Rose Zhang

Rose Zhang plays her tee shot on the ninth hole during the round of 32 at the 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis. on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Copyright USGA/Steven Gibbons)

STEVENS POINT — Epic showdowns in an event the nature of the U.S. Girls Junior Championship are often the result of the whimsical pecking order set forth by the stroke-play qualifying leaderboard as much as they are the momentum generated by surviving golfers in the match-play bracket.

Yuka Saso vs. Rose Zhang is the product of both.

The two highest-ranked players in the field this week at SentryWorld will meet in Friday morning's quarterfinals after each won a pair of matches Thursday to set up the 6:30 a.m. CDT battle on the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. layout. The semifinals will begin at 11:15 a.m. with live coverage on FS1 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Saso, the qualifying medalist from the Philippines ranked No. 25 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), dispatched a pair of future Duke University golfers, Phoebe Brinker, of Wilmington, Del., 3-and-2, and Anne Chen, of Houston, Texas, 5-and-4.

In her morning match against Brinker, the niece of PGA of America president Suzy Whaley, the 18-year-old Saso birdied three of her final four holes to break open a tight match. In the afternoon against Chen, Saso was 4-under-par in the 14 holes they played, with the usual match-play concessions.

“I'm happy that I won three matches now,” said Saso, who had never advanced past the Round of 32 in three previous U.S. Girls Junior appearances but did reach the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Women's Amateur. “Actually, I didn't expect the result. It's better than I expected. … But it's match play. Everything can happen. So just trying to focus and be ready.” 

Zhang, 16, of Irvine, Calif., who tied for 55th at this year's U.S. Women's Open and is ranked No. 22 in the WAGR, made eight birdies in 12 holes in ousting Michaela Morard, of Huntsville, Ala., 7-and-6, in the Round of 32. She then ousted Kelly Xu, 15, of Claremont, Calif., 4-and-3, in the Round of 16.

“Today was definitely a lot smoother than the first couple days that I've had,” said Zhang, who was the equivalent of 13-under over her 27 holes.  “But overall, I just felt really comfortable with my game, and especially my putter today. That helped me get a lot of birdie opportunities.”

The chance for a rare sibling USGA Junior Championship sweep came to an end when Grace Summerhays, 15 of Scottsdale, Ariz., fell to No. 7 seed Lei Ye, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, 6-and-5, in the Round of 16. Summerhays’ 16-year-old brother, Preston, who served as her caddie the past three days, won the U.S. Junior Amateur last Saturday at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

Ye, an incoming freshman at Stanford University and the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with partner Ya Chun Chang, built a 4-up lead after nine holes and cruised from there. Earlier in the day, Ye eliminated Virginie Ding, of Hong Kong China, 2 and 1.

“I think during lunch today I managed to kind of loosen up my stroke a little bit, keep it smoother and longer, and I made a lot more putts this afternoon,” said Ye.

Ye will face fellow incoming Stanford freshman Brooke Seay, 18, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the quarterfinals after Seay holed a 35-foot putt from just off the 18th green to force extra holes against Australian Grace Kim. Seay, a six-time U.S. Girls’ Junior competitor, then converted a 4-foot birdie on the 21st hole, the 149-yard, par-3 third hole at SentryWorld, to secure her spot in the final eight.

“I was just kind of picturing a line,” Seay said of the birdie putt on No. 18. “I wasn't thinking of distance at all. The only thing on my mind was make it. (Her caddie and brother Spencer) told me he would give me a puppy if I made it. That was just kind of unrelated, but it kind of loosened me up. I was a little surprised that it went in.”

Three holes later, she stuffed her tee shot to 4 feet. When Kim missed her 9-footer for birdie, Seay ended the match.

Jillian Bourdage, 17, of Tamarac, Fla., played 10-under golf over 34 holes in defeating Isabella Fierro, of Mexico, 3-and-2, in the Round of 32, and left-hander Mika (Meijia) Jin, of China, 2-and-1. She was 8-under over 16 holes against Fierro, an incoming freshman at Oklahoma State who reached the quarterfinals of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

"I'm super excited," said Bourdage, the lone remaining golfer with Wisconsin ties (her mother's family lives in Appleton). "My competitors I went against today, they're extremely phenomenal golfers and I just -- I don't know what to say. They're both really solid golfers and I had to really play my heart out today and keep pressing the gas pedal in order to close out my matches."

Incoming University of Tennessee freshman Nicole Whiston, 18, of San Diego, Calif., rallied from a 1 down deficit with two holes to play to record a 1-up victory over No. 3 seed Sophia Bae, 15, of Norwood, N.J.. Whiston parred No. 17 and knocked her approach shot from a fairway bunker on the par-4 18th hole to 4 feet for a winning birdie, earning a quarterfinal matchup with fellow Southern Californian Briana Chacon, 18, of Whittier.

Chacon, who beat Texas Christian University rising sophomore Sabrina Iqbal, 18, of San Jose, Calif., 5 and 4, in the Round of 16, is headed to the University of Oregon this fall. Her caddie this week is Scott Kreuser, husband of SentryWorld LPGA professional and championship chair Katie Kreuser.


Results from Thursday's Round of 32 at the 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, played at 6,216-yard par-72 SentryWorld.

Yuka Saso, Philippines (132) def. Phoebe Brinker, Wilmington, Del. (146), 3 and 2
 
Anne Chen, Sugar Land, Texas (148) def. Isabella Van Der Biest, Kingsport, Tenn. (148), 1 up
 
Rose Zhang, Irvine, Calif. (147) def. Michaela Morard, Huntsville, Ala. (149), 7 and 6
 
Kelly Xu, Claremont, Calif. (149) def. Yoona Kim, Fair Lawn, N.J. (147), 2 up
 
Lauren Beaudreau, Lemont, Ill. (146) def. Kendall Todd, Goodyear, Ariz. (149), 2 up
 
Jasmine Ly, Canada (144) def. Madelyn Gamble, Pleasant Hill, Calif. (149), 4 and 2
 
Jillian Bourdage, Tamarac, Fla. (141) def. Isabella Fierro, Mexico (146), 6 and 4
 
Mika (Meijia) Jin, People's Republic of China (148) def. Maisie Filler, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (144), 2 and 1
 
Brooke Seay, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (146) def. Caroline Hodge, Larchmont, N.Y. (150), 3 and 2
 
Grace Kim, Australia (144) def. Chun-Wei Wu, Chinese Taipei (144), 3 and 2
 
Lei Ye, People's Republic of China (142) def. Virginie Ding, Hong Kong China (147), 2 and 1
 
Grace Summerhays, Scottsdale, Ariz. (147) def. Erika Smith, Orlando, Fla. (143), 1 up
 
Sophia Bae, Norwood, N.J. (139) def. Julia Gregg, Farmers Branch, Texas (147), 2 and 1
 
Nicole Whiston, San Diego, Calif. (148) def. Anika Varma, India (148), 5 and 4
 
Sabrina Iqbal, San Jose, Calif. (142) def. Kayla Smith, Burlington, N.C. (147), 2 up
 
Briana Chacon, Whittier, Calif. (143) def. Gia Feliciano, Concord, Calif. (147), 3 and 2

Results from Thursday's Round of 16 at the 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, played at 6,216-yard par-72 SentryWorld.

Yuka Saso, Philippines (132) def. Anne Chen, Sugar Land, Texas (148), 5 and 4
 
Rose Zhang, Irvine, Calif. (147) def. Kelly Xu, Claremont, Calif. (149), 4 and 3
 
Lauren Beaudreau, Lemont, Ill. (146) def. Jasmine Ly, Canada (144), 3 and 1
 
Jillian Bourdage, Tamarac, Fla. (141) def. Mika (Meijia) Jin, People's Republic of China (148), 2 and 1
 
Brooke Seay, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (146) def. Grace Kim, Australia (144), 21 holes
 
Lei Ye, People's Republic of China (142) def. Grace Summerhays, Scottsdale, Ariz. (147), 6 and 5
 
Nicole Whiston, San Diego, Calif. (148) def. Sophia Bae, Norwood, N.J. (139), 1 up
 
Briana Chacon, Whittier, Calif. (143) def. Sabrina Iqbal, San Jose, Calif. (142), 5 and 4

Pairings and tee times for Friday’s quarterinfals of match play at the 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, played at 6,216-yard, par-72 SentryWorld.

 
6:30 a.m. - Yuka Saso, Philippines vs. Rose Zhang, Irvine, Calif.

6:40 a.m. - Lauren Beaudreau, Lemont, Ill. vs. Jillian Bourdage, Tamarac, Fla. 

6:50 a.m. - Brooke Seay, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. vs. Lei Ye, People's Republic of China

7 a.m. - Nicole Whiston, San Diego, Calif. vs. Briana Chacon, Whittier, Calif.