Chuasiriporn, Booth aim for showdown U.S. Amateur aspirants first must survive their morning matches

August 14, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Jenny Chuasiriporn isn't looking ahead to today's quarterfinals in the 98th U.S. Women's Amateur, not yet thinking about a possible showdown with Curtis Cup teammate Kellee Booth at Barton Hills Country Club.

Neither Chuasiriporn nor Booth is looking past her respective third-round opponents this morning.

But everyone else is.

From the fans who have followed Chuasiriporn the past three days, to the folks at ESPN who will start televising this low-profile, high-tension event beginning this afternoon, the potential matchup is on many minds.

If it's on Chuasiriporn's, she's not saying.

"There are so many other players out there," Chuasiriporn said after her second-round victory yesterday, a 1-up scare over Scotland's Alison Rose. Actually, only one should concern her. But if Chuasiriporn is not overlooking Shauna Estes of Orangeburg, S.C., it's for a good reason. Estes, a junior at the University of Georgia, beat Chuasiriporn in the opening round of last year's Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

When Estes was mentioned to Chuasiriporn yesterday, the 21-year-old from Timonium chuckled.

"The rematch," she said flashing one of her trademark smiles, "I love playing her. It will be a good match."

Chuasiriporn nearly didn't get that far. After she won her opening-round match, 5-and-4 over Marilyn Harding of Houston, and then went 4-up on Rose through 11 holes in the afternoon, things got a little nerve-wracking for Chuasiriporn.

First, she three-putted from 25-feet for bogey at the par-4 12th hole. Then she watched Rose hole out from one bunker after skulling a shot from another to save par and halve the par-4 14th. Finally, Chuasiriporn bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 to see her lead shrivel to 1-up with two to play.

"I wasn't too concerned," she said later. "It wasn't really her making a lot of birdies. It was kind of me faltering a bit. I got a little too passive. I just really needed to make a couple of pars."

She did that but not before being forced to hit one of the toughest shots in golf. Her long bunker shot, which she estimated was 40-yards from the 17th pin, stopped 10 feet above the hole.

"I was relieved when I got that on the green," Chuasiriporn said. "I was feeling a little chunk in the bunker coming."

Though Chuasiriporn could not convert her birdie try on the par-5 17th, neither could Rose from a similar distance. When Rose missed an 18-footer for birdie on the par-4 18th hole, Chuasiriporn had survived.

The victory also helped her advance farther in the Amateur than she had in her two previous attempts, having lost in the second round two years ago. It certainly left an impression on Rose.

"She's so steady," Rose said. "She doesn't make many mistakes."

Chuasiriporn wasn't the only Maryland player to advance to the third round. Leland Beckel of Bethesda, who had not won a match in two previous trips to the tournament, won twice. Beckel, 32, a mother of two and wife of political analyst Bob Beckel, rallied from 2-down at the turn and upset Virginia Grimes of Montgomery, Ala., 1-up, with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Beckel then went 4-up at the turn and cruised to a 4-and-2 victory over Julia Dunn of Las Vegas.

"I've been playing steadier this year than in previous years," Beckel said. Her best finish this year came as runner-up in the Eastern Amateur, where she finished 12 shots behind Chuasiriporn. "In match-play events, if you can be steady and make a few putts, you'll do well."

Andrea Kraus won't disagree. Kraus, who lives in Pikesville, missed several short putts on four straight holes in one stretch and lost, 6-and-5, to English Amateur champion Elaine Radcliffe.

Kraus attributed the defeat in part to a having a long day at the course Wednesday when she waited more than six hours and needed two extra playoff holes to get into match play.

"I think it took a lot out of me, emotionally and physically," said Kraus, 37, also a mother of two. "I was tired. I didn't putt well and I had a lot lip-outs."

Booth, meanwhile, seems to be making everything in sight. After breaking both the single-round and two-rounds medal scoring, Booth continued her dominance with easy victories over Eve Lux of Highland, N.Y. (6-and-5) and Leilani Bagby of Santa Monica, Calif., (5-and-4).

Her third-round opponent will be Angela Stanford of Saginaw, Texas.

(Scores, 8D)

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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