Golf

Top seed Seong, No. 27 seed Jo to play for U.S. Publinx title

If you follow golf, and still don’t know much about Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong, you will very soon.

She has the power game to make some of the best players on the LPGA Tour envious.

But first, Seong has one final piece of business to take care of Saturday at the 38th and final U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at The Home Course in DuPont.

Medalist and top-seed Seong was taken to the limit in both of her matches Friday, earning 1-up victories both times.

First it was NCAA Division I champion Doris Chen, last year’s U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up, who couldn’t overcome a final 1-down deficit in the quarterfinals, missing a 15-foot putt for birdie on the final hole to extend the match.

In the afternoon semifinals, fourth-seeded Alana Uriell needed to make a 12-footer for birdie on the 18th hole to force extra holes, but her curling putt missed.

Seong will face China’s Alice Jo, playing in her first United States Golf Association championship. Jo held off first-day leader Cindy Ha by making a short birdie putt on the finishing hole for a 1-up semifinal triumph.

With Seong, 14, and Jo, 15, making the 36-hole championship finals Saturday, it marks the eighth time in the past 12 years two young teenagers will play for the title.

The winner will become the second-youngest to do so in U.S. Amateur Public Links history. Hawaii native Michelle Wie was 13 years old when she won the 2003 title.

Plenty of eyes will be on how Seong handles this final hurdle. She has been the talk of this tournament all week, not only with her towering drives that travel between 275-300 yards, but her ability to make lots of birdies.

After her quarterfinal loss, Chen — who plays at USC — dubbed Seong the “Asian Lexi Thompson.”

That comparison delighted the soft-spoken Seong, who speaks very limited English.

“Yeah sure, because Thompson is a really good player,” Seong said through translator Nick Kwon. “I like her.”

Yet Seong was taken to the limit in the semifinals by a team of determined teenagers — Uriell, a Carlsbad (California) High School graduate headed to the University of Arkansas, and caddie Austin Bordeaux, a former Bellarmine Prep golfer now attending Washington State University.

The two of them carried on around the course like brother and sister, cracking jokes and touching on random topics. And when it came to the match’s crucial moments, Bordeaux offered positive encouragement on every shot.

“Goofing off a little bit is fun. It kept me more into (feeling) instead of working on swing mechanics, which is what you tend to do when you are playing bad, or when you are down (in a match),” Uriell said.

Seong led 1-up on the finishing hole. Uriell hit her approach shot just past the hole, but faced a delicate left-to-right, 12-foot putt for birdie to even the match.

Uriell’s putt slid by on the right, giving Seong a hard-fought victory.

“She hits it so far,” Uriell said. “She was really tough. She really kept me going. She has a good game, and made a lot of good putts.”

Jo was in total control on the back nine of her semifinal showdown against Ha — that is, until the New Jersey golfer got on a birdie-making binge.

Ha made birdies on holes 15-17 to square the match, heading to the final hole.

“I had to do something,” Ha said. “I was getting pretty beat up in the middle of the back nine.”

From the fairway at No. 18, Jo launched a high pitching wedge approach from 120 yards that landed softly and checked up right next to the hole. It led to her match-clinching 3-foot birdie.

Jo has been in the United States since late May with a group from China, which includes her mother, Joy, who is caddying this week. Jo has played non-stop golf since she has been here.

“Yeah, I am tired,” Jo said. “I just try and take it easy. The more I think about it, the more tired I get.”

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