Noh wins 43rd Girls PGA title by 4 strokes

Yealimi Noh of Concord continued her big summer by claiming a four-stroke victory over defending champion Rose Zhang of Irvine in the 43rd Girls Junior PGA Championship at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Ky.

The 16-year-old Noh, who finished second to Zhang last year, carded a tournament scoring record of 66-65-64-69—264, 24-under, while Zhang finished at 68-67-67-66—268, followed by Zlexa Melton of Covina at 63-70-69-67—269, Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., at 70-64-70-77—271 and Erica Shepherd of Greenwood, Ind., at 65-67-72-69—273.

“Last year I was close, but not quite there,” said Noh, who collected 25 birdies and one bogey, on the 66th of 72 holes. “Coming into the week, I really wanted to win. I set my goals pretty high, so I’m really happy I was able to achieve them and that all the hard work over the past few weeks and months paid off.

“Before I went to sleep last night, I realized I went 54 holes without a bogey, which I’ve never done. I kept thinking about it before the round, but once I started playing, the thought went away. When I did make the bogey, I told myself, ‘It’s only one bogey out of all those holes, so I’m good with it.’”

By winning, Noh earned a spot on the 2018 United States Junior Ryder Cup team for the September matches in Paris, and qualified for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship next April, as long as she remains an amateur.

Noh recently won the California Junior Girls’ State Championship for the second time in four years and was Northern California medalist in U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship qualifying at Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland.

Zhang, who won the 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration at Mission Hills, also qualified for the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team.

“To make the team at this tournament, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” Zhang said. “I’m honored to represent the U.S.”

Lucy Li of Redwood Shores, the 2016 champion, shot 66-69-69-71—275 to tie for sixth with Yujeong of South Korea, who finished at 70-69-70-66—275, and Yuka Saso of The Philippines, who wound up at 67-69-68-71—275.

Ty Akabane of Danville totaled 71-66-70-69—276 to tie for ninth with Annabelle Pancake of Zionsville, Ind., who came in at 71-68-65-72—276.

Former winners of the tournament include Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park of South Korea, Cristie Kerr, Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, Grace Park, Heather Farr, Beth Bauer, Aree Song of South Korea, Brandie Burton, Kellee Booth, Angela Park and Elizabeth Wang.

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