Aree Wongluekiet will try to make history in Saturday's final of the 51st U.S. Girls' Junior Championship at Green Spring Valley Hunt Club.
Wongluekiet, a 13-year-old from Bradenton, Fla., can become the youngest USGA champion on record, but first she must defeat Nancy Abiecunas, a 16-year-old from Fort Collins, Colo., in the match-play final that begins at 9 a.m.
Wongluekiet, whose twin sister, Naree, reached the quarterfinals, advanced to the final by defeating Lindsay Morgan, a 17-year-old from Walla Walla, Wash., 1 up. Abiecunas won her match against Lorena Ochoa, a 17-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, 3 and 1.
Since moving from Thailand with their family to attend the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, the Wongluekiet twins have dominated the girls' junior golf circuit. This past year, they combined to win six events.
In her first American Junior Golf Association event, Aree broke the tournament scoring record by five shots, 69-67-70--206. She also has won three other events. Only once--in her first tournament of the year--did she fail to finish in the top 10.
Against Morgan, Wongluekiet birdied No. 2 to go 1 up, then held tight to her lead. Morgan kept the match close, forcing Wongluekiet to make a tricky eight-foot par putt on No. 18 to avoid going to extra holes.
"It was more like a match that you play against yourself," Wongluekiet said. "You try not to beat yourself. . . . You just have to keep grinding away."
Abiecunas, who reached the quarterfinals in 1997 and lost in the first round last year, also led throughout her match. After Abiecunas had gone 3 up, Ochoa made a comeback at the turn. She was 1 down when she was penalized on No. 13 for slow play and lost the hole. Rules officials, who had warned her to speed up her pace, said she took 72 seconds to hit her second shot.
"It wasn't fair," Ochoa said. "I do what I normally do. It wasn't more than 70 seconds."
Wongluekiet, whose age has created quite a stir, said she doesn't think the three years between her and Abiecunas will have much bearing on the outcome of Saturday's match.
"Some people think I have the advantage because I'm younger and I don't have as much pressure," Wongluekiet said. "I wouldn't think it would be an advantage or a disadvantage."