Monday 67 Puts Defending Champ Out Front July 18, 2016 | Paramus, N.J. By Pete Kowalski, USGA

Eun Jeong Seong carded seven birdies on Monday en route to a 6-under 67 at The Ridgewood Country Club. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Defending champion Eun Jeong Seong, 16, of the Republic of Korea, fired a 6-under-par 67 Monday to hold a two-stroke lead after the first day of stroke play in the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on The Ridgewood Country Club’s 6,406-yard, par-73 composite course.

On a sweltering day that included a weather delay, Seong carded seven birdies, four on her last seven holes, against one bogey.

“I had some good shotmaking today,” said Seong, who is No. 25 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR). “My driver and my irons were good today and I had a lot of short birdie putts. My caddie was a big help.”

Seong, who was the runner-up in 2014 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and a U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinalist the same year at age 14, punctuated her round with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th hole.

Those strong previous finishes buoyed her, as she played with poise and embraced her stature as defending champion.


“I like it because there were so many people who said hello and they know me,” said Seong, who advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur. “I had more pressure but it is good pressure. There were so many coaches on the first hole but I was focused. My first aim is to make the [36-hole] cut.”

Aubree Jones, 17, of Covington, Tenn., and Sadie Englemann, 14, of Austin, Texas, posted 4-under-par 69s to trail Seong by two strokes.

“I was making a lot of putts,” said Jones, who advanced to the Round of 32 last year, where she lost to Seong. “It’s a very relieving feeling to know that I don’t probably have to make a lot of birdies tomorrow. But it’s the same game plan as today. If the birdies fall, they do but if they don’t, that’s OK.”

Englemann, a ninth-grade student at West Lake High School in Austin, had a bogey-free round with four birdies, all on her first nine.

“I think that was a definite key,” said Englemann of keeping bogeys off her card. “I parred all the holes on the back nine. I just kept cool and made some good putts. I just lagged them up there on the back and just went real low on the front side.”

Jones and Englemann were followed by Hye-Jin Choi, 16, of the Republic of Korea, Yu Sang Hou, 17, of Chinese Taipei, Alyaa Adbulghany, 17, of Newport Beach, Calif., and Gina Kim, 16, of Chapel Hill, N.C., who posted 3-under 70s.

Choi, No. 15 in the WAGR and the low amateur two weeks ago in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, registered five birdies and one bogey. Hou, along with Choi one of four players in the field of 156 who played in the U.S. Women’s Open, did not make a bogey against three birdies. Abdulghany, who will attend the University of Southern California in 2017, tallied six birdies and three bogeys. Kim logged five birdies and two bogeys.

“I think it really helped for this championship,” said Hou of competing in the Women’s Open at CordeValle. “It’s a really good experience, and it taught me to be more focused on every shot, because sometimes I care too much about something else.”

“All parts of my game were really good,” said Abdulghany, who strung together three birdies on Nos. 15-17, making a 6-footer, a 20-footer and an 8-footer, respectively. “I love the golf course – windy conditions, fast greens, it was nice.”

Four other 2015 Girls’ Junior quarterfinalists had rounds of 74 or better: Andrea Lee (2-under, 71) Mika Liu (1-under 72), Jayna Choi (even par, 73) and Annika Cedo (1-over 74)

The three New Jersey hopefuls, Kelly Sim, 16, of Edgewater; Ami Gianchandani, 17, of Short Hills; and Yoona Kim, 14, of Oradell, posted scores of 75, 77 and 84, respectively.

Afternoon play was halted for 1 hour, 20 minutes (3:55 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.).

A total of 16 sub-par scores were recorded on the same routing that has been used for three Barclay’s PGA Tour Playoff events, most recently in 2014.

The 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, which begin Wednesday (July 20) and conclude 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.

Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at pkowalski@usga.org.

68th U.S. Girls' Junior