Golf

Chen avenges U.S. Publinx finals loss, dismisses Diaz-Yi

You don’t always get a second chance.

Last year’s championship finals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links was a plain ol’ shellacking. Not only did Lauren Diaz-Yi defeat favored Doris Chen, 10 and 9, it was the largest margin of victory in tournament history.

And it wasn’t so much that Diaz-Yi, of Thousand Oaks, California, poured in birdie after birdie that day — Chen was awful. When it ended after 27 holes, the standout from USC was 14-over-par at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Oklahoma.

But as fate would have it, the finalists held a rematch Thursday in the round of 16 at the 38th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at The Home Course.

And a year later, the margin of victory was equally impressive — this time in Chen’s favor.

Chen, of Bradenton, Florida, finished off the one-sided affair by pouring in a 10-foot putt for birdie on the 14th hole to post a 6-and-4 triumph.

The reigning NCAA Division I champion made birdies at the third, fifth, sixth, 10th and 14th holes in the blowout victory. She made just one birdie in the first meeting last summer.

“I played some good golf this afternoon,” Chen said. “I think I can play better.”

She didn’t play good golf in the finals last year. Reasons vary. Chen said she injured her wrist while practicing, and it was sore throughout the last day. She also had a string of long matches and was exhausted by the final match.

“I didn’t take care of myself well,” Chen said. “I don’t have any excuses. A good way to look at it: I learned some good lessons. I was upset, but I didn’t take it too hard. Three days later, I had to play in the (U.S.) Open.”

Diaz-Yi has more flash to her game, especially as the longer hitter off the tee. But when the action came down to wedge play and putting Thursday, Chen had most of the right answers.

The key two-hole stretch was at Nos. 4 and 5.

With a 1-up advantage, Chen’s tee shot at the fourth hole, a par 3, hit a steep embankment short and rolled all the way down near the waste area in front of the green. Meanwhile Diaz-Yi faced a 60-foot putt for birdie.

Chen’s chip shot ran 25 feet by, and she settled for bogey. All Diaz-Yi had to do was two-putt to win the hole and square the match.

But her first putt barely got to the top of a protruding ridge that fed down to the hole. She left her first putt 20 feet short — and ended up with bogey as well.

“That was my most frustrating moment,” Diaz-Yi said.

Chen was in the rough after her drive and second shot on the next hole, a par 5. But she put her wedge approach just below the hole, and rolled in an 18-footer for birdie to go 2-up.

Chen made a 15-footer for birdie at No. 6 to extend her lead to 3-up. Suddenly Diaz-Yi, normally cheery and talkative, looked crestfallen.

“Honestly she is such a great player, I could play her any day and she would probably do the same thing if her game was on,” said Diaz-Yi, who won just one hole Thursday at No. 12. “This course … is easy to make birdies on — and birdies are what gets it (done).”

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