Sunday, January 17, 2016

With a little luck and a lot of skill 16-year-old Mika Liu wins The Sally title


Mika Liu poses with the trophy after winning the 2016 South Atlantic Amateur.

Mika Liu poses with the trophy after winning the 2016 South Atlantic Amateur ( Tracy Wilcox 
ORMOND BEACH, Florida – On the 18th hole at Oceanside Country Club, Mika Liu sprayed her tee shot right toward some palm trees. Liu’s ball hit the base of a palm and ricocheted left some 40 yards to the other side of the fairway.
Kaitlyn Papp, whose ball took a similar path but wound up imbedded in the rough, thought to herself, It’s a sign from God; it’s her day.
Liu’s final-round 67 at the Oceanside Country Club venue was more skill than luck. She held a two-shot lead over Papp heading into the 72nd hole, and that fortuitous bounce sealed victory for Liu at the 90th South Atlantic Amateur, or “Sally” as it’s commonly called.

Liu, a Stanford-bound 16-year-old whose three siblings all went to Ivy League schools for golf, played flawlessly down the road from her home-away-from-home, the IMG Academy, in Bradenton, Florida.
 She carded five birdies and hit 17 greens. Her longest birdie putt was 12 feet on No. 5; the shortest was a 6-incher on the par-3 ninth. Liu finished at 8-under 280 for the tournament.
“My irons were very sharp,” said Liu, who kept it low with a lot of three-quarter swings.
Liu partnered with Rinko Matsunaga last May to win the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Pacific Dunes. Since then, Liu said, she’s learned new shots, becoming more detail-oriented about her game.
Four juniors ranked in the top 15 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings were in the last three groups at The Sally. Papp, ranked ninth, finished runner-up to Liu after carding a 69. The pair entered the final round knotted at 3-under 213.
Papp, a high school junior who committed to Texas University after her freshman year, attends Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, along with 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Kristen Gillman. She’ll be teeing it up in a high school match on Monday to tee off their spring season.
Like Papp, Liu was a first-timer at "The Sally." She wanted a photo taken of her kissing the trophy before going into the clubhouse restaurant for a celebratory toast.
The names on "The Sally" trophy are a who’s who of American women’s golf past and present. Patty Berg was a two-time winner at Oceanside; Babe Zaharias won the first tournament held after the war years in 1947. Cristie Kerr (1996), Lexi Thompson (2009), Jessica Korda (2010) and Brooke Henderson (2014) are just a few of the current LPGA stars who’ve hoisted the cup.
“This history is really full,” said Liu, “and maybe one day I’ll follow in their footsteps. I’m excited about the thought of maybe going pro, but I’m more excited about going to Stanford and developing there.”