A pair of birdies on the second and third holes set the tone for the final round of the Rolex Girls Junior Championship at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Erasing a two-stroke deficit with those early birdies, 14-year-old Yueer ‘Cindy’ Feng of Orlando, Fla., was well on her way to her 10th career AJGA title and second straight AJGA Invitational victory.
Through 36 holes, Feng’s top challenger was another 14-year-old, Ariya Jutanugarn of Bangkok, Thailand, who was playing in her first AJGA tournament. The duo was among three players tied for the lead at 3-under-par 68 after round one. And when Jutanugarn posted her second straight 68 on day two, she took the outright lead by two shots.
Day three, however, belonged to Feng. Under the pressure of the final round, the veteran Feng played a bogey-free round, while the newcomer Jutanugarn made four bogeys – as many as she had made in the first two rounds combined. Her bogey on the sixth hole handed Feng the lead for good.
“I wasn't really aggressive from the beginning,” Feng said. “I was just trying to keep it consistent, not too many bogeys like the first two days. It worked.”
Feng’s closing round of 3-under-par 68 was good for a four-shot victory (68-70-68—206).
In an impressive AJGA debut, playing against 17 Rolex Junior All-Americans and an abundance of talent from eight countries, Jutanugarn (68-68-74—210) claimed a solid runner-up finish.
With the victory, Feng’s summer is sizzling. Just over two weeks earlier, she won her second straight Thunderbird International Junior victory. During those two AJGA Invitational victories, Feng beat every player ranked inside the top 20 of the Polo Golf Rankings, including Rolex Junior Player of the Year Victoria Tanco twice.
The Rolex Girls Junior Championship was also Feng’s fourth career AJGA Invitational win, and 10th AJGA win overall in just 19 events. Amid all those victories, Feng has learned a thing or two about coping with the pressure of winning
“Before, when I was really young, I would get really hyper after winning one,” Feng said. “This time my parents are keeping me grounded and golf technique wise, I am more consistent than before.”
Perhaps that bodes well for Feng as she goes after her third straight win next week at the Rolex Tournament of Champions.