Madeline Jin of Royce Brook approached the 18th tee following a bogey on the previous hole, thinking she needed a birdie to win.
All she did on the par-3 140-yard 18th hole was put her tee shot within eight inches of the cup. She then drained the five-foot birdie putt to punctuate a round of 3-under-par 68, which combined with Wednesday’s first-round 69 for 137, gave her a long-awaited three-shot victory over playing partner 12-year-old Sophia Bae of Edgewood (69-71-140) in the NJSGA 62nd Junior Girls Championship at 5,145-yard Colts Neck Golf Club in Colts Neck.
Tied for third was Jin’s other playing partner ninth-grader Yoona Kim of Edgewood (69-73-142), who has qualified for this month’s U.S. Junior Girls at Ridgewood, and 15-yer-old Jacqueline Cai of Mercer Oaks (70-72-142).
The event included a 1:20 rain delay in mid-afternoon.
A year ago, Jin also shot 68 – in the first round – followed by a second-round 75 and found herself losing in a one-hole playoff to Ami Gianchandani of Rock Spring.
“When that putt fell in on 18, I was really happy because I felt I had to have that putt to win,” said Jin, 15, who won the Somerset County Tournament championship this spring with a personal-best of 67.
“Losing in this last year was a really touchy subject because I came so close . I couldn’t let it go,” said Jin, who birdied three of the final four holes, but bogeyed No. 17. “Last summer I won the Scott Robertson Tournament (in Roanoke, Va.) and I was tied with a girl and I really wanted to beat her.
“I wanted to keep that mentality today. I couldn’t sleep last night. I woke up four or five times. But this morning, I woke up very confident.
“Even on the first hole when I hit it into a bunker, I didn’t let it bother me. I just said to move on and don’t get too excited. I’ve been reading a book on how to handle things on a golf course and it’s really helped me,” said Jin, from Belle Mead and a rising sophomore at Montgomery High School.
“This is a real booster for me, something that will keep me going.”
A key moment on Thursday came immediately following the 1:20 rain delay. Jin’s ball marker was left on the green of the par-3 12th hole and she was facing a 15-footer for a birdie which she calmly sank.
“That was big. I didn’t think I putted that great on the front like yesterday, but my putter and my driver were really working for me today,” she said.
She said her favorite LPGA player is young star Lydia Ko.
“She’s so level-headed. You can’t tell if she’s three under or 10 over. My dad (Peter) shows me a video of some of her highlights to get the tempo right. She makes it looks so easy. She hits it so far and so straight. She doesn’t even take a full swing on her approach shots. She makes it look so simple, that I think I can do that. But it’s not as easy as it looks.”
Jin said in two weeks she will play in the AJGA Lessings Classic at Windemere in Long Island, N.Y., which features 36 holes on the first day.
“I have to thank my dad for his mental support. He left me a letter this morning before he left for work and it was so sweet. And my mother for being there,” Jin said. “The other girls were fighting as well. I knew I had to play well. I can get competitive.”