Like a pro, Chuasiriporn gains semis of U.S. Amateur Timonium 21-year-old dominates with putting

August 15, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- She has not yet eclipsed the performance she gave at last month's U.S. Women's Open. Even if Jenny Chuasiriporn goes on to win the 98th U.S. Women's Amateur here at Barton Hills Country Club, it might not be bigger than what she did at Blackwolf Run.

But as well as Chuasiriporn played in pushing Se Ri Pak to 20 playoff holes, it was not close to how well she played yesterday in advancing to today's semifinals. A 21-year-old from Timonium, Chuasiriporn was Tigeresque in her dominance.

With a hot putter and cool demeanor, Chuasiriporn avenged last year's opening-round defeat to Shauna Estes with a 7-and-5 victory in the third round yesterday morning. The same combination helped produce a 4-and-3 quarterfinal victory over Angela Stanford in the afternoon.

Beginning with a 35-yard chip in at the par-4 third hole in the morning, Chuasiriporn made seven birdies against Estes. She added three more in the first five holes against Stanford, making her 10-under par in her first 18 holes of the day.

"I feel like I'm playing at my best," said Chuasiriporn, who finished 11-under in 28 holes, with no bogeys. "I'm hitting my wedges really well. I think that's the difference today and yesterday. I feel really relaxed over my wedge shots. On top of that I'm putting well."

Unconscious may be a more apt description. About the only putt she missed against Stanford came after the TCU junior made an 18-footer for birdie on the par-4 first hole. Chuasiriporn pulled an 8-footer inches past the cup. It marked the first time this week that Chuasiriporn trailed.

"After her birdie on the first hole, I knew it was going to be a close match," said Chuasiriporn, who had never made it past the second round in two previous trips to the Amateur. "Once I got back in the lead, I wanted to keep it up. In match play, there's a lot more pressure when you're behind."

Chuasiriporn drew even with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole, saved par from 6 feet to win the par-4 third hole, made another 5-footer for birdie on the par-4 fourth hole and drained a 16-footer on the par-3 fifth hole to go 3-up.

Only a miraculous recovery shot by Stanford on the par-4 sixth hole -- using a driver, she hit a bump-and-run shot from under some trees 100 yards out to the back fringe, then made a 10-foot putt to save par -- prevented Chuasiriporn from winning five straight holes.

"I thought I was playing so good," said Stanford, who was three holes down despite playing the front nine in 2-under. "You just watch her hit fairway and green, then make putt after putt. You can appreciate it as a golfer. I enjoyed watching her. It's just unfortunate I had to play against her."

Stanford, who had made a run of six birdies on her last nine holes in the morning to upset pre-tournament favorite Kellee Booth, 2 and 1, eventually succumbed to Chuasiriporn's sensational play with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15.

"If she hits the ball like she did today, I see no reason why she won't win it," said Stanford, the 1997 Public Links Women's champion. "It wore me down."

Booth said, "If she continues to play this way, I'd be surprised if she didn't win."

Chuasiriporn's play wasn't the only thing to considerably improved her chances to take the trophy home. Aside from Booth, several of the biggest names in women's amateur golf lost, too. Former finalists Marisa Baena of Columbia and Robin Burke of Houston were upset in the third round as well.

"I still feel there's a lot of good players in there," Chuasiriporn said. "I'm not too concerned with who I'm playing."

Chuasiriporn will meet Brandi Miller, 21, a fifth-year senior at the University of Miami, in the first semifinal match beginning at 12: 30 p.m. Grace Park, of Phoenix, will meet the only other big name left in the tournament, former national junior champion Marcy Newton of High Point, N.C., in the second 18-hole semifinal. Park is a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Arizona and Newton is a 20-year-old junior at North Carolina, making it the second-youngest semifinals in Amateur history.

The winners will meet for the championship in a 36-hole final tomorrow.

"I'm just having so much fun," said Miller, who lived in Toronto until moving to Florida eight years ago. "I'm just going out there to do my best and have fun."

Miller might do her best. But the way things have gone for Chuasiriporn's opponents so far, it's unlikely that she'll have any fun.

NOTES: Leland Beckel, the other Maryland player to reach the third round, lost to Nicole Dalkas of Palm Desert, Calif., 2 and 1. Beckel, 32, of Bethesda, lost the 16th and 17th holes to lose the match. "All in all, it was a great championship," she said. "This will get me exempt for the Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Amateur next year."

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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