FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Gabriella Then has a 4-up lead over Lakareber Abe after the first 18 holes of the 36-hole final of the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
After halving the opening hole with pars, Then, 17, of Upland, Calif., took the first lead of the match when Abe three-putted for bogey at the par-5 second. Then extended the lead to 2-up with a birdie at the par-3 third, following Abe’s lip-out from 24 feet.
Abe, of Angleton, Texas, cut the lead to 1 up when Then was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the par-3 fourth and tapped in for bogey. But when Then applied pressure with a solid approach to 10 feet at the par-5 fifth, Abe stumbled with a three-putt bogey and dropped back to 2 down.
Poor tee shots at the eighth and ninth holes by Then led to a bogey and a double bogey, respectively, with Abe making pars to bring the match back to all square heading to the inward nine.
Then and Abe swapped pars until the par-4 13th. After reaching the green in two, Abe sent her 30-footer 6 feet past the hole and three-putted for bogey. Then’s chip from the right rough trickled down to within a foot for a par save and a 1-up lead.
Then won Nos. 14 and 15 with birdies to reclaim her 3-up lead. The two halved No. 16 with birdies, and Then extended her advantage to 4 up by nailing yet another a 7-foot birdie at the par-4 17th.
Abe was faced with a prime opportunity to cut into her deficit when Then’s tee shot at the par-4 18th hit a tree and ricocheted into a stream. She was forced to take a drop and left her third shot 10 feet short of the green, settling for bogey. But Abe was unable to capitalize, sending her approach into the greenside bunker and failing to convert her up-and-down for par.
Then’s 1-under-par morning saw six birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey (with the usual match-play concessions). Abe’s 2-over par round included one birdie and three bogeys.
Both players have strong family support in the gallery. Then’s parents, Andre and Maya, are here in support, as is her younger sister, Angella, who lost in the first round of play. Daudi and Fiora Abe, Lakareber’s parents, are in attendance, as is her older sister, Tezira, who flew in from Texas this morning.
Saturday morning brought clouds and humidity back to the golf course for the first time since Tuesday. The sun has since broken through, with temperatures in the low 70s. There is a possibility of light showers throughout the afternoon.
The afternoon round will begin at 12:45 p.m. Visit www.twitter.com/USGA for live hole-by-hole updates.