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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Lilia Khatu Vu, of Fountain Valley, Calif., lost 2 and 1 in the round of 16 Thursday.
US Girls’ Junior

22nd seed advances with 18-hole thriller

– The U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship is down to its final eight competitors at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

On Thursday, one of the best matches came in the morning, when Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, Calif., defeated Nicole Morales of South Salem, N.Y., with a par on the par-4 18th hole in the round of 32.

“Nicole is a really good opponent, and I knew she would come out strong. I just wanted to keep up with her,” said Wu, who came into the match-play portion of the event seeded 22nd, while Morales was 11th.

Wu and Morales, who each had 3-under 69s Monday in stroke play, were in a tight, gripping match Thursday.

They had the same score on seven of the first nine holes and were all square going onto the par-4 10th, where Wu parred for the lead. With a birdie on the par-5 12th, Morales tied the match again. Then, she birdied the par-4 16th for the lead before losing the final two holes and the match.

“I felt like it was just a putting contest the whole time,” Wu said. “She hit great shots. I’d hit great shots. She’d hit great putts. I’d do the same. It was just back and forth.”

As for what happened on the 18th to win, Wu said: “I just wanted to hit a good drive and hit a good shot toward the green and make a birdie or par.”

Wu played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2012 and reached the final 32 at the 2011 Girls’ Junior.

She advanced to today’s quarterfinals with a 1-up victory over sixth-seeded Samantha Wagner of Windermere, Fla.

Dominating performance

The most lopsided match of the round of 16 came when 44th seed Gabrielle Then of Upland, Calif., defeated 37th-seed Cheyenne Knight of Aledo, Texas, 7 and 6. Then won the first five holes – birdieing three of them – and had only one major hiccup: a double-bogey on the par-4 6th. Then, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 Girls’ Junior, played in the Women’s Open this year but missed the cut.

Big hole

The best hole of the day belonged to Mexico’s Maria Fassi, who had coughed up a three-hole lead and was down one to Kristen Gillman of Austin, Texas, before making a 3 on the par-5 12th during the morning rounds.

Fassi won 1 up.

“I was 3 up and then I just started messing around with my golf,” said Fassi, who was seeded 48th in her second Girls’ Junior. “At one point, I was 2 under, and I just had to make some birdies. It was a really good match. She’s a really good player.”

Gillman was seeded 16th.

“On hole 12, I hit a very good drive and I had it to the green,” Fassi said. “I made the putt and it was really good. That was maybe the motivation that made me try to go better.”

Fassi lost in the round of 16 to No. 32-seed Sabrina Bonanno of Norridge, Ill., 5 and 4.

jcohn@jg.net

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