Yana Wilson took care of business in the first stage of her U.S. Girls’ Junior title defense. Now she’ll try to become the sixth medalist to hoist the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy since 2002.

Wilson, 16, of Henderson, Nev., carded a 4-under-par 68 on Tuesday at the U.S. Air Force Academy Eisenhower Golf Club’s Blue Course to earn medalist honors. Her 36-hole total of 6-under 138 was one stroke better than 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Anna Davis, 17, of Spring Valley, Calif. Davis, who shared the first-round lead with University of Oregon incoming freshman Kiara Romero, shot a 71 in the second round.

Romero, 17, of San Jose, Calif., finished third at 4-under 140 after an even-par 72.

A trio of players were four strokes back. Kaili Xiao, 14, of the People’s Republic of China, Tarapath Panya, 16, of Thailand and Anna Huang, 14, of Canada, posted 73, 73 and 68, respectively, in Round 2. Emerie Schartz, 15, of Wichita, Kan., the 2023 Kansas Women’s Amateur champion, was the only other player to finish in red figures after carding a second-round 71 for a 36-hole total of 143.

The fact that Wilson and Davis went 1-2 in stroke play should not come as a major surprise to those who follow junior golf. The two members of the Class of 2024 have developed a friendly rivalry since Wilson holed a 75-yard wedge approach for an eagle 2 on the first playoff hole to capture the 2022 Annika Invitational. In June, Wilson again edged Davis to win the junior portion of the LPGA Tour’s Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey by three points in the Stableford competition.

“[We] grew up playing together, so I wouldn’t say there’s a rivalry,” said Wilson of Davis, “but we just go head-to-head a lot. It’s just a coincidence because she’s beaten me in a couple of tournaments, too, so we just go back and forth. She’s a great player and a great competitor, and I’m sure she’ll do amazing this week.”

Wilson has enjoyed quite a summer leading into this championship. She was the runner-up in the American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex Girls Championship in John’s Island, S.C., and finished third in the Ping Heather Farr Classic in Mesa, Ariz., in April. She also competed in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, along with Davis.

Now she’ll try to become just the fourth player in U.S. Girls’ Junior history – and first since Eun Jeong Seong in 2015-16 – to repeat as champion. The other two to achieve the feat are Judy Eller and World Golf Hall of Fame member Hollis Stacy, who won three straight from 1969-71. Wilson’s 68 matched the best score of the championship and was one of two sub-70 rounds on Day 2.

“[Medalist] definitely means a lot to me, but I tried to convince myself that it doesn’t really mean anything because we’re not even halfway through the championship, and hopefully I still have a lot of golf to play,” said Wilson of being medalist. “I’m going to try and keep my head steady … and just keep grinding.”

World No. 4 Anna Davis came up one stroke shy of sharing medalist honors in her first U.S. Girls' Junior appearance. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)

World No. 4 Anna Davis came up one stroke shy of sharing medalist honors in her first U.S. Girls' Junior appearance. (USGA/Kathryn Riley)

On Tuesday, Wilson registered six birdies against two bogeys, which came in consecutive holes (seven and eight). Then she posted five birdies in a seven-hole stretch, including four in a row from No. 12.

Davis, who is No. 4 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking®, couldn’t duplicate her eight-birdie performance from Round 1. Still, the left-hander who has committed to attend Auburn University in 2024 with her twin brother, Billy, managed four birdies against three bogeys, one of which came at the par-5 ninth, her last of the day, when she missed a 6-footer for par.

Romero, competing in her third U.S. Girls’ Junior that includes a run to the final 16 last year, produced five birdies in Round 2.

Huang, who missed the cut in her first U.S. Girls’ Junior two years ago when she was 12, played through pain to match Wilson’s 68. During a range session on Monday afternoon, she tweaked her lower back and the nagging pain continued through Tuesday.

“This morning, it was hurting a lot,” said Huang, who moved to Southern California three years ago and will be a freshman at the Pacific Academy in Irvine this fall. “I was just thinking I was going to try to hit the greens and keep it together. Everything was hurting, even when I was walking. I was really surprised [at my score].”

What’s Next

The championship now switches from stroke to match play with the low 64 scorers competing in a knockout format to determine the champion. The Round of 64 will begin on Wednesday at 8 a.m. MT. Matches continue through Saturday’s 36-hole championship match. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend.

From left to right, Sophie Stevens, Angela Zhang, Emerie Schartz and Veronika Exposito made U.S. Girls' Junior history this week with their combined four holes-in-one. (USGA/Christina Parsells)

From left to right, Sophie Stevens, Angela Zhang, Emerie Schartz and Veronika Exposito made U.S. Girls' Junior history this week with their combined four holes-in-one. (USGA/Christina Parsells)

Notable

  • The cut for match play came at 7-over-par 151 with exactly 64 golfers advancing. It’s the first time no playoff was needed for the final spots since 2007 at Tacoma Golf & Country Club in Lakewood, Wash.

  • The stroke average for Round 2 was 77.02 and for the two stroke-play rounds it was 76.96.

  • Sophie Stevens, of Highland, Mich., recorded the fourth hole-in-one of the championship, using a 9-iron to ace the 132-yard seventh hole. The four aces surpassed the 2004 U.S. Girls’ Junior for the most in a single championship. It also matches the USGA mark for a single event with the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., when two-time USGA champion Jerry Pate, recently retired USGA Executive Committee member Nick Price, Doug Weaver and Colorado resident Mark Wiebe all aced the sixth hole in Round 2.

  • Eight of the nine players who competed in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach two weeks ago made match play. The only one to miss was Ting-Hsuan Huang, of Chinese Taipei, who came within one stroke of playing the weekend at Pebble. The eight to advance are medalist/defending champion Yana Wilson, Anna Davis, Kaili Xiao, Farah O’Keefe, Lauren Kim, Angela Zhang, Chizura Komiya and Jeneath Wong.

  • Other notables to make match play: 2022 runner-up and 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion Gianna Clemente and her partner Avery Zweig, 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion Sara Im, 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball runners-up Kaitlyn Schroeder and Bailey Shoemaker, 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior semifinalist Katie Li, and 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur co-medalist Alice Ziyi Zhao.

  • Leia Chung’s local caddie this week, Ken Mero, is looping for the first time in a USGA championship since the 1966 U.S. Girls’ Junior held at Longue Vue Club in Verona, Pa. Mero, 77, served in the U.S. Navy and is a member at Eisenhower Golf Club. Chung, a rising sophomore at Boise State, posted 7-over 151 to make the cut.

  • A couple of players made significant turnarounds from Round 1 to make match play. Amelie Zalsman and Kennedy Swedick went nine strokes better on Tuesday (79 to 70). And Yeji Kwon went from a 78 to a 70.

  • Molly Smith, the first known female to compete in the Massachusetts Amateur, made the cut, shooting 6-over 150. Smith shot 9 over in stroke play at the Mass Am to miss match play by four strokes. Earlier this year, the incoming University of Central Florida freshman nearly advanced out of U.S. Open local qualifying.

Quotable

“I was just in the zone. My putter got hot within those four holes, and I was just hitting the ball very well.” – Yana Wilson on her four consecutive birdies

“I haven’t played many match-play events. Last year I didn’t play this event, I didn’t play the U.S. Women’s Amateur [because I was invited to the Evian Championship and AIG Women’s British Open]. I think you kind of have to have a different mindset. You make a bogey and it’s all right. You go to the next hole. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not bad at match play.” – Anna Davis on switching formats

“He taught me a lot about the greens out here and how the mountains play a big role in breaking putts and stuff.” – Kiara Romero on her caddie, Chuck Delich, who has been playing at Eisenhower Golf Club for nearly five decades.

“I think the pins were harder than yesterday, especially on the last hole (par-5 ninth).” – Tarapath Panya (69-73—142) on the setup for Round 2

“Match play is always different, mentally, because you’re not going against the whole field. You’re only going against one person. I definitely think you can be more aggressive when you’re playing match play. It should be fun.” – 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion Sara Im

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.