U.S. Girls' Junior Championship Goes to Superal on 37th Hole

Princess Mary Superal of the Philippines survived a late comeback by Mexico's Marijosse Navarro and captured a hard-fought 37-hole victory at the 2014 U.S. Girls' Junior. The championship was completed Saturday at Forest Highlands Golf Club's Meadow Course in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Despite leading for most of the match, Superal went to the par-5 36th hole trailing by one. Needing to force extra holes with a birdie, Superal converted a 10-foot uphill putt and, when Navarro missed from 8 feet, the match went to extra holes.

Navarro's tee shot on the first playoff hole - the par-5 14th - found the water, and Superal parred the hole to take the title. "I really didn't expect it," said Superal, who becomes the first player born in the Philippines to win a USGA championship. "I feel very, very proud."

The battle of 17-year-olds was just the second time since the championship final was extended to 36 holes in 2006 that extra holes decided the title. Jenny Shin needed 37 holes to beat Vicky Hurst eight years ago.

The morning round was a quiet affair. After halving the opening three holes, Superal knocked in a 3-foot birdie at the par-4 fourth for a 1-up lead. She stretched the advantage to 2-up after Navarro three-putted for bogey at the par-4 eighth. Superal successfully got up and down from the greenside bunker, and watched her ball circle the hole and finally drop for a hole-winning par.

Navarro, a three-time Women's Mexican Amateur champion, struck right back, winning the par-4 10th with a 5-foot birdie. Superal regained her 2-up lead at the par-3 17th when Navarro failed to get up-and-down for par. But when Superal's birdie try at the par-5 18th just burned the left edge of the hole, Navarro smoothly converted her 4-foot birdie, giving Superal a 1-up lead going into the lunch break.

Navarro was able to square the match on the 22nd hole when she stuffed her 58-degree wedge approach to 3 feet and won with a birdie. But Superal answered with birdies at holes 23 and 27 to again go 2 up.

At the 32nd hole, the match turned in Navarro's favor. She hit the green in two and though she left her eagle putt short, she won the hole when Superal's birdie attempt rolled past the hole. With the momentum firmly in her favor, Navarro hit her second shot at the par-4 33rd hole to 10 feet. Superal two-putted for par, and Navarro drained her birdie putt to square the match.

Navarro took her first and only lead at the 35th hole. After missing the green 15 feet left, she made a superb recovery shot to 6 feet. When Superal's par putt lipped out, Navarro owned a 1-up lead. "It was nerve-wracking," said Navarro of that clutch chip. "But like my caddie (Northern Arizona University golfer Jacquie LeMarr) said to me, you've been practicing this all your life and just trust yourself."

Superal suddenly was in a position she had not known the entire round - being the chaser, not the leader. The petite Filipina knew what she had to do. "Just to make a birdie on that hole" was Superal's plan heading to the final hole of regulation.

Always the longer hitter of the match, Navarro nearly reached the 36th green in two. After Superal knocked her approach to 10 feet, Navarro's chip from the rough rolled 8 feet past the flagstick. Superal put pressure on her opponent by draining the birdie putt, and Navarro's attempt just grazed the edge, sending the match to extra holes.

"It was a difficult putt, but I wasn't (confident)," said Navarro, who has already completed a semester at Texas A&M University after graduating one and a half years early from high school last October. "Since yesterday, I wasn't putting very good."

That extra hole immediately spelled the end for Navarro. She hooked her tee shot at the 14th hole into the pond that runs to the left of the fairway. Forced to take a drop, Navarro reached the green in four, while Superal was on in three. Superal missed her birdie, but when Navarro pushed her par attempt long, she conceded the hole and the match to Superal.

The match showcased two talented young golfers. Superal played to the equivalent of 8-under par, with the usual match-play concessions, and did not card her first bogey until the 35th hole. Navarro was 7-under.

Navarro and Superal both receive exemptions into the 2014 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship August 4-10 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y. Both players had already qualified for the championship. Superal will also receive an exemption into the 2015 U.S. Women's Amateur, to be held at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club.

The above report is courtesy of the USGA. For more information and complete scoring details, visit www.usga.org.