Harigae Gets Her Redemption, First Trip Into Women’s Amateur Quarterfinals
By David Shefter, USGA
Carmel, Ind. – Mina Harigae admitted that revenge wasn’t on her mind Thursday afternoon when she faced junior rival Vicky Hurst in the third round of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Crooked Stick Golf Club.
“It’s more like redemption,” said Harigae.
A year ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Harigae was the stroke-play medalist and cruising toward the championship until Hurst got in the way with a 2-and-1 victory at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. Hurst would lose the next day to 13-year-old Jenny Shin in 37 holes.
So Harigae was determined to have a different outcome in her first match against the 17-year-old from Melbourne, Fla., since that July day in the Tar Heel State.
With the match all square at the 18th hole, the 17-year-old Harigae delivered a shot that she’ll long remember. Standing 150 yards from the flagstick, Harigae sent a 7-iron approach from the fairway that stopped 4 feet from the hole. Hurst could not match the brilliance. Her pitching wedge shot from 130 yards out rolled to 15 feet. Her ensuing birdie putt rolled perfectly toward the hole, only to stop inches short.
Harigae followed by making her birdie putt for a 1-up win and her first trip to the quarterfinals in her five Women’s Amateur appearances.
“Oh my God, that’s going down in my history book,” said the Monterey, Calif., native of the approach shot.
It’s the kind of shot some have come to expect from this wunderkind. Harigae, who first won the California Women’s Amateur at the age of 12, might be a rising high school senior, but this is her 16th USGA championship. Earlier this summer, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title three hours south of here in Lexington, Ky. She followed that by making the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. And only a terrific final-hole stretch by Ayaka Kaneko kept Harigae from advancing to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Pressure? Harigae said she feels much more comfortable when the heat is turned up. And it has nothing to do with the mercury, which reached into the 90s again Thursday, either.
At the 14th hole, Harigae had 209 yards to the hole and at first wanted to hit a 5-wood. Her longtime caddie, Peter Flach, convinced her to hit an easy 3-wood, even though she was struggling with that club. She made a good move and the ball stopped 9 feet from the hole to set up a winning birdie and a 1-up lead.
“That was a great shot,” said Hurst, who won the prestigious McDonald’s Betsy Rawls Girls’ Championship last month.
Harigae’s only hiccup coming in came at 16, where she three-putted, missing a 5-foot come-backer that squared the match.
“You know where you have that feeling that you are going to miss it or make it,” said Harigae. “That was a feeling where I thought I was going to miss it. And then I missed it.
“I knew if I could just play solid the next few holes I would be OK.”
Both players halved 17, with Hurst two-putting from 90 feet, to set the stage for Harigae’s theatrics at the finishing hole.
For Hurst, the loss was disappointing but considering she missed the match-play cut at the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, her performance this week left a much better taste. At Tacoma Country and Golf Club, she struggled to hit the narrow fairways off the tee, but with work on the practice range, she corrected the flaws.
“I played really well this entire week,” said Hurst. “Today was just a really tough match and she made a lot of really clutch birdies. It’s not like I played completely horrible out there.”
Harigae, meanwhile, can now look toward her Friday match with Ha Na Jang of Korea. In fact, at 17, Harigae is one of the oldest quarterfinalists. Jang is 15, along with defending champion Kimberly Kim, and there’s 12-year-old Alexis Thompson.
“I do [feel old],” said Harigae. “I don’t look old. People think I’m 14. Now I see 12-year-olds everywhere. Kids are getting so much better as the years go by.”
Indeed. Harigae should know. She’s one of them.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.