Stroke Play: 5 Groups to Watch July 24, 2017 | Augusta, Mo. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Brianna Navarrosa (left) has had success in the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball. Now she's ready for a U.S. Girls' Junior run. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

U.S. Girls' Junior Home

The 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship is being contested this week at Boone Valley Golf Club, just a few miles from the Daniel Boone Home, where the pioneer and frontiersman – and American folk hero – spent his last years. The Boone Valley course, designed by P.B. Dye (son of legendary course architect Pete Dye), boasts a good bit of golf lore in its 25 years of existence, with champions including Hall of Fame players Hale Irwin and Larry Nelson.

Even before the first tee shot is struck, this edition of the Girls’ Junior is poised to make history. For the first time, 18-year-olds – as long as they will not turn 19  by the championship’s end – are eligible to compete, up one year from the previous age limit of 17. There are 33 players in the field who have taken advantage of the eligibility change.

Here are five groups to watch as the two rounds of stroke play are conducted on Monday and Tuesday (all times CDT):

Mika Liu, Julia Matzat, Ashley Gilliam (Monday, No. 10, 7 a.m.; Tuesday, No. 1, 12:15 p.m.)

Liu, 18, of Beverly Hills, Calif., who will hit the first shot of the championship off the 10th tee, is competing in her record-tying seventh Girls’ Junior and has already won a USGA championship (the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, with Rinko Mitsunaga) and competed on a USA Curtis Cup Team (2016). Matzat, 17, of Parkland, Fla., helped her school, Archbishop McCarthy High, win back-to-back state titles. Gilliam, 16, of Manchester, Tenn., is a two-time Drive, Chip & Putt National finalist who won the Tennessee Girls’ Junior last month, 28 years after her mother, Jennifer, won it.  

Elizabeth Moon, Paphangkorn Tavatanakit, Jacque Galloway (Monday, No. 1, 7:11 a.m.; Tuesday, No. 10, 12:26 p.m.):

Tavatanakit, 17, of Thailand, is No. 32 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (second-highest in the field), and is coming off a missed cut in the U.S. Women’s Open 10 days ago. She lost in the Round of 16 in this championship last year, losing to Hye-Jin Choi, the runner-up in the Women’s Open, who is not competing here. Moon, 17, of Forrest City, Ark., won her age group in 2011 in the US Kids Golf World Championship and is competing in her first USGA championship. Galloway, 17, of Rio Rancho, N.M., is playing in her third Girls’ Junior and represented her state in the 2015 USGA Women’s State Team Championship.

Calista Reyes, Ellie Szeryk, Stephanie Kyriacou (Monday, No. 10, 8:28 a.m., Tuesday, No. 1, 1:43 p.m.):

This international group includes Reyes, 17, who reached the Round of 32 in her third start in this championship in 2016, and who will compete in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur in two weeks in her hometown of San Diego, where she moved at age 5 from the Philippines. Szeryk, 15, is a dual citizen of the USA and Canada who won the 2016 Ontario Girls’ Invitational and whose sister, Maddie, 19, missed the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago by three strokes. Kyriacou, 16, of New South Wales, Australia, won the Maple Leaf International Players event in Jasper, Alberta, last August.

Lucy Li, Jiayi Wang, Pinya Pipatjarasgit (Monday, No. 1, 12:48 p.m.; Tuesday, No. 10, 7:33 a.m.):

Li, 14, of Redwood Shores, Calif., is competing in her third Girls’ Junior – and ninth USGA championship – and is hoping to improve on making the Round of 32 in 2015 and Round of 16 in 2016. She made the cut in the 2017 ANA Inspiration and is also in the field for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in two weeks. Wang, 13, of Shanghai, People’s Republic of China, finished third in the Annika Invitational at Mission Hills Resort in China in late April and helped China secure the team title. Pipatjarasgit, 16, of Sylvania, Ohio, who is of Thai heritage and is playing in her first USGA championship, wears a bracelet with the flag of Thailand when she plays, a gift from Ariya Jutanugarn. Ariya and her sister, Moriya, two of the top professional players in the world, stay with Pipatjarasgit’s family when they compete in an Ohio event on the LPGA Tour.

Yujeong Son, Brianna Navarrossa, Claire Cameron (Monday, No. 1, 2:16 p.m.; Tuesday, No. 10, 9:01 a.m.):

Son, 16, a native of Busan, Republic of Korea, reached the Round of 16 in this championship in 2015 and the semifinals in 2016, when she lost to eventual champion Eun Jeong Song. She is also the youngest to win the Oklahoma Women’s State Amateur, at age 13 in 2014. Navarrosa, 15, of San Diego, Calif., reached the championship final of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Four-Ball with partner Angelina Kim and reached the Round of 32 in this championship last year. Cameron, 18, of Martinsville, Ind., is a three-time Indiana Golf Association Player of the Year who is competing in her fifth U.S. Girls’ Junior and plans to play at the University of Kentucky in the fall.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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