Ariel Chang Finishes Big Week With Michigan Girls Junior State Amateur Title
EAST LANSING – Ariel Chang fashioned the perfect ending to a long and eventful week in winning the 42nd Michigan Girls Junior State Amateur Championship.
The 17-year-old Macomb Township golfer held off Audrey Becker of Grosse Pointe Farms 2 and 1 in the championship match Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers East golf course.
She set a tournament and junior girls course scoring record with a 9-under 62 earlier in the week to win stroke play medalist honors, and then battled through heat, humidity, the match play bracket and a rain-out day Friday to win her second major Golf Association of Michigan title of the summer. She was also the GAM Kickoff Champion last month.
“It was a big week for me, and I would have been a little disappointed if I went through all that and I didn’t finish it off with a win,” she said. “This means a lot to me. I’ve been in this tournament I think four times and I really wanted to win it.”
Chang, the third consecutive stroke play medalist to go on and win the championship, wasn’t the only winner Saturday.
Lauren Timpf of Macomb made it a Macomb area sweep when she won the 15-and-under division for the second consecutive year. The 13-year-old Timpf, who also won the 15-and-under title in the GAM Junior Kickoff, turned back Grace Wang of Rochester Hills 5 and 4 in the final.
“It feels pretty good, it feels like an accomplishment,” Timpf said. “I’ve been working very hard to get ready for these tournaments and it feels great to pull out another one.”
Chang, who has a year remaining at Utica Eisenhower High School and has verbally committed to the University of Detroit Mercy golf program, topped Bridget Boczar of Canton in an early morning semifinal match, also by a 2 and 1 score.
Becker, who is 17 and has a year remaining at Grosse Pointe South High, knocked off the defending champion, Lilia Henkel of Grand Rapids, 3 and 2 in the other semifinal match to earn her spot in the final. Her runner-up finish is her best in a GAM championship.
“It was a tough day against two really good players, and I definitely had some ups and downs,” Becker said. “I hit some really good shots and some not-so-good shots, but overall I’m pretty proud of how I played.”
Chang won the first hole of the final match with a par, and the two players traded pars until the par 5 No. 6 hole when Becker evened the match with a par.
Chang won the next two holes, including the par 3 No. 8 hole with a birdie from four-feet and led 2-up until the No. 11 when Becker pulled within one with a par. Chang went back to 2-up at No. 14, but Becker rallied with a birdie on the par 5 No. 15 hole to keep it close. Chang finally closed it out on No. 17 with a par as Becker missed the green left, chipped to 10-feet, and missed the par-saving putt.
“Audrey was a really tough opponent and I had to make a lot of clutch putts,” Chang said. “I had good focus out there all week. I didn’t let a bad hole get to me and my putting was good the whole tournament.”
Becker said Chang is a hard player to catch once she has a lead.
“She’s always pretty close to the pin and putts well on every single hole pretty much,” she said. “I wasn’t really making many putts for birdie, or anything really. She made more putts than I did.”
Chang credited her family for pushing her through this week, especially her sister Astarr.
“They really support me and my sister was out there supporting me, giving me confidence I could do it,” she said.
In the 15-and-under bracket, Timpf earned her spot in the final match with a 2-up morning semifinal win over Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor, and Wang pushed past Northville’s Samantha Coleman 2 and 1 in the other semifinal.
It was a tight final match until the eighth hole where Timpf made a birdie to take a 2-up lead and then won holes 10, 11 and 12. She closed out the match at 14.
“I’m actually pretty happy with myself and how I played this week,” said the 14-year-old Wang. “Today I played well (in the semifinal) but had a little struggle with my putting against Lauren.
Timpf plans to in the GAM 14-and-under Match Play Championship Monday and Tuesday at Woodside Golf Course, which is also in East Lansing, and then take on the state’s top players next in the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship, which starts next Saturday, and is also at Forest Akers, but on the West course. She will be one of the youngest players in the field.
“I’m just going to keep working hard,” she said. “Winning this gives me confidence.”
After winning the Michigan Girls Junior State Amateur, Chang is also playing in the Michigan Women’s Amateur.
“I’m going to keep playing my game,” she said. “It will be a really good test for me.”
RESULTS, BRACKETS: https://bit.ly/2ArWYRv
via Greg Johnson