Chen Survives Challenge, Heat to Win Girls' Junior
One came on a mission, determined to win the championship. The other came just hoping she could survive the stroke-play qualifying and get into match play.
Both went home with their goals accomplished, but only one went home with a trophy.
Doris Chen, a lean and hungry young lady of Asian descent who lives in Bradenton, Fla., was tantalizingly close to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship last year as a 16-year-old semifinalist.
She came to The Country Club of North Carolina last week with only one thought in mind: Win.
Katelyn Dambaugh is only 15. She lives in Goose Creek, S.C., 15 miles north of Charleston, and she had never come close to winning anything like a national championship. Her thought coming in? Make the cut.
Still, golf being golf, the inexperienced Dambaugh gave Chen a scare before succumbing to the mind-numbing heat of the Sandhills and the pressures of national championship finals and falling 3&2.
Chen, who had knocked off medalist Danielle Kang in the quarterfinals, started fast in the finals, building a 2-up lead. But the feisty Dambaugh, bidding to become the first left-hander to win a USGA women’s championship, kept nipping away and was 1-up after the first 18 on Saturday.
That’s when Chen had a brilliant idea. “I took my mom’s umbrella before the second round,” she said. “I told her, ‘Mom, you can walk under the trees.’”
Whether it was the cooling shade of the umbrella in the 100-degree heat or just determination, Chen rallied to win four holes in a five-hole stretch on the on the final nine to reach her goal.
Dambaugh held the lead for the final time on the 28th hole when she stuck her approach to four feet and made the birdie putt. But that’s when something happened that neither player could explain.
The strong, pure swing that Dambaugh had relied on all week suddenly deserted her. She was a lost soul on the final holes and Chen was relentless.
“I was feeling great,” Dambaugh said, “and then I just don’t know what happened. I hit a couple of bad shots and really got down on myself. All of a sudden my arms just got really, really tired. I just went downhill after the 11th hole. But Doris is an amazing player. She deserved it."
Chen admitted that she could sense things changing.
“Yeah, maybe,” she said. “I think she was just trying too hard.”
Chen may have been guilty of trying too hard herself in the morning round.
“I got to two holes up and I was thinking, ‘I’m going to be leading by four at the end of this round,’” she said. “But it turns out I was one down.”
That’s when she grabbed her mom’s umbrella and talked herself into an attitude change.
“In the morning I was really wanting to win, trying very hard, very uptight. But in the afternoon, I didn’t think like that. I’m just telling myself, ‘Whatever. I don’t care anymore. I’m just playing golf.’ At the end, I didn’t really feel like I was winning. I was just hitting my golf shots.
“This is the best tournament I’ve won. This is the biggest trophy I ever got.”
There was a runner-up medallion for Dambaugh, but the memory was the thing she cherished most.
“This is my best experience so far in golf,” she said. “The people here were so loving and I had so many supporters it made me feel really good.”
Both Chen and Dambaugh qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur to be played at Charlotte Country Club Aug. 9-15.
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