World No.1 Lydia Ko and American Jaye Marie Green won their semifinal matches to advance to the 36-hole championship final of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Country Club.
The 15-year-old Ko defeated Ariya Jutanugarn, 16, of Thailand, who is ranked No. 2 in the world by 3 and 1.
Ko went 2 up with a birdie at the par-3 11th but lost the par-5 12th to Jutanugarn’s birdie to see her lead shrink to 1 up. They halved the next two holes with pars.
Ko then finished with a flourish. She chipped in from 45 feet on the 15th for a birdie to halve the hole. At the 450-yard, par-5 16th, Ko hit the green in two shots and two-putted for another birdie to again go 2 up.
The deciding birdie came at the 17th. Jutanugarn missed the green while Ko hit her approach shot to within 8 feet of the hole. Jutanugarn made one stab at it, hitting a chip from deep, matted rough that went 60 feet right of the hole. She conceded Ko’s birdie putt to give the New Zealander the victory.
“Getting to the final feels really good,” Ko said. “My putts were rolling today, which really helps the confidence. This is amazing to beat such a great player.”
The long-hitting Jutanugarn, who won the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior, missed three putts inside of 6 feet that could have decided holes in her favor.
“She’s really a great player and an amazing putter,” Jutanugarn said of her opponent.
Green, the lone American to make the semifinals, eased past Nicole Zhang, 20, of Canada, 2 up. Both players will be competing in their first USGA championship final.
“Just knowing I’m still in the running to be the United States champion gives me the chills,” said Green.
Green and Zhang had an epic struggle in which Zhang kept fighting back when all seemed lost. Green won the first hole to take a 1-up lead. When Zhang won the third hole, it was the only time in the encounter that the match was square. Zhang never led. After Green birdied the par-3 11th, she was 3 up, but Zhang fought back.
“I hung in there the whole way,” Zhang said. “I didn’t give up at all.”
Zhang won the par-5 12th with a birdie and Green’s lead was trimmed to 2 up. At the 14th, a par 3, it looked as if Zhang would win another hole. Her ball was 20 feet from the hole, while Green sprayed her tee shot far to the right, some 90 feet from the hole and in the rough.
Green was as courageous as Zhang. She followed with a fine pitch shot over a bunker to within 6 feet of the hole. When Zhang missed her birdie putt, Green banged her putt into the back of the hole to retain her lead.
“To get up and down there, that definitely helped my confidence and kept me 2 up,” Green said.
At 15 years, 3 months and 18 days, Ko is the second-youngest finalist in Women's Amateur history, and could become the second-youngest champion. Both records are held by Kimberly Kim, who was 14 years, 11 months and 21 days of age when she won the 2006 Women's Amateur.
By virtue of reaching the championship final, Green and Ko each receive exemptions into the 2013 U.S. Women's Open, provided they are still amateurs. The championship will be conducted at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
Cleveland – Results from Saturday's semifinal round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club:
Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146) def. Nicole Zhang, Canada (144), 2 up
Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137) def. Ariya Jutanugarn, Thailand (139), 3 and 1
Cleveland – Pairing for Sunday's scheduled 36-hole championship final round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 6,512-yard, par-72 course at The Country Club (time EDT):
8:30 a.m. Jaye Marie Green, Boca Raton, Fla. (146) vs. Lydia Ko, New Zealand (137)
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