Chuasiriporn makes final worth wait Timonium resident advances in Amateur

August 16, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There was a two-hole deficit to Brandi Miller to make up. There were more than three hours of rain delays to wait out. There was another new caddy -- the fourth this week -- carrying Jenny Chuasiriporn's bag here in the U.S. Women's Amateur at Barton Hills Country Club.

Except for a couple of the card games she played in a hallway outside the locker room during the second delay of more than 3 1/2 hours, nothing seemed to fluster Chuasiriporn yesterday.

Even missing a 2 1/2 -footer for par to close out her semifinal match on the second extra playoff hole.

A 21-year-old from Timonium, she overcame a number of obstacles, including that putt, to win on the third extra playoff hole last night when Miller missed a putt from a similar distance that concluded what turned out to be an 8 1/2 -hour marathon match.

The victory put the Duke senior into today's 36-hole championship match against Grace Park of Phoenix, who overcame her own three-hole deficit to beat Marcy Newton of High Point, N.C., 2 and 1. It marks the first time that either Chuasiriporn or Park, 19, has reached the Amateur final.

"After my first two performances in the Amateur, I was happy to win two matches," said Chuasiriporn, who had lost in the opening round last year and in the second round two years ago. "The more I think about it, it couldn't be a more perfect way to end the summer."

Though they began playing against each other shortly after Park came to the United States from South Korea seven years ago, it will be the first time they will meet with a championship at Chuasiriporn stake. Their most recent match came last month at a tournament in California, a week after Chuasiriporn lost in a 20-hole playoff to Se Ri Pak of South Korea in the U.S. Women's Open.

Park won, 5 and 4.

"She beat me badly," Chuasiriporn said with a smile last night. "I want to get a little revenge."

Chuasiriporn nearly didn't get that chance. Two holes down at the turn before the first delay that lasted only 16 minutes, and one hole down before the second delay because of heavy rain and lightning, Chuasiriporn seemed a lot better when she came back on the course.

She immediately evened the match with a 17-footer for birdie on the par-4 12th hole. But she three-putted from 50 feet for bogey on the par-4 13th hole and then watched Miller make one unbelievable putt after another. Miller made par saves of 12 feet and six feet at 15 and 16, and a 4-footer for birdie that could have closed out the match on the par-5 17th.

"I knew I had to keep making my putts," said Chuasiriporn, who needed to make a 3 1/2 -footer for birdie at 17 to keep the match going. "And I figured she couldn't keep making hers."

Miller, a 21-year-old fifth-year senior at the University of Miami, finally ran out of magic on the par-4 18th and ultimately out of gas. She put her approach at 18 in a bunker, and Chuasiriporn forced the playoff by making her third straight birdie.

But Miller made a remarkable chip shot from 50 yards to within five feet after Chuasiriporn hit her approach on the 464-yard, par-5 10th hole nearly to the fringe, then came within a half rotation of holing out from 60 feet. Miller made her putt for birdie to force another playoff hole.

"Putting is the strength of my game," said Miller, certainly the most unheralded of yesterday's semifinalists. "I knew that if anything would help me stay in the match, it was my putting."

When Miller missed the green on the par-3 11th hole and hit a tough downhill chip 20 feet past the cup, it looked as if Chuasiriporn was in good shape. She seemed in even better shape when she lagged a 40-footer from just off the green to within 2 1/2 feet.

"I thought the match was over," said Miller, who had missed her putt coming back. "It was a no-brainer."

The look on Chuasiriporn's face as her putt hit the right lip and spun almost a full revolution around the hole was similar to the look she had when she made the 45-footer for birdie on the last hole of regulation to force a playoff against Pak. It was a look of shock.

"We talked about that going to the next hole," said T.J. Cooper, who drove from Columbus, Ohio, yesterday morning to watch his friend from Duke play and then wound up caddying for Chuasiriporn. "But Jenny is very focused."

Said Chuasiriporn: "I just tried to put it out of my mind. I didn't have a hard time doing that."

After driving to the left side of the fairway, and sticking her approach from 150 yards to within 10 feet of the flagstick, Chuasiriporn watched as Miller rolled her 20-footer past the cup. Chuasiriporn then hit the left edge with her birdie try and waited for Miller to putt out.

She missed.

Chuasiriporn tapped in for par to end the tense and well-played match and gain a place in the final.

"It's been kind of a whirlwind summer," Chuasiriporn said in the gloaming that surrounded the 12th green.

And a whirlwind eight hours spent at Barton Hills, first waiting and then winning one of the biggest matches of her life.

Pub Date: 8/16/98

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