, but a wayward drive led to her only bogey of the day. She began the round with 14 consecutive pars before collecting birdies on Nos.15 and 17.
“I definitely wanted to make par on the last hole,” said Hartlage, who lost in the Round of 64 last year. “It’s always not a good feeling getting a bogey. But I feel good about my game, so I’m excited about the next few days.
Schofill, who reached the Round of 32 in last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Golf Club of Tennessee outside of Nashville, is coming off a disappointing showing at SentryWorld two weeks ago in the US Girls’ Junior, where she failed to qualify for match play after being in a 13-for-2 playoff. During the break between competitions, Schofill realized it was more mental than physical.
“Just playing a little bit smarter on the golf course,” said Schofill after a two-under 70. “I putted really well here this week, and I just really wanted to make the cut because US Girls’ is the first [match-play] cut I’ve ever missed [in three USGA events].
“If you hit it well off the tee, you set yourself up well for a lot of birdie opportunities, and luckily I’ve been hitting it pretty straight with my driver, so I’ve been able to score a good bit this week.”
Finishing two strokes back at four-under 140 were University of Southern California junior Gabriela Ruffels, 19, of Australia; Vanderbilt junior Morgan Baxendale, 20, of Windermere, Fla.; and 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitor Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.