Child’s Play: Thompson Prevails Over Fellow 12-Year-Old Jin In Second Round
By Stuart Hall
Carmel, Ind. — The term child’s play took on literal meaning Thursday morning at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
That’s because 12-year-old seventh-graders Alexis Thompson and Pearl Jin met in the second round at Crooked Stick Golf Club — a pairing that was the youngest in the storied 112-year history of this event.
Thompson advanced to the afternoon’s third round with a 5-and-4 victory over Jin that was virtually flawless. Thompson missed just one of 11 fairways and not a single green.
“It was good,” said Thompson. “Three birdies in the first six holes, so it’s hard to complain with that. My putting was a lot better today than it has been. I had been leaving a lot of putts short and leaving myself like 6 feet for par. Today I had a lot more tap-ins.”
Birdies at the second, fourth and sixth holes gave Thompson a 3-up lead. She then won the seventh and eighth holes with pars to hold a 5-up lead at the turn. The pre-teens then matched scores through the 14th.
Thompson credits some of her strong play this week to a change of drivers that she made following the U.S. Women’s Open, and as a result she’s gained confidence off the tee.
That fact, coupled with a growing appreciation for the Pete Dye design, has her feeling comfortable on this grand stage.
“Yeah, I think the course is in really great shape,” said Thompson. “Some of the holes are a little odd because you can really cut the corners some, but I like it.”
Then again, what’s not to like when she is hitting fairways, greens and is zeroing in on her putting.
In a pairing better suited for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., and Jin of San Gabriel, Calif., both have game and big-girl credentials.
In June, Thompson became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open — a title previously held by 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Morgan Pressel. Jin, who started playing the game just four years ago, has won 51 tournaments since 2004, recorded three holes-in-one and has a competitive course record to her name.
While Thompson is a bit more accustomed to the spotlight that playing in the three USGA championships has brought this summer, Jin, making her first USGA championship appearance, admits this atmosphere was unique.
“I was nervous today,” said Jin, who won the 11-12 division of the Callaway Junior World by seven strokes last month, including a second-round 66 that broke the Lake San Marcos C.C. course record. “It affected my swing and it affected the rhythm and tempo of my putting.”
As some consolation, Jin, by virtue of her second-round appearance, is exempt for next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. By making match play, she earned an exemption into the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
“That sounds nice,” the shy Jin said.
With only a few hours before her afternoon match, Thompson had little time to put the historical significance of her match with Jin into perspective.
“When I found out last night, I thought ‘Wow, that’s going to be an interesting round,’” said Thompson, whose older brother, Nicholas, played on the 2005 USA Walker Cup team and now is on the Nationwide Tour. “I mean I’m a 12-year-old and here I am playing another 12-year-old. That’s kind of neat because I’m sure it doesn’t happen too often at an event like this.”
Actually, it never had occurred until Thursday.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer with the Golf Press Association whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.