Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 USGA Girl's Junior

Can I just say how WONDERFUL it is to be back in cool SF where it's currently 62 degrees, some 36 degrees cooler than it was last week in hot, humid, oppressive Pinehurst, NC! I was there watching the 62nd US Girl's Jr. Golf Championship, one of 13 National Championships the USGA conducts each year. Winning a match play championship is a true endurance test. After 36 holes of stroke play, 64 players advance to match play. One must make it through five 18 hole matches before making to the 36 hole final. Of course, some matches end early, but others go to extra holes like the Victoria Tanco vs Kristen Park round of 16 match that went 24 holes. Tanco won that match and immediately headed right back out to face Ally McDonald in the afternoon, only to lose in 19 holes! Remember, as I mentioned earlier temperatures were in the 98-99 degree range with the heat index well over 100. The local news was warning people to avoid outside activities! When I think back to my winning 2 Women's Amateur titles, it's no wonder I accomplished those feats in the cool climates of Santa Cruz, CA and Barrington, RI. I don't know how those young girls played as well as they did last week.

The two juniors that came to Saturday's finals arrived via two very different paths. Doris Chen, 17, was born in NYC, grew up in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) but has spent the last 3 + years in Florida at the IMG Leadbetter Academy and attending the Pendleton School there. She is under the tutelage of David Whelan, the Academy's director of golf, who also happens to coach current Women's US Open Champion Paula Creamer. Katelyn Dambaugh, 15, is from Goose Creek, SC a small suburb north of Charleston. Just saying Goose Creek makes you laugh and conjure up an image of a typical small southern town. Katelyn is a natural athlete who excels at many sports including basketball, softball and soccer. It's only been in the last couple of years that she has focused more on the game of golf.

Doris is stoic. She demonstrates no emotion during the course of play. Her facial features at times appear catatonic. Some might dub her "dull Doris". Her outward demeanor of course is a response to conceal nerves and unsureness on the inside. Actually, Doris is quite funny and much different once you get her away from golf and competition, according to David Whelan. In fact, we saw some of her personality as she walked to the 34th hole on Saturday, goofing around with her caddy Charlie MacInnes, calling him a polar bear. Doris also opened up in her interview with Steve Burkowski saying that she most looked forward to the next USGA event because of all the ice cream they provide on site. She is determined and focused. That, combined with her cool exterior, enabled her to keep plugging along and eventually wear down her competitor in the humid southeast.

Katelyn is all energy, enthusiasm, strength and personality strutting down the fairway. Katelyn
is the daughter of Cindy and Eric Dambaugh. She has an older sister Brooke who is a cheerleader. Katelyn got her athletic talents from her mom who was a very competitive softball player. Katelyn is naturally right handed, but swings the bat and the golf club from the left side. During the last 4 years, she's been coached by Koll Farman who teaches at Coosaw Creek CC. Katelyn doesn't play AJGA events and this was her first USGA Championship. Mostly, she plays tournaments on the South Carolina Junior Golf Association schedule. Last year, she finished second to Katie Higgins in the Beth Daniel Azalea Junior for one of her best finishes. Katelyn still plays HS basketball as a shooting guard who specializes in 3 pointers. Her personal best is 7 three pointers in one game! Katelyn has a great golf swing and as she gets more experience she'll keep improving and hopefully one day will reach her goal of playing for the Duke Women's Golf team. Besides being a big Duke fan, she's got Bieber Fever. Yes, she's in love with Justin Bieber and is going to see him in Charlotte on August 8, coincidentally right before the Women's US Amateur at Charlotte CC, for which she is now exempt!

I thought the different demeanor and games that these two teenage players brought to the US Girls Jr at CCNC was fabulous. Either junior could have won the championship. It was a slug fest with changes in lead happening 4 times and neither player ever going more than 2 up at any point. It was an even, well played match. Katelyn came into the championship just hoping to make match play and who had no expectations. She has to be delighted with the way she played and how she opened a nation's eyes to her talent. For Doris, who lost in last year's semi-finals, this has to be a sweet end to her USGA junior career. She is verbally committed to play golf at USC (Southern Cal) in 2011 but first we'll see if she can become the only player to win the US Girl's Junior and Women's Amateur in the same year. A tall order, but one I'm looking forward to watching in two weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Kay,
    It's great to see you join the blogosphere! Over the four years I've been LPGA-blogging, I've written many times that you are the best on-course reporter in the business. Your posts are excellent as well. Keep writing!