In U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship action Thursday, July 25, at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the two Bay Area girls who advanced to the second round of matchplay elimination won through to the quarterfinal round. Kathleen Scavo, of Benicia, and Casie Cathrea, of Livermore each prevailed over two opponents to be part of the final group of eight players who are still in contention for the title.
Scavo, a rising junior at Justin-Siena High School in Napa, fended off a late charge by her opponent in the morning round, Elizabeth Wang, of San Marino, CA to win the match 2-and-1. Scavo was two up at the turn, but two consecutive bogeys against pars by Wang squared the match. Both players parred the next three holes, then Scavo racked up consecutive birdies to win back to 2-up before pars by both girls on the 17th hole closed out the match 2-and-1, Scavo.
In her afternoon match against Mai Dechathipat, of Oakton, VA, Scavo took an immediate lead and held at 1-up through the first three holes. Dechathipat squared the match with a birdie at the par-3 fourth hole, but Scavo rallied back a hole later, winning three holes out of four to go 3-up at the turn. A bogey/double-bogey/bogey stretch on holes twelve through fourteen let Dechathipat back into the match, but Scavo went par-birdie to her opponent’s bogey-par at holes sixteen and seventeen to close out another match 2-and-1 and advance to the quarterfinal round.
This is Scavo’s second time playing in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Last summer, when the event was held at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, the Benicia teen made it to the Round of 32 only to fall to Nicole Morales of South Salem, NY. Scavo faces Lakereber Abe, of Angleton, TX, in her quarterfinal match Friday at 7:50 a.m. EDT.
The Bay Area’s other remaining representative in the championship is future OSU Cowgirl Casie Cathrea, of Livermore. Cathrea, proudly wearing the orange of her future college team, has played some nail-biting come-from-behind golf in this tournament.
In her morning match, against Jennifer Kupcho, of Westminster, CO, Cathrea trailed most of the front nine and was 2-down to her opponent at the seventh hole. Holding steady with pars at holes eight and nine while Kupcho went bogey-double, Cathrea fought back to all-square, then 2-up, by the eleventh hole. Kupcho made an eagle three at the par-5 twelfth hole to take a hole back, then squared the match at thirteen with a par to Cathrea’s bogey. Both girls bogeyed the par-3 fourteenth hole, then Cathrea bore down on the stretch from fifteen to seventeen, going eagle-par-birdie to close out the match 3-and-1.
For her opponent in the afternoon’s Round-of-16 match, Cathrea drew Minjee Lee, of Perth, Australia. This match was easily the headline pairing of the tournament so far, pitting Cathrea, who won the inaugural Women’s Porter Cup and took Low Amateur honors at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, against Lee, the defending Girls’ Junior champion and 2013 Australian Women’s Open and Girls’ Amateur champion. As it turned out, the match lived up to the anticipation it raised.
Cathrea, who is known for her calm, confident demeanor on the golf course, admitted to having some nerves before the match got underway, but left them behind once play got underway.
Cathrea got out to a 2-hole lead, going par-birdie to Lee’s bogey-par start. The match see-sawed for the next few holes, with Cathrea staying ahead until Lee put together two birdies in a row, at the sixth and seventh holes, to square the match. Lee was in command of the match for the next seven holes, staying one or two up through the fourteenth hole.
It was at the par-5 fifteenth hole, which was playing at 474 yards in the afternoon rounds, that Cathrea turned the tide. This shortish par-5, which Cathrea later called her “magic” hole, is where she has turned a match around more than once in this tournament.
Talked out of using a hybrid for the approach by her caddie, Cathrea stiffed a 4-iron to 6 feet and drained the eagle putt, outmatching Lee’s birdie and pulling to within one hole.
A 15-foot birdie at the sixteenth hole squared the match for Cathrea, but a poor chip and putt at the par-4 seventeenth gave the advantage back to the Australian defending champion as the match went to the eighteenth hole.
Lee hooked her drive left from the eighteenth tee, hitting a tree and rebounding into the water, costing her distance and a penalty stroke. Cathrea found a fairway bunker off the tee, but she got safely out and over the creek guarding the green. Lee got to the green in four, but came up inches short with her bogey putt and had to settle for six.
Standing over a 40-foot bogey putt to square the match, Cathrea steadied her shaking hands and stroked it in, sending the match to extra holes.
Both girls went over the green with their second shots at the par-4 first hole, but Cathrea was just inches off the putting surface, while Lee had a 10-foot chip before she could pull her putter. The Australian girl overcooked her chip, flying it high across the green and coming up just short of par with her putt. Cathrea chipped up to “gimme” distance, at which point Lee conceded the putt and the match.
This match wasn’t the first time that Cathrea has faced a defending U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. At last year’s event at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, she faced 2011 champion Ariya Jutanugarn, of Thailand, in the quarterfinal round, in a match that is still talked about by those who witnessed it, and was only narrowly defeated. Taking on another defending champion, and prevailing – in her last year of eligibility for this championship – was a big confidence-booster for the 17-year-old.
Cathrea faces Bethany Wu, of Diamond Bar, CA, who recorded 1-up wins over her last two opponents, at 8:00 a.m. EDT Friday, but she feels like she is ready.
“I’m going to come out and play my best,” she said.