Chapel Hill’s Gina Kim reached the Round of 16 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Golf Championship last week at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J., before getting eliminated from the national tournament.
The 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consisted of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, concluding with a 36-hole championship last Saturday.
Kim got off to a fast start in the Juniors, birdying four of the first 10 holes in the opening round to card a 3-under-par 70. She rallied from a rough start in the second round, with two bogeys on the front nine, to get a 74, good enough for fifth place at the end of stroke play.
In her first match, Kim defeated 60th-seeded Valery Plata of Colombia 2-up, and then eliminated 37th-seeded Brianna Navarrosa, age 13 of San Diego, the youngest player in the tournament, 4 and 3.
Kim won two matches, then lost 1-up to No. 21 seeded Waverly Whiston of San Diego. Both are rising 16-year-old rising juniors at their respective high schools, Kim at Chapel Hill and Whiston at La Jolla in California.
Both started cautiously with a series of pars before Whiston grabbed a two-hole lead after birdying the par-3 eighth and 10th holes.
Kim birdied the par-5, 531-yard 13th, but Whiston went 2-up again after a birdie 3 on No. 16. Kim answered with a birdie on 17, the last par-5 on the course, but couldn’t produce another on the 18th, where both players took a 4.
The Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Eun Jeong Seong of South Korea, who was 5 down through 13 holes of the 36-hole final, rallied to defeat Andrea Lee, 4 and 2 and won the Junior Championship Saturday. She became the first back-to-back champion since 1971, when Hollis Stacy won her third straight.
Seong becomes the third player to win consecutive Juniors titles, joining Stacy and Judy Eller (1957 and 1958).
Kim had qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior with a fourth-place finish in a one-day qualifier June 21 at MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary.
Kim, committed early to Duke, still has a berth in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be held Aug. 1-7 at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Penn. She tees off at 12:41 p.m. Monday in a threesome with Colorado State University sophomore golfer Katrina Prendergast of Sparks, Nev., and Furman junior Jacqueline Bendrick of Mercer Island, Wash., who was a scholar all-American as a sophomore.
The defending North Carolina 3A high school champion, Kim earned her spot in the Women’s Am at a sectional qualifier July 7 at Walnut Grove Country Club in Dayton, Ohio.