Impressive Performances, Close Matches Define Wednesday July 20, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Pete Kowalski, USGA

Megan Furtney was 3 down with five holes to play on Wednesday before ultimately prevailing in 19 holes over Aneka Seumanutafa. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

U.S. Girls' Junior Home

Co-medalist Hye-Jin Choi and defending champion Eun Jeong Seong, both of the Republic of Korea, were among the 32 players who won first-round matches Wednesday in the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

Choi, the low amateur in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago, defeated Nicole Whiston, of San Diego, Calif., by building a 4-up lead through seven holes on The Ridgewood Country Club’s 6,406-yard composite course and never trailed on the way to a 4-and-3 victory.

“I think everything worked out well today,” said Choi, 16, through an interpreter. “My putts were great and my drivers were great. I started out really great, which took some pressure off me and allowed me to play well.”

Choi, who is No. 15 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), is a 16-year-old junior at Haksan Women’s High School in Gimhaesi.

Seong, 16, the runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, gained a 3-up lead through nine holes against Katherine Muzi and followed up with wins on holes 12 and 14 to close the match. Seong, a quarterfinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, won all five holes with pars.

“I didn’t have a birdie today,” said Seong, who is No. 25 in the WAGR. “But she made a couple mistakes today, which is how I won.”

Choi’s fellow co-medalist, Sadie Englemann, 14, of Austin, Texas, lost, 1 down, to Kendall Griffin, 17,  of Sebring, Fla.

“I thought I played really well but she made a lot of putts,” said Englemann, who is a ninth-grade high school student. “She played really awesome, I didn’t make too many, but I thought I played well.”

Facing a 2-down deficit on the eighth tee, Griffin, who was the Florida State Golf Association Girls Player of the Year in 2013, won four of the next six holes – three with birdies – to offset an Englemann birdie and gain a 1-up lead through 13 holes.

Griffin lost the 17th hole with a triple bogey to square the match, but won the match with a bogey on the 18th.

Hailee Cooper, of Montgomery, Texas, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion with Kaitlyn Papp, advanced with a 6-and-5 win over Emma Bradley.

“The past few days I’ve made a lot of birdies, but I’ve also made a lot of bogeys, too,” said Cooper. “I feel like I definitely dialed down the bogeys and figured out how to make pars in difficult situations.”

Other winners included: 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team member Andrea Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.; Jayna Choi, 15, of Collierville, Tenn., a semifinalist in the 2015 championship; and Yu Sang Hou, 17, and Yu Chiang Hou, 15, sisters from Chinese Taipei.

Lee’s Curtis Cup teammate Mika Liu, of Beverly Hills, Calif., the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion with Rinko Mitsunaga, was defeated by Yujeong Son, 15, of the Republic of Korea.

The 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, which concludes with Saturday’s 36-hole championship.

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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