Elzinga, Li, Melendez, Slocum Advance In Michigan Junior Girls

MICHIGAN JUNIOR GIRLS’ STATE AMATEUR: Macie Elzinga, Mia Melendez, Grace Slocum, Alena Li Advance to Final Four

  EAST LANSING – Stroke play medalist Macie Elzinga of Byron Center, Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor, Grace Slocum of Traverse City and Alena Li of Okemos won in two rounds of matches Wednesday to advance to the final four of the 46th Michigan Junior Girls’ State Amateur Championship.

  Elzinga will meet Melendez, and Slocum will take on Li in the semifinals Thursday morning at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West Golf Course. Winners will play in the afternoon for the championship.

  A final four was also decided in the 15-and-under bracket and includes stroke play medalist Saisha Patil of Okemos, Madilyn Sheerin of Grand Blanc, Hannah Kim of Troy and Tula Puzzuoli of Washington Township.

  Patil will meet Sheerin and Kim will meet Puzzuoli in the semifinals. The winners move on to the championship match in the afternoon.

  Elzinga, who is committed to play collegiate golf at Bowling Green State University, won a quarterfinal match over Avery Manning of Dexter in the afternoon after topping Chaille Payne of Spring Lake 4 and 3 in the morning round of 16.

  “I was playing good golf, and it was unfortunate for both (of my opponents) because they played really good golf,” Elzinga said. “I was just kind of lights out.”

  Elzinga did trail early in her match with Manning in the afternoon, but rallied with birdies, including one on a 40-foot putt.

  “I just kind of took a minute and just reset my mind and I was able to win,” she said. “I kept the pedal to the metal.”

  Elzinga reached the semifinals before being beaten in the recent Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship, too.

  “Hopefully this time it’ll be a different story,” she said.

  Melendez, who was a semifinalist last year, is hoping for a different story, too.

  She beat Brooke Morris of Canton 2-up in the quarterfinals after topping Grace Celso of Saline 3 and 1 in the morning round of 16.

  “I was feeling pretty confident coming into my second match because I was able to find a really good stride with my irons toward the end of the first one,” she said. “I got off to an early lead when I chipped in from 60 yards to make an eagle on No. 4, and then I went on a birdie streak and didn’t look back from there.”

  Melendez, a 15-and-under champion in 2021, said her game is in a good place.

  “My golf game is much more consistent than it was last year, and I feel like everything is starting to click together,” she said. “And I put a lot of work into my short game, and I’ve seen a great difference under pressure.”

  Slocum, the 2022 15-and-under champion, said her game was kind of rough around the edges Wednesday.

  “Ultimately I won both my matches so I can’t be too hard on myself,” she said. “My short game definitely came through.”

  Slocum said she was excited to be back in a final four.

  “There are three awesome golfers with me, so I’m super happy to make it this far,” she said. “I know in match play anything can happen, so I just want to keep grinding and try to keep making putts.”

  After her two matches Slocum said she was headed to the range to work on some things.

  “Then I’m going to try my hardest tomorrow,” she said.

  Li earned her final four spot with dominating wins, first in the round of 16 beating Isabel Kelly of Grand Ledge 6 and 5, and then beating Rachel Fay of Petoskey 10 and 8 behind five birdies.

  “I played pretty steady, hit a lot of fairways and greens and was able to make a few putts,” she said. “I’m thinking I want to keep doing what I’m doing, enjoy it and enjoy match play. I’m going to continue focusing on hitting greens and making putts.”

  A semifinalist a year ago, Li said she learned a good start is helpful.

  “It’s a confidence booster and kind of a cushion for the rest of the round,” she said. “I didn’t get off to a great start last year (in the semifinal loss).”

  In the 15-and-under bracket, Patil earned her final four spot with a 5 and 4 win over Colbie Livingston of Grand Haven. Sheerin topped Anika Srivastava of Okemos 2 and 1 in the round of eight. Kim beat Marissa Monteith of Macomb 2-up to earn her semifinal spot. And Puzzuoli topped Eleanor O’Grady of Grand Rapids 2-up.

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