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#USGirlsJunior Qualifier: Steel Club

White Manor’s Yao medals in #USGirlsJunior Qual. at Steel Club

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HELLERTOWN, Pa. — Elite talent from all over the country — and outside of it — flocked to spectacular Steel Club Tuesday, making it the fourth year in a row GAP has administered a U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Qualifier on the Hellertown, Pa. turf.

In this year’s rendition, Steel Club (par 72, 6,298 yards) played host to 57 #USGirlsJunior hopefuls, making it one of the largest qualifiers in the country. At day’s end, it was GAP member Samantha Yao, a White Manor Country Club product, taking medalist honors with an impressive even-par 72.

After firing 1-over 73s, local standouts Rylie Heflin of Hartefeld National and Lauren Jones of Merion Golf Club also gained invitations. That score was matched by China’s Jana Ni and Virginie Ding who rounded out the qualifying group.

The day’s cut line stopped at 1-over 73 on the blue-skied day. In a 4-for-2 playoff, Christine Shao of Green Brook, N.J. grabbed the first alternate position available, while Kiera Bartholomew of Westampton, N.J. secured the second.

Yao has attempted to qualify at Steel Club three straight years now. In 2017, she missed the cut by four shots. Last year, she missed the qualifying number by nine strokes. Today, the third time proved to be the charm.

“I just wanted to keep trying, and now that I know the course, I felt comfortable out here,” said Yao, 18, of Berwyn, Pa. “There were definitely some jitters to begin, but I’m obviously happy with the way I ended.”

The eventual even-par round started on the wrong side of red after Yao chunked her approach shot and failed to get up-and-down on No. 1 (par 4, 327 yards). She claimed “the nerves really got to me, but I knew a ton of golf was left, so I was able to shake it off.”

A 6-iron from 150 yards led to a 20-foot birdie bomb on No. 3 (par 4, 379 yards) to get Yao back to level. Another birdie fell on No. 9 (par 5, 521 yards) from tap-in range. The third and final red figure came on the par-5, 460 yard 15th after a crushed 3-wood led to an easy two-putt from the front fringe. Three pars on the way in gave Yao the medal.

“I’ve never played in a [USGA national championship] before, so this would mean a lot,” said Yao, who will make her way to Dartmouth College in August to begin her college campaign.

Time to start making travel plans. Yao, and the four other qualifiers, will now tee it up in the championship proper at SentryWorld (Stevens Point, Wis.), July 22-27.

Hartefeld’s Heflin had two birdies on her card matched with three bogeys. Her course knowledge after playing Steel Club for the fourth year in a row was a major factor.

“I hit a lot of greens and that always helps. I think I’ve improved every single year I’ve tried to qualify here,” said Heflin, 16, of Avondale, Pa.

Coming off a strong sophomore season for Tower Hill School, including the school’s fourth straight State Championship title, Heflin is now set to make her USGA debut at SentryWorld.

Joining her will be Merion’s Jones, who last week helped propel the Philadelphia team to a win in the Junior Inter-City Matches at Whitford Country Club. The rising junior at Episcopal Academy carded her tournament-best round en route to today’s invitation.

“I just got back from a weekend at the beach, and haven’t been able to play or practice, so I just wanted to come out here, have fun and shoot somewhere in the 70s,” said Jones, 16, of Newtown Square, Pa. “I love this course, and I think I played it well today.”

Ding and Ni, both of China, were making their Steel Club debuts. Ding is an accomplished Hong Kong player committed to Vanderbilt University, while Ni is just beginning the college recruiting process. Both players hope to make a splash on the USGA’s big stage.

“Coming all this way, it really makes me happy knowing I played well and qualified,” said the 16-year-old Ni. “This is something I’ve been wanting to try for two years now. It’s hard to make the schedules work. The trip was worth it.”

GAP
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

Qualifiers
Name, city, state/countryScore
Samantha Yao, Berwyn, Pa.72
Virginie Ding, China73
Rylie Heflin, Avondale, Pa.73
Lauren Jones, Newtown Square, Pa.73
Jana Ni, China73
Alternates (in order)
*Christine Shao, Green Brook, N.J.74
*Kiera Bartholomew, Westampton, N.J.74
Failed to qualify
*Emma Shen, Tenafly, N.J.74
*Angelina Tolentino, Mount Laurel, N.J.74
Siqin Yu, Winderemere, Fla.75
Jenelle Valera, Piscataway, N.J.76
Samantha Galantini, West Orange, N.J.77
Emma Wan, China77
Ariel Gonzalez, Mexico78
Jade Gu, Yardley, Pa.78
Katie Li, Basking Ridge, N.J.78
Sophia Taverna, Holmdel, N.J.78
Hannah Trinh, Plainsboro, N.J.78
Anna Bowman, Westfiled, N.J.79
Megan Meng, Pennington, N.J.79
Taylor Oberparleiter, Laurel Springs, N.J.79
Christna Carroll, Bear, Del.80
Liddie McCook, Chester Springs, Pa.80
Sammie Dolce, Florham Park, N.J.81
Natasha Kiel, New Hope, Pa.81
Lily Celentano, Weston, FL82
Grace Lu, Edison, N.J.82
Katherine Lu, Plainsboro, N.J.82
Camille O’Halloran, Northfield, N.J.82
Anushka Sawant, Monmouth Junction, N.J.82
Sarah Scarpill, Warrington, Pa.82
Sawyer Brockstedt, Rehoboth Beach, Del.83
Madeline Jin, Belle Mead, N.J.83
Claire Lu, Edison, N.J.84
Riley Quartermain, Bryn Mawr, Pa.84
Jenna Han, Mahwah, N.J.85
Emily Luu, Mullica Hill, N.J.85
Amelia Shen, Tenafly, N.J.85
Olivia Wirsching, Blue Bell, Pa.85
Hai Ying Nancy Zheng, China85
Ella Chon, Princeton Junction, N.J.86
Brooke Oberparleiter, Laurel Springs, N.J.86
Olivia Schwandt, Wilmington, Del.86
Sarah Shao, Green Brook, N.J.86
Hartley Zook, Flemington, N.J.86
Callie Jean Burns, Wynnewood, Pa.87
Sophie Chang, Basking Ridge, N.J.89
Srishti Dhurandhar, Livingston, N.J.89
Jessica McClellan, Freeland, Pa.89
Paige Richter, Camp Hill, Pa.89
Kathleen Mark, Media, Pa.90
Molly Gregor, North Wales, Pa.92
Ava Chon, Princeton Junction, N.J.93
Elizabeth Beek, Blue Bell, Pa.WD
Sydney Kuo, Edison, N.J.WD
Caraline Oakley, Southampton, N.Y.WD
Xhemi Rama, IrelandWD
WD – withdrawal
* – decided in playoff