Eighteen holes weren’t enough to settle three of the four quarterfinals at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play on Saturday.
While Lilia Vu, Andrea Lee and Ayaka Furue played into the early evening to earn their spots in Sunday morning’s semifinals, Eun-Hee Ji was long gone from Shadow Creek. Ji cruised in her quarterfinal, posting the largest margin of victory in the tournament this week.
Ji birdied three of the first four holes and cruised to a 7-and-6 win over Madelene Sagstrom in the first match of the afternoon. Nearly two hours later, the others earned their spots in championship Sunday with Lee needing 20 holes to defeat Gemma Dryburgh, Vu 20 holes to eliminate Jenny Shin, and Furue 22 holes to overcome Jodi Ewert Shadoff.
All four face another daunting 36 holes Sunday after a day that was both physically and mentally draining.
“I’m physically tired and I’m really hungry,” said Lee, the 23-year-old former Stanford star who has yet to find her footing on the LPGA Tour. “I just want to get some food and get to bed as early as possible.”
Lee was 3-down early in the match but fought back against Dryburgh, the last player in the field who had to go 22 holes in her round of 16 match in the morning, as well. Things appeared to be over for Lee on the 18th hole when Dryburgh’s approach from a fairway bunker settled five feet from the cup. But with a chance to move on to the semifinals, Dryburgh pulled the putt and the two played on.
Vu, on the other hand, never trailed in her match and took a 2-up lead to the 17th hole against Shin. But a bogey from the fringe sent them to 18 where Shin made a 12-footer to send things into overtime.
Vu won it on the second playoff hole when Shin couldn’t get up and down from the back rough.
“I just felt like I was fighting tooth and nail all day,” said Vu, the player of the year in 2021 on the developmental Epson Tour, where she won three times. “I’m so happy to come out with the win.”
Vu is the only player left with a perfect record, having rolled through a bracket that included Ariya Jutanugarn, Charlie Hull and Esther Henseleit. She added a 4-and-3 victory Saturday morning against Allisen Cortuz in a matchup of players with a long history of junior golf.
Furue had the biggest comeback of the day, ralling from 4 down with seven holes to play to catch Shadoff. That rally took everything she had both mentally and physically, she said.
“It was pretty mentally draining having to rely on trying to get some birdies and give myself enough opportunities get those birdies,” she said.
Ji is the only remaining player with an LPGA Tour win to her credit — she has five, including the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open — while Furue has seven wins over the past two years on the Japan Tour.
That leaves the two young Americans in search of victory No. 1, a prospect that has both Lee and Vu excited to think about.
“I didn’t expect myself to make it this far at the beginning of the week,” Lee said. “I’m just going to try to make the most of this opportunity. I have a chance to win an LPGA event, and I’m just going to focus on that.”
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.