DUPONT, Wash. – For the second consecutive year, Doris Chen and Lauren Diaz-Yi faced each other in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Last year, Diaz-Yi took home the victory and the trophy. This year, the trophy was not on the line, but Chen at least earned the win.
Chen, 21, of Bradenton, Fla., avenged last year’s WAPL defeat with a commanding 6-and-4 win in the round of 16 over Diaz-Yi, 19, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“I thought it was fun that I got to play with Lauren again,” said Chen, winner of the 2013 NCAA individual championship for the University of Southern California. “We played some good golf out there.”
Chen’s birdie at the par-3 third gave her a lead that she never relinquished. Consecutive birdies at holes 5 and 6 built her lead to 3 up, and three straight wins at holes 9 through 11 sealed the victory for Chen.
“Her putting was phenomenal,” said Diaz-Yi, a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia. “She was draining everything. I just couldn’t drop any putts. My ball-striking was good, but my putts weren’t going in.”
Diaz-Yi won the 2013 championship with a commanding 10-and-9 victory over Chen at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla. Later that summer, Chen avenged the loss with a 4-and-3 quarterfinal victory over Diaz-Yi at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, conducted at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.).
Chen admitted to learning a lot of difficult lessons from last year’s WAPL defeat.
“Last year, I worked too hard,” said Chen. “I didn’t take care of myself well. I was thinking too much and doubting too much. I’ve been working on that.”
Chen is aiming to reach her third USGA championship final and second in the past year. In addition to her runner-up finish at the 2013 WAPL, Chen won the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Should she make the final, she would become the eighth player to do so in consecutive years and first since Jennifer Song in 2009.
In the morning’s round of 32, Chen birdied the par-5 16th to eliminate Rose Huang, 16, of Honolulu, 3 and 2. Diaz-Yi never trailed en route to a 1-up victory over Harley Dubsky, 18, of Valparaiso, Ind.
Chen was not the only USGA champion to reach the quarterfinals. Reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Gabriella Then, 18, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., notched two victories on Thursday to advance.
“I feel like I played much better today in the afternoon match,” said Then of her 2-and-1 win over Stani Schiavone, 22, of Bangor, Pa. “I hit more fairways and I definitely had better distance control in the afternoon, which helped with birdie opportunities.”
Then will next face Alana Uriell, 17, of Carlsbad, Calif., who scored a 1-up victory over Robynn Ree, 17, of Redondo Beach, Calif. Uriell, an incoming freshman at the University of Arkansas, was 3 down to Ree through 11 holes, but won holes 13 through 15 to square the match.
Then is attempting to join Lori Castillo as the only players to win the Women’s Amateur Public Links and Girls’ Junior in consecutive years. Castillo won the 1978 Girls’ Junior, followed by the 1979 and 1980 Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Medalist Eun Jeong Seong, 14, of the Republic of Korea, recorded two more victories on Thursday. In the morning’s round of 32, she eliminated Grace Na, 21, of Alameda, Calif., while she took a 3-and-1 round-of-16 win over Eimi Koga, 18, of Honolulu. In all three matches thus far, Seong rallied from early deficits for hard-earned wins.
In a round-of-32 battle of past USGA teammates, Cindy Ha, 17, of Demarest, N.J., defeated Alice Chen, 18, of Princeton, N.J., 2 and 1. Chen and Ha were members of New Jersey’s winning team at the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship.
Ha then reached the quarterfinals with a 6-and-5 win over Jennifer Yang, 20, of the Republic of Korea.
Sirene Blair, 19, of South Jordan, Utah; Dominique Galloway, 16, of Rio Rancho, N.M.; and Fumie (Alice) Jo, 15, of the People’s Republic of China, round out the WAPL quarterfinalists.
Local favorite Katie Lee saw her Cinderella story end on Thursday morning when she fell, 3 and 1, to Schiavone. Lee, 17, of Silverdale, Wash., upset 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team member Annie Park in Wednesday’s first round.
The 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final at 8 a.m. PDT on Saturday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.