COURTESY OF THE PGA OF AMERICA
Stephanie Kono chipped onto the green yesterday on her way to a final-round 72 in the Westfield Junior PGA Championship.
The Hawaii 15-year-old closes with
a 1-over 72 to win the PGA’s junior
championship by two strokes
Honolulu's Stephanie Kono shot a 1-over-par 72 yesterday to capture the girls division title at the Westfield Junior PGA Championship in Westfield, Ohio.
Kono, 15, finished at 3-under 281 for the tournament and held off runner-up Kristina Wong of Vestal, NY., to pull out a two-stroke victory in the national championship for boys and girls ages 17 and under.
Wong shot even-par 71 yesterday and was the only other female player to shoot under par for the tournament at 283.
Kono, playing with Wong in the final group, had four bogeys on the front nine to help Wong cut her lead to one stroke at the turn. But Kono settled down on the back nine and posted birdies on Nos. 12 and 17 to seal the victory.
"Of course I was watching the leaderboard. It's hard not to be aware of what your opponent is doing. I knew what Kristina was shooting and I knew what I had to do," Kono said.
"I think making par down the stretch with a three-stroke lead really is not that easy on this golf course. I really wasn't comfortable until I made that birdie on hole No. 17."
Kono, an incoming sophomore at Punahou, was tied for the lead after two rounds before sliding to fourth in last year's tournament. She got off to a strong start again last week with a first-round 66 on Wednesday, which stood up as the low round of the tournament, and was able to stay in front through 72 holes.
Kono entered the day protecting a 1-stroke lead over Candace Schepperle of Birmingham, Ala., while Wong was three strokes back.
"I tried to catch up, but she played really well," Wong said.
"I felt a lot more pressure coming through the last three holes knowing I was still down, but I would rather be chasing than holding the lead. I tried to play more aggressively, but my putts just wouldn't fall."
Schepperle shot a 79 to fall into eighth place.
Hilo's Kimberly Kim finished with a 69 yesterday to move into a tie for sixth place at 286. Kim posted birdies on the par-5 third hole and the par-3 14th to go along with 16 pars.
In the boys division, Honolulu's Chan Kim closed with a 1-over 72 to finish in a tie for seventh place. He ended at 2-under 282 for the tournament, 10 strokes behind winner Alex Volpenhein of Edgewood, Ky. Kim had three birdies on the front and added another at No. 10.
The Golf Channel will present a highlight show from the Westfield Junior PGA Championship on Sept. 1.
Up next: Kono, Kim, Amanda Wilson of Hilo, Mari Chun of Pearl City and Kaitlen Miyajima of Wailuku are scheduled to play in the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur Championship in Eagle, Idaho, this week. Morgan Pressel, the runner-up at the U.S. Women's Open, is also entered in the event.
Hilo's Jacob Low, fresh off last week's appearance in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, is entered in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in Longmeadow, Mass.
Both tournaments open tomorrow.