Ciera Min came into the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship as the 2,883rd-ranked golfer in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. Her first-round match-play opponent on Wednesday, Annie Park, is ranked significantly higher (eighth), and arguably has been the country’s hottest player over the past six weeks, with victories at the Pacific-12 Conference, NCAA West Regional and NCAA Division I championships.
Park, a rising sophomore at the University of Southern California, had continued her torrid play into this week’s WAPL, shooting a pair of 4-under 68s on the 6,351-yard, par-72 layout at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club to earn co-medalist honors with her college teammate, Doris Chen.
But in one of the more surprising first-round upsets in the championship’s 37-year history, Min, 17, of Hilo, Hawaii, defeated Park, 18, of Levittown, N.Y., 6 and 4. It was the second-largest margin of defeat ever for a medalist in the first round. Jessica Reese lost, 9 and 7, to Sunny Oh in 2002 at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort.
"That’s match play," said No. 3 seed Casey Danielson, who survived, 1 up, over Kuriko Tsukiyama, despite shooting 7-over 79, with the usual match-play concession. "It messes up your head. [Annie Park’s] a great player. [But] anything can happen [in match play]."
Park’s USC teammates, however, had decidedly better first-round results. Chen and defending champion Kyung Kim, who along with Park helped the Trojans post a record 21-stroke win at last month’s NCAA Division I Women’s Championship, each advanced easily.
But Lucy Li, the youngest WAPL match-play qualifier at 10 years 8 months, was eliminated by 21-year-old Ember Schuldt.
Two University of Oklahoma golfers who are playing on their home course this week – Anne-Catherine Tanguay, of Canada, and 2012 NCAA champion Chirapat Jao-Javanil, of Thailand – also advanced along with Oklahoma State players Kelsey Vines, of San Antonio, and Julie Yang, of Stillwater, Okla.
The 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Before Min, an incoming freshman at Gonzaga University, even reached the clubhouse congratulatory text messages had arrived from her future coaches: Brad Rickel and assistant Victoria Fallgren. When asked about Park’s remarkable credentials, which include qualifying for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open, Min was incredulous.
"I knew she was a great player," said Min. "It’s humbling. Two years ago I played against [two-time Curtis Cup Team member] Tiffany Lua [at the WAPL] and now I draw Annie. I was like, ‘Wow, I get the best draws in these tournaments.’"
The recent Waiakea High graduate fell to Lua in the opening round of the 2011 WAPL at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon, 2 down. Last July, she missed the match-play cut at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. And in Tuesday’s second stroke-play qualifying round, she struggled on the greens, finishing with a 79 (153 total) that put her in a 10-for-6 playoff for the final match-play spots.
Those experiences helped her against Park, who had recorded just two bogeys during 36 holes of qualifying. Against Min, she registered three bogeys over the 14 holes.
"It was a bad day for me," said Park, who earned the college player of the year and freshman of the year awards despite only playing the spring semester at USC. "I just putted like … a tornado. I hope I can forget about this round and just move on."
Min said she put no unnecessary pressure on herself against Park. She pounced early with a winning par on the third hole. Birdie putts just inside of 10 feet on the par-5 fifth and eighth holes gave her a 4-up lead at the turn. The lead swelled to 6 up when she holed a birdie putt at the par-4 11th. Park’s lone win – and birdie – came at the par-5 13th to keep the match going, but the match ended when she bogeyed at 14.
"It’s a great opportunity to play against someone [of her caliber]," said Min, who was the equivalent of three under par with the usual match-play concessions. "I had a rough day [on Tuesday]. I just had a lucky day today. [On Tuesday], no putts went in from anywhere. Today they did."
Starting play nearly 2½ hours after her USC teammate, Chen wasted little time putting away Abbey Carlson, of Lake Mary, Fla. Chen, 20, from Bradenton, Fla., birdied three of her first five holes, including a 15-footer from the fringe at the par-5 fifth, and cruised to a 4-and-3 win. Chen, who had eight birdies in Tuesday’s final qualifying round, registered four on Wednesday and was the equivalent of three under par through 15 holes.
"I never really put my guard down," said Chen, the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. "I tried to keep my mindset the same [as in stroke play]."
The surprising news of Park’s defeat reached Kim during her match against Monika Poomcharoen, of Temecula, Calif. But the Chandler, Ariz., resident wasn’t distracted, making three birdies over the first eight holes en route to a 6-and-5 win. Vying to be the first back-to-back WAPL champion since Pearl Sinn in 1988-89, Kim, 19, said her only goal this week was to make the cut and she isn’t putting any extra pressure on herself.
"I am trying not… to think about it as much," said Kim. "I think it’s helping."
When Schuldt saw on Tuesday night that she was drawn to play 10-year-old Lucy Li, she felt a little anxiety.
"I knew she was going to be a great player," said Schuldt, a senior at the University of Illinois. "Then again, you don’t want to lose because everyone knows that she’s 10."
Schuldt built a comfortable 5-up lead, only to see Li, of Redwood City, Calif., make three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 10 to trim the deficit to 2 down. A three-putt bogey at the 14th hole ended Li’s comeback hopes.
"It was exciting," said Li, who will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 12 days. "I played really good on the back nine with three birdies. I wasn’t that nervous. I just wanted to play the best that I could."
Added Schuldt: "She may look small, but she doesn’t play small. She is a great ball-striker and we had a great match."
Schuldt now goes from playing the youngest player in the match-play draw to the oldest. Her second-round opponent is 27-year-old Mercedes Huarte of Argentina.
Either way, the goal is the same: keep advancing.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.
NORMAN, Okla. – Results from Wednesday’s first round of match play at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, being conducted at the 6,351-yard, par-72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club:
Ciera Min, Hilo, Hawaii (153) def. Annie Park, Levittown, N.Y. (136), 6 and 4
Raychelle Santos, La Quinta, Calif. (148) def. Demi Frances Runas, Torrance, Calif. (148), 1 up
Robynn Ree, Redondo Beach, Calif. (151) def. Sierra Brooks, Sorrento, Fla. (146), 1 up
Chirapat Jao-Javanil, Thailand (147) def. Madison Opfer, Plant City, Fla. (151), 1 up
Mercedes Huarte, Argentina (152) def. Ashley Holder, Orlando, Fla. (144), 19 holes
Ember Schuldt, Sterling, Ill. (149) def. Lucy Li, Redwood City, Calif. (148), 3 and 2
Grace Park, San Jose, Calif. (144) def. Maria Villegas, Mexico (152), 4 and 3
Cindy Ha, Demarest, N.J. (150) def. Kaitlyn Papp, Austin, Texas (147), 20 holes.
Kyung Kim, Chandler, Ariz. (142) def. Monika Poomcharoen, Temecula, Calif. (153), 6 and 5
Briana Mao, Folsom, Calif. (148) def. Patricia Wong, Walnut, Calif. (149), 6 and 5
Krystal Quihuis, Tucson, Ariz. (152) def. Kendall Martindale, Jefferson City, Tenn. (145), 4 and 3
Louise Yi, Cinnaminson, N.J. (151) def. Abby Newton, Katy, Texas (147), 6 and 4
Ericka Schneider, Bradenton, Fla. (153) def. Mariel Galdiano, Pearl City, Hawaii (142), 2 and 1
Lauren Diaz-Yi, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (148) def. Katie Jean, Rantoul, Ill. (149), 4 and 3
Grace Na, Alameda, Calif. (145) def. Taylor Schmidt, Canada (152), 19 holes
Lucy Nunn, Lawton, Okla. (150) def. Lacey Fears, Bonaire, Ga. (147), 5 and 4
Doris Chen, Bradenton, Fla. (136) def. Abbey Carlson, Lake Mary, Fla. (153), 4 and 3
Allyssa Ferrell, Edgerton, Wis. (149) def. Harley Dubsky, Valparaiso, Ind. (148), 5 and 4
Kris Yoo, Schaumburg, Ill. (146) def. Mallory Viera, Howey In The Hills, Fla. (151), 4 and 3
Allisen Corpuz, Honolulu, Hawaii (147) def. Mariah Montoya, Lubbock, Texas (151), 19 holes
Anne-Catherine Tanguay, Canada (144) def. Chonlada Chayanun, Thailand (152), 2 and 1
Chaewon Park, San Pedro, Calif. (149) def. Julia Calbi, South Barrington, Ill. (148), 3 and 2
Krista Puisite, Latvia (144) def. Sarah Kellam, Crittenden, Ky. (152), 2 and 1
Kelsey Vines, San Antonio, Texas (147) def. Clariss Guce, Artesia, Calif. (150), 6 and 4
Casey Danielson, Osceola, Wis. (141) def. Kuriko Tsukiyama, West New York, N.J. (153), 1 up
Aurora Kan, Avondale, Pa. (148) def. Hannah Wood, Centennial, Colo. (149), 2 and 1
Karen Chung, Livingston, N.J. (146) def. Vanessa Ha, Allen, Texas (152), 4 and 3
Catherine Dolan, Ballwin, Mo. (151) def. Lauren Cate, St. Augustine, Fla. (147), 2 and 1
Julie Yang, Stillwater, Okla. (142) def. Lakareber Abe, Angleton, Texas (153), 4 and 3
Jade Staggs, Moore, Okla. (148) def. Rika Park, Japan (149), 2 and 1
Kelly Shon, Port Washington, N.Y. (144) def. Alison Hovatter, Meridianville, Ala. (152), 6 and 5
Whitney French, Corvallis, Ore. (147) def. Hannah Sodersten, Fresno, Calif. (150), 19 holes
NORMAN, Okla. – Pairings and starting times for Thursday’s second round of match play at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Champions, being conducted at the 6,351-yard, par-72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. (Note: third round of match play to follow at approximately 1 p.m.)
(All times CDT)
Round of 32
7:30 a.m. - Ciera Min, Hilo, Hawaii (153) vs. Raychelle Santos, La Quinta, Calif. (148)
7:40 a.m. – Robynn Ree, Redondo Beach, Calif. (151) vs. Chirapat Jao-Javanil, Thailand (147)
7:50 a.m. – Mercedes Huarte, Argentina (152) vs. Ember Schuldt, Sterling, Ill. (149)
8 a.m. – Grace Park, San Jose, Calif. (144) vs. Cindy Ha, Demarest, N.J. (150)
8:10 a.m. - Kyung Kim, Chandler, Ariz. (142) vs. Brianna Mao, Folsom, Calif. (148)
8:20 a.m. – Krystal Quihuis, Tucson, Ariz. (152) vs. Louise Yi, Cinnaminson, N.J. (151)
8:30 a.m. - Ericka Schneider, Bradenton, Fla. (153) vs. Lauren Diaz-Yi, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (148)
8:40 a.m. - Grace Na, Alameda, Calif. (145) vs. Lucy Nunn, Lawton, Okla. (150)
8:50 a.m. - Doris Chen, Bradenton, Fla. (136) vs. Allysa Ferrell, Edgerton, Wis. (149)
9 a.m. - Kris Yoo, Schaumburg, Ill. (146) vs. Allisen Corpuz, Honolulu, Hawaii (147)
9:10 a.m. - Anne-Catherine Tanguay, Canada (144) vs. Chaewon Park, San Pedro, Calif. (149)
9:20 a.m. – Krista Puisite, Latvia (144) vs. Kelsey Vines, San Antonio, Texas (147)
9:30 a.m. – Casey Danielson, Osceola, Wis. (141) vs. Aurora Kan, Avondale, Pa. (148)
9:40 a.m. – Karen Chung, Livingston, N.J. (146) vs. Catherine Dolan, Ballwin, Mo. (151)
9:50 a.m. – Julie Yang, Stillwater, Okla. (142) vs. Jade Staggs, Moore, Okla. (148)
10 a.m. – Kelly Shon, Port Washington, N.Y. (144) vs. Whitney French, Corvallis, Ore. (147)