Future Cat swings into action, wins golf championship

Scott Duncan

Before taking her first swing as a golfer at Northwestern, incoming freshman Jennifer Hong made a bold statement on the national golf scene, winning the Women’s Western Golf Association’s National Amateur championships last weekend.

The incoming freshman from South Bend, Ind., easily defeated Purdue’s Onnarin Sattayabanphot 6 and 4 in Saturday’s finals of the match-play championships at Purdue’s Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind.

“It was pretty amazing to play that well throughout the week,” said Hong, who was competing for the first time in the WWGA’s amateur championships. “It was definitely the biggest win of my career, and it adds to what I will bring to Northwestern.”

Hong started the week strong, shooting 2-over 146 in the two qualifying rounds to earn one of the 64 spots in the championship flight of the match-play tournament, which is considered one of the top three tournaments in women’s amateur golf.

On the first day of match-play competition, Hong began her impressive run by easily defeating Kristi Piepenbrink 5 and 4 in the first round.

In the second round, Hong won against Michigan State’s Rachel Meikle 4 and 3. And with a 2 up win over Illinois’ Stephanie Mory, she moved on to the quarterfinals.

In Friday’s quarterfinals, Hong faced another incoming Big Ten freshman, Wisconsin-bound Jeana Dahl. Hong defeated Dahl 1 up. She then advanced to the finals by defeating Vanderbilt’s Chris Brady 1 up in the afternoon.

“I was pretty relaxed all week,” Hong said. “I was just having some fun. When I won a match, I was just glad that I could play another round. There was no pressure. I didn’t feel like I had to win.”

In the 36-hole finals, Hong opened up strong and never looked back. She birdied the first to take a one-hole lead.

After the first 18 holes, she had a four-hole lead.

Sattayabanphot, who was an all-Big Ten selection in 2005, had no answer for Hong throughout the finals, falling behind by as many as seven during the second 18 holes.

Hong finished off Sattayabanphot on the 32nd hole.

“On the last day [Sattayabanphot] had a bad day and didn’t play that well,” Hong said. “I tried to play a solid round of golf and continue to play like I did all week.”

Hong’s future NU teammate, sophomore Brittany Johnston, also played in the WWGA amateur championships. Johnston fell to Mory 6 and 5 in the first round.

Hong, No. 11 in the Golfweek/Titleist Women’s Amateur Rankings, was in Chicago Wednesday for a qualifier for the USGA U.S. Women’s Amateur, which will be held at the Ansley Golf Club in Atlanta beginning Aug. 1.

She said she will play four more amateur tournaments this summer before beginning her collegiate career at NU in the fall.

Reach Scott Duncan at [email protected].