Tangtiphaiboontana, Park To Meet In Girls’ Junior Final

Westfield, N.J. – Overcoming personal adversity, Jenny Tangtiphaiboontana, 17, of Long Beach, Calif., knocked off Allison Martin, 16, of Bakersfield, Calif., 2 and 1, in her semifinal match Friday at the 54th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the par-73, 6,353-yard Echo Lake Country Club.

Tangtiphaiboontana advanced to Saturday’s final against medalist In-Bee Park, 14, of Eustis, Fla., who defeated 17-year-old Hannah Jun of San Diego, Calif., in 20 holes. Both finalists are exempt into this year’s Women’s Amateur. Park had already qualified prior to the Girls’ Junior, while Tangtiphaiboontana was undecided whether to play.

Neither player knows much about the other. Neither has ever faced one another in a match-play event.

Admittedly nervous throughout the week, Park has used a simple method to overcome jitters.

“Just not thinking about it,” said Park. “Just concentrating.”

In quarterfinal matches, Park outlasted Jean Reynolds, 17, of Newnan, Ga., in 22 holes; Jun, on her 17th birthday, beat Julieta Granada, 15, of Paraguay, 5 and 3; and Martin sank a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole to defeat Jane Park, 15, of Beaumont, Calif.

A heartbreaking story, Tangtiphaiboontana has overcome long odds to make it to the finals. Last November, both her parents died in an automobile accident on the way home from a state tournament in California. Tangtiphaiboontana and her best friend, Dianne Sirisut, had been riding in the vehicle. Tangtiphaiboontana only suffered minor cuts and scratches and returned to play golf only a few weeks later.

Her brother 19-year-old brother Tommy, who attends Yale, decided to take time away from pursuing college internships this summer to be with her. Tangtiphaiboontana, still living on the West Coast with a family friend, said she talks to her brother every night.

“He has taken my mom’s place,” said Tangtiphaiboontana. “It’s a little easier. It’s nice to have someone here. I’m just kind of trying to repay him; so far I think it’s working.

“I actually don’t even think about it at all. I’ve managed to shut it all out.

“There have been certain periods when I’m not playing well, or I’m stressed out, I say, ‘Why am I still playing?’ But I don’t mean that seriously,” she said.

In her mother’s memory, Tangtiphaiboontana carries a red blouse that her mother used to wear during the final rounds of tournaments. When she arrived in Westfield earlier in the week, Tangtiphaiboontana and her brother stayed in a hotel. They struck up a friendship with her club-assigned caddie, Brian Fitzgerald, and both have been staying with the Fitzgerald family the last two nights.

Not a long hitter, Tangtiphaiboontana entered the championship with a goal of just making the cut.

“I booked a [plane] ticket for Thursday,” said Tangtiphaiboontana, who had missed the last two cuts at the Girls’ Junior.

A worrier of sorts, Tangtiphaiboontana has relied on her brother’s advice to get her through this championship. “Before I fall asleep, I turn over and say, ‘Tommy, what am I going to do?’”

How about win?

After disposing of Amie Cochran, 16, of Torrance, Calif., in 20 holes in the quarterfinal, Tangtiphaiboontana quickly went 2 up after the first two holes. Martin got the match all square by the seventh hole, but it would be closest Martin would get.

Tangtiphaiboontana pushed it back to 2 up on the 16th hole, when Martin missed a 7-foot putt for par. Tangtiphaiboontana made a 6-footer to put a choke hold on the match.

Tangtiphaiboontana has more than just her brother cheering her on. Four caddies, who are friends with her caddie, Brian Fitzpatrick, donned makeshift bibs and spelled out B-O-O-N on their backs and F-I-T-Z on their fronts with masking tape. They followed her through most of the match.

“They were hiding in the trees and I was trying to get up and down, and I was like, ‘What is that?’ Then I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” she said laughing. “They loosened me up.”

“She’s a tough cookie,” said Chris McClellan, one of those wearing a bib.

Needing 22 holes to beat Reynolds in the morning match, In-Bee Park again headed for extra holes against Jun.

The match was all square from holes 6 through 9 until Park broke the stalemate with a par on No. 10. Park went further ahead when she won the 12th and 13th holes to go 3 up. But Jun fought back, finally getting the match even on the 18th.

Park’s drive on No. 18 went into the cut on the right side of the fairway. Her approach then found the greenside bunker, setting up a chip. When she couldn’t get up and down, In-Bee Park conceded the hole.

On the 20th hole, drove to the green while Jun laid up with a fairway wood. Jun chipped up and over the flagstick, leaving In-Bee Park staring down a 30-foot putt for eagle. When Jun couldn’t convert on a 4-footer, In-Bee Park tapped in a 3-footer for the victory.

“I was very surprised,” said In-Bee Park. “I’m tired.”

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

The U.S. Girls’ Junior is open to female amateur golfers who have not reached their 18th birthday before July 27, 2002, and have USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 18.4.

The field was reduced to 64 players after two rounds of stroke play, then to two at the end of Friday. The championship final is scheduled for 9 a.m. EDT on Saturday.

Story written by Ken Klavon, USGA.

Semifinal Match Play Results
Westfield, N.J. – Results of the semifinal matches at the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the 6,353-yard, par-73 Echo Lake Country Club follow below:

Semifinal Results
1:00 p.m. In-Bee Park, Eustis, Fla. def. Hannah Jun, San Diego, Calif., 20 Holes
1:15 p.m. J Tangtiphaiboontana, Long Beach, Calif. def. Allison Martin, Bakersfield, Calif., 2 and 1

Saturday’s Final
9 a.m. Park vs. J Tangtiphaiboontana

 

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