Ya-Ni Tseng Wins U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship

 

Ya-Ni Tseng of Chinese Taipei is all pumped up after defefeating defending champion Michelle Wie for the WAPL title. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

Williamsburg, Va. – Ya-Ni Tseng, 15, of Chinese Taipei, edged defending champion Michelle Wie, 14, of Honolulu, Hawaii, 1 up, to win the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at the 6,159-yard, par-72 Green Course of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.

"Nothing really worked out for me today," said Wie. "From the start to the end, I just played terribly. I think I played the worst that I've played all week."

"I'm really not intimidated by Michelle," said Tseng through an interpreter. "I look at myself as a long hitter too. My friends who happened to also play in this tournament watched Michelle play and they told me, ‘You're going to do fine and you're just as good.' "

Tseng became the second-youngest winner of this championship behind Wie, who captured the title as a 13-year-old, the youngest titlist of a USGA "adult" championship. She also is the second golfer from Chinese Taipei to win the Women's Amateur Public Links title. Candie Kung captured the championship in 2001 at Kemper Lakes outside of Chicago.  

Tseng and Wie were nearly equally matched in length when both used a driver, but Wie chose a fairway wood for at least half of her tee shots.

Michelle Wie watches a chip shot during the championship match on Sunday against Ya-Ni Tseng of Chinese Taipei. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

Tseng took an early 2-up lead in the 36-hole match with birdies at the second and fourth holes. Wie then won three straight holes from the seventh with two birdies and a par, to make the turn 1 up. The match seemingly turned her way after Wie won three more holes to gain a 4-up advantage. But Tseng cut into the deficit with birdies at the two remaining par-5 holes, 15 and 18 to trail by two holes after the morning 18 holes.

"Even though I was 2 up, I felt like I was 5 down because I lost so many holes in a row," said Wie. "I think she had a lot of grind in the second round. I tried to think it was a new round, but I had a lot of pressure on me. I didn't function at all."

In the afternoon round, Wie could only maintain a one- or two-hole lead throughout. At the 32nd hole, Tseng knocked in an eight-foot birdie putt on the par-four hole to square the match. Wie won the par-five 33rd after Tseng hit her tee shot into an unplayable lie in the woods to the right. After a penalty stroke, Tseng could only manage a bogey to Wie's par. Once again, Wie gained a 1-up advantage.

"I did not panic because it's not the last hole," said Tseng, who had a tough 1--up semifinal victory over 2002 U.S. Girls' Junior champion In-Bee Park on Saturday afternoon. "I still had three holes."

On the par-four 34th hole, it seemed both players would make par after safely hitting the green in two strokes. But when Wie missed her second putt from three feet, an astonished cry rose from some of the spectators and Wie sank to her heels. Tseng won the hole with a par.

The 35th hole, a par 3, was halved in pars and it all came down to the 466-yard, par-5 36th , a hole that plays longer than its measured yardage because the fairway slopes uphill to the green.

Both players hit their second shots into greenside bunkers. Wie was some 30 yards from the hole in the left bunker. She hit her third shot too softly and faced a 35-foot birdie putt. Tseng was some 10 yards from the hole in the front bunker.

"I saw Michelle put it in the bunker," said Tseng. "Even though the distance was 225 yards, even if I didn't carry it I'm comfortable with the sand. So that's why I did it, (hitting it) right into the bunker."

Tseng left her bunker shot 12 feet short of the hole.

Wie putted first. When her ball tailed off just short of the hole, she slumped over for several long moments. Tseng paced back and forth studying her line, then stroked the putt. When it dropped into the hole for a winning birdie, she thrust her arms in the air.

The loss denied Wie a shot to become the first player since Pearl Sinn in 1988 and '89 to win back-to-back WAPL championships.

Tseng's next tournament is the Junior World Championship in San Diego, Calif.

Wie's next appearance will be in the U.S. Women's Open beginning on Thursday. She was given a special exemption into the championshp by the Women's Committee of the USGA. Last year, she made the cut at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside of Portland, Ore.

The Women's Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.

Williamsburg , Va. – Results of the 36-hole final of the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship at the 6,159-yard, par 72 Green Course of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.

Final   

Ya-Ni Tseng, Chinese Taipei, def Michelle Wie, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1 up.

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