Bloomfield native Maisie Filler notched the most stirring victory Wednesday in the first round of match play in the 71st U.S. Girls Junior Championship at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis.
Filler, who shot even-par 144 to tie for 12th in medal-play qualifying, made birdie 3 on the last two holes to defeat Jiarui (Joyce) Jin of the People’s Republic of China. Filler won the first hole with a par but was tied when the 53rd-seeded Jin birdied No. 8. It remained even until Jin won the 15th hole to take her first lead of the day. After each parred the 16th hole, Filler advanced in stunning fashion with the birdie-birdie finish.
In the second round, Filler will play Jin’s sister, No. 44-seeded Mika (Meijia) Jin, who upset No. 21 Katherine Muzi of Newport Beach, Calif. Mika Jin lost the first two holes to pars and then won five of the next 10 while rallying for a 2-and-1 victory.
Filler, 17, the[BB1] medalist in U.S. Girls Championship local qualifying in Florida, went to the Renbrook School in West Hartford through eighth grade and will be senior at the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. She celebrated her 18th birthday on July 12 by shooting a 2-under 68 for a 72-hole total of 275 to tie for 16th and finish as the leading player with a Connecticut connection in the PGA of America’s Girls Junior Championship at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford.
Filler, who often played at Keney Park while growing up in Bloomfield, will try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur on Aug. 5-11 at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss. She has committed to the University of Florida on a golf scholarship, following in the college-golf footsteps of older sister Nathalie, who played at the University of Delaware and is a teaching pro at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Yuka Saso, 18, of the Philippines, who won the PGA Girls Championship by two strokes, shot a bogey-free, 12-under 132 to earn medalist honors on Tuesday. Though match play isn’t Saso’s favorite form of golf, the No. 1 seed was in total command against Kaylee Sakoda of Cypress, Calif., who won a playoff for the final match-play berth. Saso won three of the first four holes with a birdie and two pars and went on to a 6-and-4 victory.
Saso now hopes to improve on her three previous tournament starts when the 24th player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings failed to advance past the Round of 32. She did reach the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa.
“I really don’t play in match play except at USGA championships,” Saso said, “so to be honest, I am a little nervous. But I’m trying to prepare and set myself up well.”
Saso’s second-round opponent will be No. 33-ranked Phoebe Brinker of Wilmington, Del., the niece of longtime Connecticut resident and PGA of America president Suzy Whaley and cousin of three-time Connecticut Women’s Amateur champion Kelly Whaley. Brinker, who tied for 13th in the PGA Girls Junior Championship, won the 17th hole with a par for a 1-up over No. 32 Valery Plata of Columbia in a match in which neither player led by more than one hole. In fact, the match was tied for 11 of the 18 holes.
Alexandra Lapple of Ridgefield shot 162 and failed to qualify for match play.
The PGA of America’s Boys Junior Championship is July 28-Aug. 2 at Keney Park GC. The Girls and Boys Championships are the first national events hosted by the Connecticut Section PGA. Suzy Whaley will again be on hand for the final two rounds and present the Jack Nicklaus Trophy to the winner.
Connecticut players in the tournament are Alexander Gu, 17, who will be a senior at Darien High and won the Section PGA Boys Junior Championship and CIAC State Open and tied for second in the Division I Championship this year and was Coaches All-State selection; Alex Aurora, 18, of Hamden, who tied for second in the Section PGA Boys Championship and the CIAC Division I Championship and State Open and was Coaches All-State selection while at Hamden High and will play at Lehigh in the fall; Ben James, 16, of Milford, the 2018 New England Junior Amateur champion who captured the American Junior Golf Association event in Killington, Vt, three weeks ago and then the CSGA Junior Championship and finished third overall and low amateur in the Connecticut Open on Sunday; Chris Fosdick, 18, of Middlefield, won the 2018 Junior Hub Championship and inaugural CIAC State Open and finished second in the CIAC Division I Championship in 2019, when he was medalist in nine of 13 regular-season matches and an All-State selection for the third time while at Xavier High School in Middletown before heading to Florida Southern; and Jeremy Yun, 16, of Old Saybrook, who finished second in the CIAC Division I Championship, won the AJGA Kansas Junior Championship on June 19 and then tied for fourth and parred the first playoff hole in the Section PGA Boys Championship to earn the final berth in the national championship.
COX LEADS STATE WOMEN’S AMATEUR
Defending champion Kyra Cox bogeyed five of the first seven holes before rallying for a 4-over 76 and a four-stroke lead after the first round of the 54th Connecticut Women’s Amateur Championship at Oronoque Country Club in Stratford.
Cox, a 2018 John Jay High School grad who will start her sophomore year at Furman University next month, finished with three birdies and seven bogeys to overtake Alexandrea Fox of the Connecticut PGA Junior Golf Association from Ellington. Fox’s 2-over 38 on the front nine gave her a one-stroke lead, but she started the back nine with four of her six bogeys down the stretch in a 42 for 80.
Fox won the 2018 Connecticut Section PGA Jack Kelly Junior Tournament of Champions and finished second in the Player of the Year race to Lapple.
Meghan Mitchell of the CSGA Club For Schools is third at 81, two ahead of Emily Cohen of the Country Club of Darien.
Cox, who lives in South Salem, N.Y., and plays out of Centennial Golf Club in Carmel, N.Y., shot 5-under 211 and won by eight strokes over Sarah Houle last year at Hartford Golf Club and is coming off a wire-to-wire seven-stroke victory in the New York State Women’s Amateur Championship, which she also won in 2015. Before the Women’s State Amateur, she said she is focusing on the process, not thinking about the results.
“I don’t want to go in thinking about winning and put a lot of added pressure on myself,” said Cox, 19, who was troubled by some back issues this spring but is healthy now. “I’ll play a practice round and develop a game plan for the course and then just do my best to execute it.”
Cox, who became the tournament’s first African-American winner last year, has increased her clubhead speed while working with Furman coach Jeff Huhl and hits her best drives as long as 280 yards. That has led to more work with her shorter irons to try to take advantage of her new length and her putting with her father, Keith.
The tournament is being played over 36 holes for the first time in history. It is Oronoque’s second Amateur, the first won by Erica Barnes of Timberlin GC in Berlin in 2010.
The Desmond Muirfield-designed Oronoque course, completed in 1972, made Golf Digest’s 50 Toughest Courses and has some out-of-the-box features such as bunkers shaped like a shark’s teeth. The narrow layout with many doglegs, hogback greens and plenty of out of bounds also has large, perplexing greens that are the teeth of the course.
The high scores demonstrated how difficult the course can play. The final round is Thursday starting at 8 a.m., and Cox, Fox and Mitchell will be in the final group at 9:20 a.m.