Friday, July 20, 2012

Cool under pressure, Livermore’s Casie Cathrea advances another step in 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship

The mounting pressure of succeeding rounds of match play didn’t seem to faze Livermore teen Casie Cathrea today at the U.S. Girls’ Jr. Championship. Facing future Santa Clara Bronco Anne Freman, of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the second match of the day for both girls, Cathrea stayed calm and collected even when a lost ball on the second hole sent her back to the tee.

Wearing the Day-Glo orange and black of her future OSU Cowboy teammates, Casie jump-started her round with a clean 2-on/2-putt par at the opening hole, against the bogey-5 Freman scored after thinning her second shot into the right-front bunker. Teeing off first at the second hole, Cathrea launched a towering drive hard across the inside corner of the 368-yard dogleg right par-4. Appearing at first to have cleared the top branches of a huge pine guarding the corner, the ball disappeared into the upper branches, never to be seen again.
Casie Cathrea, 16, of Livermore, CA, awaits the start of her third round in the match play portion of the 2012 U.S. Junior Girls’ Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City. July 19, 2012 (Photo credit: Gary K. McCormick)
After the allowed 5-minute search for the lost ball, Cathrea hitched a ride back to the tee in a USGA rules official’s cart. Teeing up a second ball she nailed shot #3 clear of the corner and just onto the mild downslope fronting the green. A pitch and two putts later she was out of the hole with a six against Freman’s par, and the match was all square. 

Watching her as she stood on the tee box of the 122-yard par-3 third hole, you would never have known that Cathrea had just lost a hole to a lost-ball double-bogey. After watching her opponent launch a tee shot straight over the flagstick to drop and stop about 30 feet straight uphill from the hole, Casie launched her own missile on the same line – and stuffed it inside Freman’s ball, a good 10 feet closer to the hole. Freman rolled her birdie putt gently downhill toward the hole, coming up a foot or two short, then Cathrea, with a nice teach from her opponent’s line, rolled her birdie putt down the slope to die in the hole and go one up in the match again.

Starting with the 4th hole, an uphill par-4 with a tee shot to a landing area hidden by the crest of a rise, Cathrea racked up 3 wins in a row to go four up in the match. Her opponent, Freman, a rising senior at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas who will be attending Santa Clara University in 2013, played well through this stretch, but a bunkered ball here or a slipped putt there made the difference between a win and a loss as the holes went by.

Though it might have appeared at first glance that Cathrea had the match going her way, at the 395-yard par-4 seventh hole Freman made it clear that she wasn’t going down without a fight, belting her drive 20 yards past the long-hitting Cathrea to the left-center of the fairway. Her approach shot found the right front bunker – one of three guarding the green – but she wedged out to 6 feet and rolled in the par putt to halve the hole.
Future Santa Clara University Bronco Anne Freman, of Las Vegas, NV, watches her tee shot on its way on the 7th hole of Lake Merced Golf Club during her match against Casie Cathrea of Livermore in the third round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. (Photo credit: Gary K. McCormick)
Freman dropped to 5-under at the par-3 eighth hole, which was played at 128 yards this round, from a more forward tee box than in earlier rounds. Her tee ball found another right front bunker, and her splash-out rolled well past the hole to leave a delicate downhill slider for par. She missed the comebacker, going five down after conceding Cathrea’s two-foot par putt.

At the 481-yard par-5 ninth hole it was Cathrea’s turn to find a bunker with her approach shot, while Freman put her second shot just short of the green on the front fringe. Cathrea splashed out to about three feet from the hole, but missed her birdie putt, giving one back to Freman when the Nevadan chipped on close to the hole from just off the green, and sank the resulting birdie putt.

The ocean breeze was freshening and wisps of fog were starting to blow in overhead as the match made the turn. Both girls bogeyed the upwind 10th hole, halving it at 5 apiece as they adjusted to the strengthening breeze. At the shorter but more exposed eleventh hole, Freman found the right rough with her drive, landing in a tough spot with a line to the green but under low branches that complicated her shot. Her low punch out of the lush rough didn’t travel far enough to find the green or the fairway. She chipped out of the rough to four feet below the flagstick, but lost the hole when her par putt failed to find the hole.

The match came to the par-3 twelfth hole with Cathrea up five with seven to play. Both put their tee shots short and right, Freman’s catching a backwards bounce off of a huge cypress that left her well short of the green in more of the clingy rough. Cathrea left her second shot short of the green in the rough, while Freman’s second found the right hand bunker. Halving the hole with a pair of bogeys after their individual misadventures, the two competitors came to the thirteenth hole determined to make up ground.

Cathrea’s drive on the thirteenth found the shallow rough right of the fairway in the low collection area between the main fairway and the green, while Freman’s drive was center cut in the same area. Both girls fired stunningly-accurate approach shots, Freman’s about four feet above and right of the flag, Cathrea’s maybe three feet away, right and slightly below. Both made their birdie putts, and they went to the fourteenth hole with Cathrea “dormie” at +5 with five holes to play.

Inspired, perhaps, by the hard-charging play they had each demonstrated at the previous hole, both girls flew long, straight drives well down the fairway at the par-5 14th hole, Cathrea’s dead center and Freman’s nearer the right side of the fairway. Freman made a fine approach shot to the front fringe of the green, leaving herself a long chip-and-a-putt scenario for birdie, but Cathrea made a definite statement about how she felt the match should conclude when she flew her approach shot to the tucked back-right flag, leaving a two-foot putt between herself and an eagle 3 – and a win. Freman’s chip shot came up short, in the right-hand fringe, and after her birdie putt died below the hole she conceded the eagle, and the match, to Cathrea.

The win over Anne Freman pits Casie against a formidable opponent in Ariya Jutanugarn – the 2011 Junior Girls’ Champion – in the next round. Some members of the national golf media who are reporting this tournament have as much as conceded the upcoming match to Jutanugarn, looking forward to a matchup between the burly Thai and Lydia Ko, the Korean-born New Zealander who is the current world #1 female junior.

Jutanugarn will be a tough opponent, but Casie – who shot a course-record 66 at Lake Merced Golf Club in the second round of the stroke play portion of this event – is not a player to be counted out before the final putt has dropped.

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