Moore Making Championship Swansong Count July 27, 2017 | Augusta, Mo. By Lisa D. Mickey

Haley Moore finished second in the 2016 NCAA Championships for the University of Arizona and is playing in her final U.S. Girls' Junior. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Haley Moore believes that if she can hit it long, she can also take it deep.

And that’s her mindset at Boone Valley Golf Club in this week’s 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, as she plays for the final time in what she considers her favorite USGA championship.

Moore entered Thursday’s match play with a determination to improve on her previous best finish in this championship, a loss in the Round of 32 in last year’s Girls’ Junior, and she has done that. She earned a 3-and-2 victory Thursday morning over Ashley Menne, and she takes on Taylor Roberts, of Parkland, Fla., in Thursday afternoon’s Round of 16.

“On this course, your carry distance helps a lot, especially on all the holes with the water,” said Moore, 18, of Escondido, Calif., who will turn 19 in November. “This course is in great condition and it's a beautiful course.”

Moore used her substantial length off the tee during Wednesday’s Round of 64 to win her first match, 4 and 3, over Tze-Han Lin of Chinese Taipei. The No. 12 match-play seed recorded six birdies to advance, then made five more birdies (with match-play concessions) in her win on Thursday morning.

At 5-foot-11, Moore averages about 275 yards off the tee, which she says enables her to think about scoring on her approach shots.

“I hit the ball pretty far, so that gives me an advantage sometimes, especially on the long par 4s,” said Moore, No. 20 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking – the highest position in this year’s Girls’ Junior field.

While her long game comes as second nature, Moore has worked to fine-tune her short game as a junior at the University of Arizona.

Moore graduated a semester early in December 2015 from San Pasqual High School to enroll early at Arizona at age 17. She still had to complete her high school classes online, and she finished each credit that she took – normally a full semester of work – in just three weeks.

“I was able to do it and I don’t regret my decision,” said Moore, who ended up finishing second individually in the 2016 NCAA Championship at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club. “I learned a lot. I didn’t know if I was at the same level as the other girls yet, but after coming in second, it told me it was a good choice to come to college early.”

Last year as a sophomore, Moore’s Wildcat team missed going to the NCAA Championship, but Moore posted some solid finishes while playing in the competitive Pac-12 Conference. She was the individual champion of the 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate and finished fifth in the 2017 Pac-12 Championships.

“It’s a really strong conference and that was a part of my decision because I knew I could play at a school that could compete for national championships,” she added. “There’s really good competition between the different schools in our conference.”

Though she is the top-ranked player in the field, Moore said she does not underestimate the strength or depth of the young talent in this championship.

“There are so many really good juniors out here and anything can happen because this is golf,” she said. “They can catch a hot round and be my opponent. I just look at the everyday process and keep fighting to the finish and don’t take anything for granted.”

Moore noted the skills that even the youngest players bring into this championship.

“It just shows that there are a lot of young girls really developing in this game and I love seeing it,” she added. “Just to qualify for these tournaments is amazing. As they grow in golf, I hope they will really cherish this game.”

Moore hopes to take a good experience back to Tucson this fall.

“I just want to go back and have a stronger year,” said Moore, whose USGA record also includes making it to the Round of 32 in the 2015 Women’s Amateur and qualifying for the 2016 Women’s Amateur, where she did not advance into stroke play.

If Moore has her way this week, she will add one more title before the summer is over.

“This course can easily be like a college course just because it's so tough,” she said. “I've definitely learned a lot, and my college experience has helped me really prep for this tournament.”

A victory would be the perfect way for her junior career to officially end.

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

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