June 19, 2018
HELLERTOWN, Pa. — For the third consecutive season, the Golf Association of Philadelphia administered a U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Qualifier in Hellertown, Pa.
This time around, sensational Steel Club (par 72, 6,173 yards), previously known as Silver Creek Country Club, played host to 40 Girls’ Junior hopefuls Tuesday under summer skies.
The medal honor was claimed by Colombia’s Valery Plata, a Michigan State University signee, who qualified for the #USGirlsJunior at the same site in 2016. Plata fired a scorching round of 2-under 70 to take hold of the top spot.
Christine Shao, of Green Brook, N.J., who qualified at Silver Creek last year, fired a 1-under round of 71 to claim the day’s second spot. Lauren Peter, of Carmel, N.Y., carded a 1-over 73 and emerged from a 3-for-1 playoff to earn the final berth.
Bailey Davis, of White Plains, Md., grabbed the first alternate position while the second went to Kaitlyn Lees, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., a Merion Golf Club and Philadelphia Country Club member.
The championship proper is set for July 16-21 at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif.
The medalist and future Spartan caught fire early with birdies on both No. 2 (par 4, 327 yards) and No. 3 (par 3, 379 yards). On the 2nd, she lifted a 7-wood off the tee and found the short stuff before hitting an 88-yard wedge to four feet and converting for 3. A driver, 7-iron combo on the 3rd hole left Plata with a 13-foot attempt. She got it to fall and moved 2 under thru 3.
Another red digit surfaced on No. 7 (par 4, 334 yards). An ideal driver left her with 117 yards in. She put that pitching wedge approach to 15 feet and put the putt in the bottom of the hole.
“It started to get a little windy after making the turn. My ball striking wasn’t that good anymore,” she said. “But then I made some nice up-and-downs for pars that helped me a lot. The one birdie I had on the back also helped, too.”
That lone back birdie came on No. 17 (par 4, 370 yards). Plata found the fairway with her driver, then debated heavily whether to go with a hybrid or 6-iron from 165 yards out, into the wind. She went 6-iron. It was the right call, and she sunk a five-foot look for birdie.
Plata, who calls Bucaramanga home in Colombia, recently returned from Japan where she was competing with her traveling Colombian national team. She didn’t have many dates left on the schedule for qualifying, so she figured she’d choose based on timing. Luckily, Plata picked a site she was more than familiar with.
“I obviously know the course, so it was an easy decision to come back here, and now I’m glad I did,” she said.
The 17-year-old will begin her career as a Spartan in the fall. Before then, she’ll make her third appearance in the #USGirlsJunior where she will look to advance past the Round of 64 for the first time.
“It’s an amazing program. I had a few other schools looking at me, but I loved everything about Michigan State – the coaches, the teammates, the school. But first I’m excited to try and enjoy my time at Poppy Hills,” said Plata, who played in the championship in 2015 and 2016.
Shao, coming off an undefeated junior season at The Pingry School, qualified at Steel Club for the second consecutive season. Her 1-under 71 was boosted by four red numbers.
The 17-year-old Shao, who has given her verbal commitment to the University of Virginia, will be playing in her second #USGirlsJunior. Like Plata, she has loftier goals this time around as she’s got experience on her side.
“Being inexperienced out there last year took a little out of it for me. I’m going to be setting some goals, mostly to reach match play, and I believe in myself to do well,” said Shao.
Gaining the third and final spot in the 3-for-1 playoff was Peter, a Ohio State University signee. She did so on the third playoff hole, Steel Club’s No. 12 (par 4, 349 yards), thanks to a two-putt par from 15 feet. That 4 bettered bogeys by Davis and Lees.
“I was able to get aggressive with the birdie putt there. It rolled a few feet by, but I was able to get the second to fall,” said Peter.
Back in April, the incoming Buckeye reached match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif. She’ll look to do the same at Poppy Hills – and maybe more.
“Two good rounds is all I need to start. Then, once I get into match play, we’ll see what I can do from there,” she said.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is open to any female amateur players who have not reached the age of 19 by July 21 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 9.4. A record 1,609 entries were accepted by the USGA this year.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 153 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|Name, city, state/country||Score|
|Valery Plata, Colombia||70|
|Christine Shao, Green Brook, N.J.||71|
|*Lauren Peter, Carmel, N.Y.||73|
|Alternates (in order)|
|*Bailey Davis, White Plains, Md.||73|
|*Kaitlyn Lees, Bryn Mawr, Pa.||73|
|Failed to qualify|
|Jennifer Cleary, Wilmington, Del.||75|
|Daphne Chao, New York, N.Y.||76|
|Caroline Curtis, Richmond, Va.||76|
|Rylie Heflin, Avondale, Pa.||76|
|Lei Ye, China||76|
|Elizabeth Beek, Blue Bell, Pa.||77|
|Jon Angela Magcalayo, Philippines||78|
|Christina Carroll, Bear, Del.||79|
|Katie Li, Basking Ridge, N.J.||79|
|Lexie McKay, Canada||80|
|Haley Quickel, Middletown, Del.||80|
|Haley Yerxa, Canada||80|
|Esther Park, Wilmington, Del.||81|
|Julianne Lee, York, Pa.||82|
|Ellen Wager, Lancaster, Pa.||82|
|Samantha Yao, Berwyn, Pa.||82|
|Jade Gu, Yardley, Pa.||83|
|Liddie McCook, Chester Springs, Pa.||83|
|Marlene Tartaro, Warren, N.J.||83|
|Natasha Kiel, New Hope, Pa.||84|
|Olivia Traynor, Villanova, Pa.||84|
|Lauren Jones, Newtown Square, Pa.||85|
|Charlotte Scully, Chadds Ford, Pa.||85|
|Amelia Shen, Tenafly, N.J.||85|
|Sophia Taverna, Holmdel, N.J.||85|
|Olivia Wirsching, Blue Bell, Pa.||85|
|Michelle Cox, Allentown, Pa.||86|
|Mia Scarpati, Ridgefield, Ct.||86|
|Kathryn Thome, Winchester, Va.||87|
|Maya Torpey, Malvern, Pa.||87|
|Alexandra Williams, Erial, N.J.||87|
|Josephine Genereux, Greenwich, Ct.||88|
|Grace Hickey, Downingtown, Pa.||90|
|Brianna Marmorstein, Havertown, Pa.||90|
|Niva Sainju, Burke, Va.||92|
|*-decided in 3-for-1 playoff|
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