Li Wins 2024 Michigan Junior Girls State Amateur Championship

Alena Li Wins 2024 Michigan Junior Girls State Amateur

Alena Li of Okemos Wins 46th Michigan Junior Girls’ State Amateur Championship

  EAST LANSING – Alena Li of Okemos looks forward to playing in the Michigan Junior Girls’ State Amateur Championship each year, and this year she firmly set her sights on winning the 46th edition of it.

  Mission accomplished.

  The 16-year-old senior-to-be at Okemos High School topped Macie Elzinga of Byron Center 5 and 4 in the championship match Thursday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West Golf Course.

  With the title, Li added her name to the Wright Memorial Trophy and also earned an exemption into the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur Championship later this summer at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif.

  “It’s a really big accomplishment, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Li said of winning the state championship for girls. “I was the (stroke play) medalist last year and I lost in match play (the semifinals) and I was disappointed. I’m really excited and very honored to win this year. It was a huge goal of mine to win and I’m so glad to finally be able to do that.”

  It turned into an all-Okemos day with Saisha Patil winning the 15-and-under division championship with a 6 and 5 win over Tula Puzzuoli of Washington Township in the final match.

  Like Li, Patil, who is just 13, is in the Okemos school system, they share the same current PGA golf professional teacher in Chris Mory of East Lansing, and both were age group stroke play medalists in 2023 and lost in the semifinals.

  “I wanted to come back and win this time,” Patil said. “I didn’t feel good about last year, but this feels very good. It’s a big win for me.”

   Li earned her spot in the championship match with a 4 and 2 win over Grace Slocum of Traverse City in the morning semifinals. Elzinga, the stroke play medalist earlier in the week, topped Mia Melendez of Ann Arbor 2 and 1 in the other semifinal.

   The championship match was tied through six holes, but then Li won four consecutive holes and five of the next six to take firm control. In that stretch she won each of the four par 3 holes that are clustered in the middle holes on the West Course (holes 7, 9, 10, 12), including birdies on Nos. 9 and 12 with aggressive putts.

  “I struggled a little bit with my irons the first two days, but I was able to just find a steady rhythm and improve my irons over the match play rounds,” Li said. “That helped me make some birdies, and I wanted to be aggressive with my putts today. I didn’t want to leave anything short.”

  Li, who made a practice of building big leads through the match play rounds, said she likes playing out in front.

  “I think an early lead, or a lead in general gives me a bit of confidence,” she said. “And it’s like sometimes I know if I mess up, there is still a little bit of cushion there.”

  In the 15-and-under bracket, Patil earned her final match berth by holding off Madilyn Sheerin of Grand Blanc 1-up. A 20-foot par putt on 18 by Patil sealed the victory.

  In the other semifinal, Puzzuoli, 14, advanced to the final with a 4 and 2 win over 11-year-old Hannah Kim of Troy.

  Patil said her 8-iron proved to be the club of the day as she won five consecutive holes (Nos. 9-13) to take control of the final match.

  “I was sticking it well and used in on the back nine and on the par 3s,” she said. “A few weeks ago, my direction was a total mess, but I went to see my coach (Mory) and started getting back into my routine.”


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