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Keating loses heartbreaker

Keating loses heartbreaker

In about a 30-minute span, Elma’s Alexis Keating served as both an architect and victim of a spectacular match-altering shot.

Countering Keating’s eagle from two holes earlier with an improbable birdie putt on the 17th, Fumie “Alice” Jo of the People’s Republic of China edged the Elma High School graduate on the 19th hole of their opening-round match in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship golf tournament on July 16 at the Home Course in DuPont.

One of just four Washington residents to qualify for the match play portion of the tournament (only Katie Lee of Silverdale survived the opening round), the 19-year-old junior-to-be at the University of Colorado was eliminated despite playing even-par golf for 19 holes — two-under-par for the final 10.

One up with two to play following a halve on the 16th, Keating struck a seemingly decisive blow when she knocked a wedge shot three feet from the cup on the 330-yard 17th. Jo, meanwhile, left her approach some 50 feet short and had to traverse a roller-coaster-type ridge on her putt.

A Keating birdie, assuming Jo did not make her birdie attempt, would have closed out the match.

Instead, Jo drained her monstrous putt.

Barely clearing a green-side bunker with her second shot on the 18th, Keating left herself with a difficult downhill putt from the fringe. She rolled it about eight feet past the cup and, after Jo narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie try, pushed her match-winning putt to the right. That forced extra holes.

Both players drove well and hit fine approach shots to the 365-yard first hole. Keating missed her 12-foot birdie try to the left. Jo canned her 7-footer for the victory.

It was Jo’s only lead of the match.

A former state individual champion at Elma High School, Keating was making her first — and last — appearance in the Public Links championship. The venerable tournament is being scrapped next year in favor of a national four-ball championship.

Jo went on to win the championship on Saturday with a 3 and 2 victory over Eun Jeong Seong of South Korea.

Jo never trailed in the title contest. She became the second-youngest champion in tournament history. Current U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie won the Public Links title at the age of 13.