Top-ranked Seong rallies at US Women’s Amateur Publinx

For a moment, it looked as if Eun Jeong Seong’s powerful drive from the 17th tee would lead to her undoing.

At The Home Course in Dupont on Wednesday, Seong, the No. 1 seed and medalist in the Round of 64 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, launched a bomb left of the fairway and onto a precarious lie — next to a pine tree on dried out soil.

But Seong chipped out and finished the par-4 with a bogey to keep her comeback alive against No. 64 seed Samantha Gotcher, who led 4-up after nine holes.

Down one hole in match play with one hole to go against Gotcher, Seong’s 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th forced a sudden-death extra hole. Seong, a 14-year old from South Korea, would go on to win with another birdie on the playoff hole to survive Gotcher’s upset bid.

“That was so hard,” Seong said.

Seong advanced to the Round of 32 where she will face Sydney Youngblood of Durant, Oklahoma. The pair will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Seong was virtually unknown to the playing field before the tournament. She missed the cut for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championships in 2013 and was playing for the first time in match play after an amazing two days to start this year’s event.

Seong shot a record 8-under-par 64 on Tuesday, breaking the single-round mark of 65 held by Brittany Lang in 2004. Her two-day total of 134 was also a tournament record, eclipsing the 135 held by Lang (2004) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2010).

That turned some heads.

“She’s very well trained to do that,” Gotcher said. “That was amazing.”

Gotcher was not the typical No. 64 seed. She missed most of the competitive season because of a fractured spine and torn back muscle she sustained while on the driving range in the fall.

After 16 weeks of recovery — and in her first competitive tournament — Gotcher qualified for the Women’s U.S. Open in May.

Gotcher, who will be a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State, was 4-up after nine holes. But Seong’s eagle on the 10th hole was the first of her five wins on the back nine.

“(Seong) started making putts,” Gotcher said. “She wasn’t making putts on the front while I was. On the back nine, the tables turned. The only putts I really made were probably on 11 and 17. That was pretty much it, but that just kept me in it.”

On the 18th hole, Gotcher barely missed the pin with her chip onto the green. Seong reached the green in two shots and then made a 35-footer which rolled around the rim of the hole before dropping.

“I didn’t expect that, to be totally honest,” Gotcher said. “I hit it long so I was chipping up. I was like, ‘Look, I have to get this ball to the hole,’ and I barely miss it. Then she puts it in on the right side of the cup.”

Seong out-drove Gotcher on the playoff hole and then lobbed a shot 15 feet away from the pin. Gotcher, 20 feet away, putted first and missed long. Seong was able to use Gotcher’s miss to determine the amount of touch she would need, which ultimately led to her birdie putt.

“Today, I’m playing a woman who shot 10-under-par total,” Gotcher said. “I’m going to have to be aggressive because there’s no reason not to be aggressive.”