Princess Superal became the first Filipina-born player to win the prestigious US Girls’ Junior Championship, fighting off Mexico’s Marijosse Navarro’s late fightback and snatching the fiercely fought crown on the 37th hole at the Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Arizona Saturday.
Superal pounced on Navarro’s hooked drive into a water hazard on the first playoff hole, the par-5 14th, and barely reached the green in two. Taking a drop, the Mexican made it in four and when Superal flubbed her birdie putt and she (Navarro) missed on a long par-putt bid, Navarro conceded the hole, the match and the crown to new Filipina champion.
“I really didn’t expect it,” said an ecstatic Superal after wrapping up the biggest triumph in a career stuffed with various championships, including a SEA Games gold and victories in the Asia-Pacific region. “I feel very, very proud.”
The 17-year-old mainstay of Team ICTSI thus became the first Filipina to win a USGA championship, the biggest junior tournament in the world. Dorothy Delasin, with Filipino parents but born in Texas, also won the event in 1996 but played as an American.
Dottie Ardina also had a crack in 2001 but lost in the finals.
But given the rare chance to shine, Superal seized the moment.
“She just didn’t give up. After blowing a 2-up lead late in the match and trailing by one with one hole to go, Princess just kept her composure and made a make-or-break birdie. She was simply tough,” said Team ICTSI coach Bong Lopez, who took over the junior golf program launched by ICTSI chairman and CEO Ricky Razon in 2005.
In a finale she appeared to have dominated with a near-flawless golf, Superal blew a 2-up lead in the early going and late in their grueling 36-hole duel as Navarro charged back with two birdies to square the match on the 33rd then took the lead for the first time with a scrambling par on the par-3 17th, the 35th hole.
But Superal, who missed her par-putt bid from six feet on the penultimate hole, showed grace under pressure, knocking her approach on the par-5 18th to within 10 feet and burying the pressure-packed birdie putt.
That somewhat rattled the long-hitting Navarro, who after nearly reaching the green in two, missed what could’ve been a title-clinching birdie bid from eight feet.
“It was a difficult putt but I wasn’t confident,” rued Navarro, who earlier made a superb recovery shot when after missing the 35th green, she chipped in to within six feet for par and the lead.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Navarro said of that clutch chip. “But like my caddie said to me, you’ve been practicing this all your life and just trust yourself.”
She, however, cracked when she watched Superal’s delicate 10-footer roll in, muffing her own eight-foot birdie bid on the 36th.
Lopez also cited Superal’s superb conditioning as his prized ward played through a total of 153 holes in the week, including 36 holes of stroke play where she finished No. 4 and a slew of tough knockout matches.
In the finale, Superal played to the equivalent of eight-under par, with the usual match-play concessions, and did not card her first bogey until the 35th hole. Navarro finished at seven-under.
By making it to the finals, Superal and Navarro received exemptions into next month’s Women’s Amateur Championship set in Glen Cove, New York with Superal also gaining exemption into the 2015 US Women’s Amateur to be held in Portland.