Anina Ku of Neshanic Valley received her greatest birthday present ever – albeit one day early – as she defeated Christina Parsells of Baltusrol, 2 and 1, to win the 94th New Jersey State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship at Navesink Country Club on Friday.

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Ku, the rising sophomore at Harvard University who turns 19 on Saturday, rallied from an early two-hole deficit to win four straight holes and never looked back. She overcame a resilient Parsells, the runner-up for a second straight year, who jarred a hole-in-one on the par-3, 17th hole in her semifinal victory over Ami Gianchandani of Watchung Valley - a match she won in 19 holes.

“This was a tournament I kind of dreamed of winning one day. It’s so tough to win this tournament because we have to many great players in this state,” said Ku, a resident of Basking Ridge who helped Ridge High School to the 2015 NJSIAA high school championship along with her sister, Hana, a Princeton graduate.

“This week taught me the power of taking it one shot at a time, and that if I continue working hard enough in all parts of my game, then I can win something like this. I got more confident as the week went on.

“My driver was straight and I was comfortable over my approach shots. The greens here can get really tricky if you have long putts, so I was happy that my approach shots were dialed in. It really helped me out,” said Ku, who won the 2018 NJSGA Public Links Championship. She will defend that title on August 15 at Heron Glen Golf Course in Ringoes.

Ku helped Harvard win the Ivy League Championship this spring and gained All-Ivy League honors. In 2018, she was selected as a Rolex All-American.

Parsells, a May graduate of Georgetown where she earned All-Big East honors for four straight seasons, took a 2-up lead over Ku by winning the par-4 first hole with a par, and the par-4 fourth hole with a birdie.

But Ku quickly got to even when she won the par-4, fifth hole with a birdie and the par-5, sixth hole with another birdie. Ku took her first lead of the match with a par victory on the par-4, 10th hole. Next, Ku hit a knockdown nine iron from 121 yards to one foot for a birdie victory on the par-4, 11th hole to take a 2-up lead.

Parsells shaved the lead in half when she sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5, 14th hole, but Ku won the par-4 uphill 16th hole with a par when Parsells found a greenside bunker.

“Anina didn’t make any mistakes. She was unfazed by the pressure,” said Parsells. “She was automatic hitting fairways and greens which put the pressure on me. You have to be so gritty in a tournament like this. There are so many days and so many holes and it requires so much mental toughness.”

“This course is so beautiful and it really fit my eye. It was about keeping the momentum. I felt more and more confident going into each new round,” said Ku, who defeated recent University of Tennessee graduate Allison Herring of TPC Jasna Polana in the morning semifinal, 3 and 2.

In the other semifinal, after Parsells aced the par-3, 17th hole for a 1-up lead, she watched Gianchandani sink an uphill 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie the match. Parsells then captured the match with a par on the 19th hole – the par-4, first hole.

It was the second career ace for Parsells, the other coming in 2016 when she shot a Georgetown record 67 at Highlands Ranch Golf Club in Colorado.

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