Her victory didn’t occur at the racetrack, but Alice Chen is a Triple Crown winner.
Alice Chen scored a 6-and-4 win over defending champion Alex Hershberger on Thursday to win the 88th edition of the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Championship at Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Both finalists play out of Neshanic Valley Golf Course.
The 17-year old Chen, a senior at Montgomery High, won her second straight New Jersey Junior Girls championship earlier this summer and the New Jersey high school individual title last spring; she is the first player to win all three of those tournaments in the same year.
“I don’t really know what to say to that,” Chen said. “I wasn’t really working to accomplish that. I’m just really grateful that this season has happened the way it’s happened,
Chen not only had to deal with a talented opponent in Hershberger, a sophomore at the University of Virginia, but also difficult weather conditions. Much of the scheduled 36-hole final was played in the rain; for much of the abbreviated afternoon session the players were confronted with a heavy downpour.
Hershberger led briefly in the early going but after nine holes Chen stood at even par and held a 1-up advantage. She extended her lead with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 10th.
Chen was still 2 up after 12 but she bogeyed the 13th before Hershberger squared the match with a birdie at the par-5 14th. Chen got the lead back for good when she won the 15th with a bogey then extended it when Hershberger’s tee shot at the par-3 17th found a pond in front of the green.
Hershberger won the 18th with a par but Chen led throughout the afternoon session. The par-5 27th hole proved decisive as Chen scrambled to with the hole with a par,
“I had a really great drive,” she said. “I had a 3-wood and laid it up to a really good position and had a nice wedge shot in. I just missed the birdie putt and at that was able to go to 4 up (when Hershberger missed a par putt.)”
Chen followed up at the par-4 28th when she chipped in for birdie from the apron from 65 feet.
She says her game has improved significantly over the past year, particularly her mental game. “Just being able to stay patient,” she said, “and have a quiet mind. I think my putting has been the biggest difference.”
Hershberger was trying to become the first Women’s Amateur champion to successfully defend since Donna Young achieved that feat in 2006-07.
The 19-year old was playing in her first tournament of the summer because of work commitments.
Having competed against Chen on numerous occasions she was well aware of her opponent’s capabilities.
“[Chen] was playing lights out,” Hershberger said. “I don’t think there was ever a time when she was down thought she wasn’t going to come out of it. Even when she’s in trouble she has just as much chance at a par as you do.”