BEDMINSTER, N.J. – First Amy Anderson emerged as an unlikely medalist in stroke-play qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Then she cruised to the quarterfinals, knocked out junior powerhouse Victoria Tanco, 2 and 1, and fought back from a three-hole deficit to make it to tomorrow’s final match at Trump National.
Anderson, the 17-year-old North Dakota native who doesn’t play between September and January and spends most of her summer at home practicing instead of on the road at AJGA events, has a very solid match lined up for Saturday: 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim.
“I’m still the underdog,” Anderson said after closing out her semifinal match against Luz Alejandra Cangrejo on the 19th hole, No. 10, when Cangrejo leaked her tee shot right into a hazard and had to re-tee.
Anderson was 3-down after No. 7, but began chipping away at Cangrejo’s lead with a birdie on the par-5 8th. She won another when Cangrejo triple-bogied the par-3 10th. Anderson got tangled in fescue on 15, giving one back, before winning 16 and 17. All square on 18, Anderson chunked a chip behind the green before holing her fourth shot from the fringe to force the extra hole.
“It was the question of whether to putt it or chip it,” she said. “There was too much scruffy grass to putt it so I decided to chip it.”
Tomorrow will be Anderson’s first appearance in a USGA final, and she is playing competitive match play this week for just the second time in her career (the first was at last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior when she was knocked out in the Round of 64).
As Kim, of Hilo, Hawaii, chases her second USGA championship, tomorrow will mark her fourth appearance in a USGA final. If she manages to be the one still standing at the end of 36 holes, she will be just the sixth player in history to win both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
“I really, really want to win. I wouldn’t like to be runnner up twice in one summer, that’s kind of lame,” Kim said, referring to her appearance at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links final.
The 17-year-old knocked out Doris Chen, 5 and 4, in a semifinal match that included a holed pitch from 57 yards out with a 60-degree wedge. Add a putter that was so consistent it surprised even its owner, and Kim’s round of 6-under in the 14 holes she played is no surprise.
“I kind of had a good feeling and I rarely have a good feeling so it was kind of cool,” Kim said of her round. “I made a lot of putts and I knew (Chen) was a good putter. Everthing was falling for me so that’s how it goes.”
Before meeting Kim, Chen took down 13-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn in the quarterfinals, 3 and 2, and never let her opponent have a lead in that match. Despite a style of play that reveals few emotions, Chen said she was nervous to play Jutanugarn after she eliminated Alexis Thompson in the Round of 16.
“I was hitting pretty consistent today,” Chen said of the match. “I was just keeping pars and some birdies.”
In Kim’s morning match against Jennifer Johnson, the 2007 Rolex Tournament of Champions winner and 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, Kim took a narrow victory that came down to the par-4 18th.
Kim survived a close call on the 18th when she missed the green right and lipped out a 3-footer for par. Johnson also missed her 5-footer for par after hitting the green in regulation.
The round left a bad taste in Kim’s mouth that she managed to easily overcome in the semifinals.
“When I finished my round against Jennifer, I wasn’t making my putts so I was nervous about the next round, about my putting,” she said. “And then for some reason everything kept faling for the second one.”
The biggest problem Kim now faces is securing a caddy for tomorrow’s 36-hole final. Fellow competitior Annie Park, knocked out in the Round of 64, has looped for the last 72 holes. After Park backed out for the final, Kim took to her phone Friday afternoon, texting every other player she could think of who might carry the bag.