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Murphy earns spot in U.S. Girls' Junior Championship tourney

Posted: July 3, 2012 2:11 p.m.
Updated: July 4, 2012 5:00 a.m.
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KELLI MURPHY PLAYED her way into the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in California while just missing out on punching her ticket into the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship during a busy week of golf which she played last week.

It was a whirlwind week of playing tournament golf in both Carolinas for Kelli Murphy.
The Elgin resident and rising junior at Lugoff-Elgin High School started her early summer tournament adventure close to home by playing in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship sectional qualifier at the par 72 Spring Valley Country Club in Columbia last Monday.
Murphy earned one of the six automatic berths into the 64th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship to be played at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Cal., on July 16-21.
After shooting a 36-over 39 on the front side, Murphy finished strong with a 35 on the back nine for a 2-over par 74, which was good for fifth in the field of 54 junior golfers from throughout the world who came to the Columbia qualifier.
Reona Hirai from Summerville was medalist for the qualifier with a 1-under par 71 followed by Kelsey Badmaev (Blythewood) and Christine Odaiyar (Ocala, Fla.) with 72s. Saya Aono from Japan was fourth with a 73, followed by Murphy. Lauren Stephenson of Lexington rounded out the qualifiers, shooting a 75.
From Columbia, Murphy hit the road to defend her 2011 championship in the 56th Carolinas Girls’ Junior Championship contested over the Longleaf Golf and Country Club in Southern Pines, N.C., last Tuesday through Thursday.
As the defending champion, Murphy was exempt from Tuesday’s qualifier. On Wednesday, she won both her matches to advance to Thursday’s semifinals.
In the semifinals, Murphy scored a 3 & 2 win over Annika Bovender in the morning round to advance to the championship pairing against Lucia Polo of Greensboro, N.C.
Playing in only her second match play event after having been runner-up in the North Carolina Girls’ Junior Championship, Polo scored a 3 & 3 victory over Murphy.
Polo was able to convert a long par saving putt on the par 5 14th hole in order to keep the match 1-up in her favor. 
“After I made that putt to stay 1-up,” Polo said, “it just gave me the boost I needed to stay focused and try and close out the match.”  She would then hit her tee shot on the par 3 15th hole to within inches of the cup to go 2-up on Murphy. 
“I thought maybe that was going to go into the hole.  That would have been fun.  I’ve never had a hole-in-one yet,”  Polo laughed.
“There is nothing I could have done about Lucia’s shot except try to get my own shot close.  I just hit it a little too far,” Murphy said. 
Murphy missed the green on the par 4, 16th hole and had to get up and down to keep the match going but just missed her par putt and Polo was crowned the new champion. 
“It would have been great to have won this championship back-to-back,” Murphy said. “But I’m happy. Lucia played great and I finished first and second in the past two years. I guess that’s not too bad.
 “I look forward to playing with Lucia on the Carolinas Team in July.” 
Murphy stayed in the Tar Heel State, traveling to Lexington, N.C., on Monday to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Sectional Championship at the Sapona Country Club.
Murphy finished tied for 14th with a 2-over par 73 (37-36).
Nine players shot an even par round of 71 or better to advance on to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship that will be held August 6-12 at The Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio.
The medalist was Tatiana Wijaya of Australia, who shot a 3-under par round of 68.

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