WAPL Finalists Focus On Fairways June 21, 2012 | Neshanic Station, N.J. By Stuart Hall

Ashlan Ramsey celebrates her win after sinking the winning putt at the 18th hole to upset Kim Kaufman with a 1-up victory. (Hunter Martin/USGA)

Hitting fairways and greens.

Kyung Kim and Ashlan Ramsey have advanced to the 36th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship’s scheduled 36-hole final on Saturday by following that simple concept, and neither plans on deviating from it.

"Fairways and greens … hopefully a few putts will fall in … and not worry about anybody else," said Ramsey of her intentions on Saturday, repeating almost verbatim the same words that Kim spoke to the media nearly 15 minutes earlier.

Kim, 18, an incoming freshman at the University of Southern California, and Ramsey, 16, a senior at John Milledge Academy in Georgia, have been methodical in their respective routes throughout match play.

Consider these numbers:

  • Of their combined 10 matches this week, only one went fewer than 16 holes and four were decided on the 18th hole.
  • Given the usual match play concessions, Kim has played 86 holes in 11 under par; Ramsey has played 84 holes in six under par.
  • Ramsey did not trail a hole in match play until the sixth hole of her 1-up semifinal victory over Kim Kaufman — a stretch of 71 holes either all square or leading.
  • Kim trailed on four holes in a 1-up first-round win over Ellen Mueller, but has since dominated. She trailed after only two of 68 holes in her remaining four matches, including one in a 3-and-2 semifinal win over Alice Jeong.

"I never thought I was a good match player because I started out strong and didn’t finish well," said Kim, of Chandler, Ariz. "So coming into this tournament, I really didn’t think I was going to get this far actually."

The difference?

"Nothing has really changed," Kim said. "I have just tried to stay in the shot and not get ahead of myself."

Both players admit to liking the Dr. Michael Hurdzan-designed Neshanic Valley Golf Course, saying it suits their metronomic games. Part of the key to making par — and the occasional birdie — on the course that is expected to play as close to the listed 6,221 yards as possible, will be to avoid wayward shots into the green that could find the thickening rough and occasional wispy fescue.

"You don’t have to hit it very far to get some shorter irons in and have some birdie opportunities," Ramsey said. "I’m hitting my irons really well, not putting as well as I want too, but obviously I’m doing something right."

Said Kim: "I would say I’m pretty accurate. I’m accurate with my long game and don’t miss many fairways and greens. My weakest part is my short game as I don’t make as many putts as I should on average."

Kim, nicknamed Radar for her tee-to-green accuracy, expects that she will need to make a few putts outside her normal comfort length in order to gain an advantage.

Then again, Ramsey said the same thing.

While match play sifted out Curtis Cup players (Emily Tubert, Lisa McCloskey, Tiffany Lua, and Sally Watson), an NCAA champion (Chirapat Jao-Javanil) and a USGA champion (Doris Chen), Kim and Ramsey have exceeded their expectations for the week.

The winner of Saturday’s match play will be exempt into the U.S. Women’s Amateur the next two years, while the runner-up is exempt into this year’s championship at The Country Club in Cleveland. Ramsey is also exempt into next month's U.S.Girls' Junior, but she had already qualified for the event at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., earlier this month. 

Ramsey, who has verbally committed to Clemson University and will be part of the Tigers’ first golf team in Fall 2013, could also become the youngest champion since 15-year-old Yani Tseng claimed the title in 2004. College players have claimed the last four WAPL titles.

But there still remains plenty of golf before either Kim or Ramsey will hoist the championship trophy. And if both players are as identical as they sound, do not be surprised if 36 holes is not enough to crown the champion.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship websites.