Anika Varma reaches the last 32 in US Girls Junior

A spectacular performance by Anika Varma helped her secure a spot in the last 32 of the US Girls Junior Championship. The 15-year-old won eight holes in a 3&1 victory.

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Anika Varma is lying T7 in Queen Sirikit Cup

25 July 2019: Teenaged golfer Anika Varma produced an outstanding effort to knock out Nicole Adam, a girl ranked 170 spots higher on the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking in a matchplay round at the US Girls Junior. The event is being conducted by the USGA at Sentry World, Stevens Point in Wisconsin.

Anika Varma - US Girls Junior - Sonal Varma
Anika Varma – US Girls Junior – Sonal Varma

The Indian was two up by the third hole, but Nicole, ranked 617, punched back taking the fifth and seventh holes. Anika had taken the sixth to ensure that she remained one up.

The tenacious Indian, ranked 787, delivered a couple of decisive punches going to the bend. The two golfers made the turn with Anika three up after nine.

Nicole, a 16-year-old from Pinehurst refused to take it lying down though as she struck back with a momentum changing swing between the 10th and 13th holes to even the match. Interestingly, the only bogey on Anika’s card came at the 10th hole.

As tension mounted, there were just five holes left to play. Anika made a birdie on the par-5 14th hole, only the second one on her card, to regain a slender edge.

The duo split the 15th hole before Anika swept to victory taking the 16th and 17th, the latter with a birdie for a comfortable 3 & 1 decision.

Anika finished T51 during the two stroke play rounds, while Nicole reached the match play round in the 14th spot. The victory should embolden the 15-year-old from Noida when she takes on another Nicole, this time the 489th ranked Nicole Whiston from San Diego, California.

Whiston was once ranked among the top 300 and is set to pose a formidable challenge for the young Indian. She was also an upset winner, taking a 2&1 verdict over Irene Kim into the round of 32.

Yuka Saso, the medallist in the stroke play rounds, was a bleeding 6&4 winner over the last placed Kaylee Sakoda. But Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, placed second behind Saso in the strokeplay rounds, did not have it go her way. She was upended by a determined Caroline Hodge on the 19th hole. Hodge finished the stroke play rounds in 63rd place.

Caroline Hodge - US Girls Junior - USGA Images
Caroline Hodge – US Girls Junior – USGA Images

“Yeah, I was nervous,” admitted Saso. “I’m just happy for today. [I] struggled on the ninth hole, but good thing I got my momentum back on hole 10.”

Erica Shepherd, the 18-year-old who won this title in 2017 was defeated by Kelly Xu, a precociously talented 15-year-old from Claremont, California, 3 and 2. Xu has the distinction of being the first female champion at the Augusta National Golf Club, having won the Girls 7-9 division of the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship in 2014.

“I had to learn about match play by Googling it last night,” said Xu, who had never played the format until Wednesday. “I definitely like playing it more than stroke play.”

 

USGA Notes

The Round-of-32 matches will begin at 7 a.m. CDT, followed by the Round of 16, which is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m.

The quarterfinals and semifinals are set for Friday, with the 36-hole final Saturday. The morning 18 will begin at 6:30 a.m. and the afternoon portion is set for 11:15 a.m.

  • Nine countries are represented in the Round of 32, led by the USA with 23, and the People’s Republic of China having two players. Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, India, Mexico and Philippines each have one representative.
  • Since 2000, the stroke-play medalist(s) are 21-2 in the Round of 64.
  • All five extra-hole matches went 19 holes.
  • Grace Summerhays, 15, of Scottsdale, Ariz., kept alive the possibility of a brother-sister Junior title double with a 5-and-4 victory over Sarah Arnold. Her brother, Preston, who is serving as her caddie, won the U.S. Junior Amateur last Saturday at Inverness Club.
  • Jiarui (Joyce) Jin, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, the younger sister of 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Bo Jin, was eliminated by Maisie Filler, 18, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 1 up.
  • Yoona Kim, of Fairlawn, N.J., registered a hole-in-one during her match against Jennifer Koga, on the 173-yard, par-3 seventh hole, using a 23-degree hybrid. It was the first ace in the championship since last year when Abbey Daniel and Elizabeth Calderelli each aced the par-3 17th at Poppy Hills, the latter in a playoff for the final match-play spots. Kim won the match, 2 and 1.
  • Julia Gregg, of Farmers Branch, Texas, celebrated her 18th birthday on Wednesday with a 4-and-2 victory over fellow Texan Grace Ni, of Cypress. She planned to celebrate with dinner, birthday cake and a good night’s sleep. Seven years ago, Gregg recorded a hole-in-one on her birthday.