Defending champion Kelly Sim of Alpine Country Club had just taken the lead for the first time in a hard-fought final match on Thursday against Christina Parsells of Baltusrol Golf Club in the New Jersey State Golf Association’s 93rd Women’s Amateur Championship at the par-73, 6,110-yard Essex County Country Club in West Orange.
Now, she was looking at an uphill right-to-left 70-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 15th hole, a putt she had made the previous day to close out her quarterfinal match.
“It was a really similar putt. All day I had been hitting putts short and I didn’t want it to happen again. When I first read it, I could see the line. I hit it really well and it went in,” said Sim, 18, who defeated Parsells, 2 up.
Next year, Sim will shoot to become the first three-time repeat champion since Sherry Herman of Bamm Hollow won four in a row from 1995 through 1998. Taylor Totland of Hollywood Golf Club won back-to-back in 2014 and ’15.
That birdie putt gave Sim a 2-up lead with three holes to play. While Parsells did manage to close the gap to a single hole by winning the par-4 No. 16 with a birdie, Sim put the exclamation point on her triumph over Parsells with a birdie win on No. 18, the final hole of the match.
“I’m so excited about winning again. The competition this year was incredible. Most of my matches were against college players who are really good players,” said Sim, an incoming freshman at Northwestern University who this May won her third NJSIAA Girls Golf Championship.
“It’s harder said than done to win this again. It’s harder because I put a lot of pressure on myself. First, I wanted to be the top seed in stroke play. Then I wanted to win each match,” said Sim, who was T-17 at the U.S. Girls’ Junior last month. “It really helped to have my mother (Cathy) on the bag. She made me focus on the present.”
Parsells put the pressure squarely on Sim when she won the back-to-back par-5 holes, Nos. 7 and 8, with birdies to go 2-up in the match. The birdie at No. 8 was unforgettable. Stuck in a deep short-side bunker 22 feet from the cup, she lofted her shot out of the sand and into the hole.
Parsells, 21, a rising senior on the golf team at Georgetown who won the NJSGA Junior Girls’ Championship in 2014, bogeyed the par-3 No. 9 and her lead was down to a single hole. Another bogey on the par-4 No. 10, enabled Sim to draw even in the match and she never trailed after that.
“I knew it was going to be an awesome match. On every hole, I felt it would come down to who was going to make the putt,” Parsells said. “Getting this far has given me a lot of confidence going into my college season.”
In the semifinals, Sim never trailed in defeating Haley Bookholdt of Old York Country Club, a rising sophomore golfer at Elon University. Sim won, 3 and 2.
Sim took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the par-4 No. 2, and maintained the 1-up margin through nine holes. A par victory on the par-4 No. 10 made it a 2-up lead. Sim stretched the lead to 3 up when she drove the dramatic uphill par-4, 246-yard No. 14, and claimed a birdie. The match ended with a half on the par-4 No. 16.
“I’m really excited to go back to college because of all the progress I made here. Now, I know what I have to work on,” Bookholdt said. “Kelly (Sim) is a great player and she only makes a few mistakes. I would have had to play my best game to beat her, but today I only hit a handful of fairways and didn’t leave myself in an ideal position a lot of times.”
Parsells led her entire semifinal match against Katie Li starting with a par victory on the par-4 No. 2 hole. Parsells stretched the lead to 3 up thanks to a birdie on the par-3 No. 9. The match never got closer than a two-hole lead for Parsells who secured a 4-and-3 victory.
“I tried my best to have fun,” said Li, 13, who upset second-seeded Yeji Shin of Valley Brook Golf Course, 1 up, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. “I surprised myself by getting this far. I learned a lot. It was a very good experience for me."