Rising high school sophomore Kelly Xu is enjoying her summer off from school, but she credits a little last-minute cram session she did on Tuesday night with helping her advance out of the first round at this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior. The topic? Match play. As in the tournament’s format following the first two days of stroke play.
Turns out, Xu, somehow hadn’t played in a match-play event before. It also turns out that she’s a quick study. On Wednesday, the 15-year-old Claremont, Calif., resident pulled off an upset by knocking out Duke-bound Erica Shepherd, the 2017 winner of the event, 3 and 2.
“I had to learn about match play by Googling it last night,” said Xu after her victory in the Round of 64. “I definitely like playing it more than stroke play.”
Kids these days, am I right?
Of course, it helps when you par every hole. That’s what Xu, the No. 56 seed after two rounds of stroke play, did for 16 holes at SentryWorld Golf Course in Stevens Creek, Wisc., making her opponent beat her. After grabbing a 4-up lead at the turn, Shepherd, seeded ninth in the draw, put a couple birdies on the board at 13 and 14 to cut the lead in half, but a bogey dropped her 3 down after 15 before both parred 16 to conclude the match.
Xu will take on Yoona Kim in a Round-of-32 match on Thursday morning.
Shepherd, 18, was involved in a controversial finish in the event two years ago when her opponent raked away a tap-in before Shepherd could concede it. One wonders if Xu, a former winner of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National, came across anything about that during her research. . .
Regardless, she’s moving on to the next round after Wednesday’s hands-on learning experience in match play. Keep this up and she’ll be an expert on the subject by the end of the week.