Kono beat Lua 3 and 1 at Kearney Hill Golf Links. It was the first time in five years the stroke-play winner failed to advance out of the first round of match play at the Women's Public.
Other first-round winners included defending champion Tiffany Joh, U.S. Women's Amateur champion Kimberly Kim, and two-time NCAA player of the year Amanda Blumenherst.
The 17-year-old Kono, from Honolulu, is competing in her 11th USGA championship and fourth Public Links. She came out at 7:30 a.m. for an 8-for-5 playoff to determine the last spots in match play. At the fourth extra hole, she made a 9-foot birdie putt to eliminate Alexandra Phelps of Albuquerque, N.M.
She continued that momentum into her match against Lua, a former teammate on last year's West Squad for the Canon Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event run by the American Junior Golf Association.
'It was an exciting match,' Kono said. 'I haven't won too many matches being the underdog or being the lower-seeded (player). This is big for me because this is probably the first time I've ever really won being the underdog. But today, I just tried to play steady.'
The key stretch came at holes seven through nine. All square going to the par-5 seventh, Lua hit her tee shot in the rough and failed to get up and down for par. Kono stuck her fourth shot within four feet and made the par putt for a 1-up lead.
At the par-3 eighth hole, Kono chipped in from 30 feet for birdie and a 2-up advantage. Another winning par at nine pushed the lead to 3 up.
'In stroke play, I was able to get some easy lies out of (the rough),' said Lua, who has qualified for next week's U.S. Women's Open. 'And today it was kind of tough. That always makes it harder. I just had a hard time getting out of the rough today. That's where I lost all my strokes.'
The Women's Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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