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Leader board
65th U.S. Girls’
Junior Championship
At Sycamore Hills
Yards: 6,305 Par: 72
Third round
No. 1 Bailey Tardy d. No. 64 Abbey Carlson, 1-up
No. 2 Lilia Khatu Vu d. No. 63 Alexis Monet Flores, 2-and-1
No. 3 Minjee Lee d. No. 62 Kaitlyn Papp, 5-and-4
No. 4 Yueer Feng d. No. 61 Dana Gattone, 7-and-6
No. 60 Pauline Del Rosario d. No. 5 Kelsey Ulep, 6-and-5
Let the match (play) begin

The match play rounds at the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship began at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Defending champion Minjee Lee hits off the tee at No. 6 during the first round of match play Wednesday in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

Format is fortuitous

Illinois native advances at Junior match play despite bad start

Lilia Khatu Vu watches her ball after driving off the fifth tee during the first round of match play.

The nice part about match-play golf is that you can have some bad holes and still win.

Such was the case Wednesday for Sabrina Bonanno of Northridge, Ill., who was down by four before she got to the seventh tee but still emerged victorious on the final hole in the round of 64 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.

“I would have put myself out of the tournament in stroke play,” she said Wednesday, “but in match play, anything goes.”

Bonanno was 5 over through the two rounds of stroke play at Sycamore Hills Golf Club – she had a 2-over 72 on Monday and a 75 on Tuesday – and that gave her the 32nd seed and a match against Aliea Clark of Carlsbad, Calif.

Bonanno double bogeyed the first hole, then bogeyed Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 9. Even though both players would have shot 75s in a stroke-play round, Bonanno got the victory at the United States Golf Association event.

“(After five holes), I was just ready to be like, ‘OK, it’s hers,’ ” said Bonanno, who is a three-time all-state high school player in Illinois and won the Plantations Junior Golf Tour national championship – coming from behind in the final round.

“But then I was able to make some shots and things started going my way. And making the turn, I started getting some shots to go in and saving some good bunker shots and things started going even more. And she started to fall apart, and we were going neck and neck to the last hole.”

Bonanno had squared things up for the first time with a par on the 16th hole. On No. 18, she narrowly avoided the bunker on her approach to the par-4 green, and won it when her chip from less than 10 yards hit the flagstick and gave her a tap-in for par.

“I hit that second shot and was like, ‘Oh, don’t go in the bunker, don’t go in the bunker,’ and I lucked out and it wasn’t in it,” Bonanno said.

“Then, I was like, don’t skull it across the green because that’s something I would do. Somehow, I was calm, took a deep breath, and hit the flag.”

The top seed, Bailey Tardy of Norcross, Ga., won her match 1-up over Abbey Carlson of Lake Mary, Fla. Tardy was the medalist of stroke play by shooting back-to-back 69s for a score of 6 under.

The second seed, Lilia Khatu Vu of Fountain Valley, Calif., who was 5 under in stroke play, defeated Alexis Monet Flores of Litchfield Park, Ariz., 2-and-1.

Andrea Lee of Hermosa Beach, Calif., who held the lead after a 67 on Monday and followed it with a 77, came into the day with the ninth seed. She captured a 4-and-2 victory over Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minn.

Defending champion Minjee Lee of Australia, who came in the round as the third seed, defeated Kaitlyn Papp of Austin, Texas, 5-and-4 even though the match was all square after six holes.

“She was making pars and I was making pars and it was just pretty steady,” Lee said. “I birdied the ninth and that was good going into No. 10. Then it was pretty much pars that got me through.”

Three players with recent U.S. Women’s Open experience advanced to the round of 32: Casie Cathrea of Livermore, Calif., the low amateur at the Open this year, won the last three holes to take a 2-up victory over Lyberty Anderson of Chesterfield, Va.; Yueer Feng of Orlando, Fla., beat Dana Gattone of Addison, Ill., 7-and-6; and Hannah O’Sullivan of Paradise Valley, Ariz., eliminated Emily Mahar of Scottsdale, Ariz., 6-and-5.

The No. 5 seed, Kelsey Ulep of Rocklin, Calif., was the highest seed to lose, falling 6-and-5 to No. 60 Pauline Del Rosario of the Philippines.

Amy Lee of Brea, Calif., who was a semifinalist at the 2011 Girls’ Junior, and seeded 36th, lost 3-and-2 to No. 29 Emily Campbell of Carrollton, Texas.