Round 2: Hot Topics at Ridgewood July 19, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Lisa D. Mickey

Yoona Kim is one of three New Jersey natives competing in the U.S. Girls' Junior this week. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Three Jersey Girls In The Field

As part of the New York metropolitan area, northern New Jersey loves its sports heroes, and there are plenty of them just across the Hudson River.

But closer to home, three New Jersey residents – Ami Gianchandani of Short Hills, Yoona Kim of Oradell and Kelly Sim of Edgewater – are in the field of this week’s championship,  hoping to win a USGA title on home turf.

Sim carded a 2-over score of 75 Monday in her opening round of stroke play, while Gianchandani recorded a score of 4-over 77 to move into a tie for 51st. The prep rivals put themselves in good position to make Tuesday’s 36-hole cut and advance into Wednesday’s first round of match play.

Kim will have a tougher assignment to move into match play. She carded  an 11-over score of 84 in the first round.

Gianchandani, who will be a junior this fall at Pingry School in Basking Ridge, walked the Ridgewood course two years ago to follow her favorite PGA Tour star, Rory McIlroy, in The Barclays.

She told a local media outlet that she had “been thinking about this ever since they announced it was going to be at Ridgewood.”

“The fact that I get to play a national championship in New Jersey makes it even more exciting,” she told The Star Ledger.

In state high school golf competition, Sim, also a junior, holds an advantage as the winner of the state’s last two championship titles, while Gianchandani finished second and fourth, respectively. Gianchandani won last year’s New Jersey girls’ crown in a playoff.

In last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, Sim reached the Round of 32, while Gianchandani missed the cut. Sim, who attends the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, announced in April  that she plans to attend Northwestern University.

Defending Champ Keeps On Rolling

Defending champion Eun Jeong Seong picked up right where she left off last year in Monday’s opening stroke-play round of the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

The native of the Republic of Korea kicked off her week at The Ridgewood Country Club with a round of 6-under 67 that included seven birdies and a single bogey to move to the top of the stroke-play leader board, two shots clear of Tennessean Aubree Jones and Texan Sadie Englemann, who are at 4-under 69.

Seong, 16, showed her mettle once again with her length off the tee and a deft putting touch on the quick greens.

“I had some good shotmaking today,” she said. “My driver and my irons were good and I had a lot of short birdie putts.”

Seong said she felt comfortable returning to a USGA championship, where she seems to have found a comfort zone. Seong was a quarterfinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.

“I like it because there were so many people who said hello and they know me,” she said on Monday. “I had more pressure, but it is good pressure.”

Seong was followed not only by golf fans who wanted to see the defending champion, but by college coaches who would like the teen to give college golf a try.

“There were so many coaches on the first hole, but I was focused,” said Seong. “My first aim is to make the cut.”

Seong likely is well on her way to achieving her first goal of the week. She begins Round 2 at 2:16 p.m. on No. 10.

Making The 36-Hole Cut

Following Round 1, 12 players were tied for 56th and 10 players were tied for 68th. Tuesday’s 36-hole cut will trim the championship field to 64 players.

Should there be a tie for the final match-play spots, a playoff will be held to break the tie. A playoff would begin immediately following the second round of stroke play.

One player in a tie for 68th after her opening round of 5-over 78 is Aneka Seumanutafa, 15, of Frederick, Md. She is competing in her fifth USGA championship and second U.S. Girls’ Junior.

Seumanutafa won the 2015 Maryland State Girls Amateur by 17 strokes, and also captured the 2015 Maryland Women’s Amateur, so she will be looking to trim a few shots in Tuesday’s second round for a chance to advance into Wednesday’s first round of match play.

Hoping to Trim Shots On Inward Nine

Players in the field of this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship might be looking to make up ground on the incoming nine of The Ridgewood Country Club. The par-73 layout has a par of 36 going out and 37 coming in, with some holes offering players birdie opportunities.

The easiest hole in Monday’s first round of stroke play was the 130-yard, par-3 10th, which averaged 3.045 strokes for the field, while the 123-yard, par-3 15th hole averaged 3.083 strokes.

Two par-5 holes on the inward nine also offer players a chance to be aggressive. The 474-yard, par-5 12th hole averaged 5.128 strokes on Monday, while the 483-yard, par-5 17th hole averaged 5.122 strokes.

Conversely, the outward nine featured two of the hardest holes. The most difficult was the 365-yard, par-4 ninth hole, which averaged 4.686 strokes on Monday, and the second-hardest was the 522-yard, par-5 third, which averaged 5.577 strokes in the first round.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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