PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Is it finally time for Kono to claim a USGA trophy?

August 11, 2011

__BARRINGTON, R.I.—__Counting this week's U.S. Women's Amateur,Stephanie Kono has played in 22 USGA championships, an impressive number when you're only 21 years old.

Along the way Kono has compiled an impressive 33-16 match-play record, having advanced as far as the quarterfinals in seven different USGA events. She has lost to the eventual champion on four different occasions, most recently against her UCLA teammate Brianna Do in the quarterfinals of last month's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.

All these stats lead to a simple thought: Isn't it about time the Honolulu native finally won on of these things?

Of course, Kono won't admit it herself that she's due to come out on top at a USGA event some time soon. That's just not her style. The soft-spoken UCLA undergrad getting ready to enter her senior year is too humble to suggest she "deserves" something so grand. If she deserved it, she'll earn it in good time.

So it is that Kono keeps grinding away on the golf course, like she did Thursday afternoon at Rhode Island CC in defeating another Bruin teammate, Tiffany Lua, 3 and 2, to reach Friday's quarterfinals. It was the third time she has had to face her friends and classmate in a USGA match-play event, Kono having won the previous two meetings as well.

Knowing full well how good a player Lua is, Kono realized she had to pounce when the opportunity arose, which just so happened to be early in the match. Kono winning the second, third and fourth holes to take a 3-up lead, essentially sucking most of the drama out of the showdown before it even seem to get under way.

At the end of the first round Wednesday evening, Kono was the "senior" player remaining in the field, the only one of the final 32 born before 1990. The age gap took on even more meaning when she drew 14-year-old co-medalist Lydia Ko in the second round match, dispatching her Thursday morning  3 and 2 before facing Lua.

"I feel very old. I used to be like her," Kono said after the Ko match. "Time flew."

What Kono has going for her as she tries to break through this week at RICC is an impressive bank of experience on which to rely. "I've been in this position before," Kono said. "I think I've been in every situation before. I've definitely learned how to handle myself out there, what to do in certain types of situations."

No doubt, it will be needed when Kono faces LSU sophomore-to-be Austin Ernst, the reigning NCAA champion, in their Friday quarterfinal match. While Ernst hasn't played a tournament since claiming her title in May, she hasn't shown much rust this week, particularly when it comes to her putter.

Also still alive are two other players familiar with getting into the later rounds of the Women's Amateur. Defending champion__Danielle Kang__ defeated 14-year-old Cindy Ha, 2 and 1, in the third round as she tries to become the first repeat winner of the Robert Cox Trophy since Kelli Kuehne in 1994-95. Kang will face UC-Davis junior Demi Frances Runas in their Friday quarterfinal, Runas having knocked off USC's Lisa McCloskey in 19 holes.

Meanwhile, Erynne Lee is still a few weeks away from taking her first college class at UCLA, yet the 18-year-old from Silverdale, Wash., will be playing in the quarterfinals at the Women's Amateur for the third time, beating Tiffany Lim, 4 and 2, in the second round and__Annie Park__ in 19 holes in the third round. Lee will face Alabama All-American Brooke Pancake in the opening quarterfinal match Friday.

The fourth quarterfinal match will pit two juniors, 17-year-old Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand against 16-year-old Casey Danielson.