4-girl team wins Junior America’s Cup and Paula-Valdez takes individual title
The team title was never up for grabs during the final round of the 36th annual Girls Junior America’s Cup at UNM Championship Golf Course, but there was quite a scramble for the individual crown.
When it was all settled, Mexico captured both.
Mexico’s Ana Paula-Valdez came from behind on the final four holes, including a birdie on the par-5 18th, and won the 54-hole event by one shot over a trio of others – including two of her teammates.
“I didn’t know that last putt was for the win,” said Paula-Valdez, who was playing three groups in front of the second-round leader, teammate Marijosse Navarro, and Southern Cal’s Lydia Choi, who had the lead with four holes to go. “I went for the green in 2, and was able to get there. I thought I probably needed to make that eagle putt.”
Paula-Valdez, a 16-year-old rising sophomore from Morelia, Mexico, missed the 15-footer for eagle, but tapped in the birdie for a 5-under 67 on the day and a 5-under 211 total. That last stroke was the difference, as Navarro, Choi and Mexico’s Giovana Maymon all tied for second at 4 under.
Mexico won the team championship with a 15-under 633. The top three scores from each four-player team counted toward each day’s total. The Mexicans opened with rounds of 2 under and 5 under and shot an 8-under 208 in Thursday’s final round.
Southern Cal (1 over) was a distant second, 16 shots back in the 18-team field of some of the best junior players (ages 13-17) in the Western U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Colorado was third at 11 over and Northern California fourth at 22 over.
The Sun Country, which had four players from New Mexico, finished 10th at 41 over.
Rio Rancho’s Dominique Galloway was the top local, tying for 26th at 13 over, while Deming’s Darian Zachek tied for 28th at 14 over, Albuquerque’s Klara Castillo tied for 44th at 20 over, and Deming’s Shelby Turner tied for 47th at 21 over.
Paula-Valdez, whose 1-over 73 on Wednesday was her team’s throw-away score (the team’s highest) in the second round, fired the tournament’s low round with her 67 on Thursday.
“That got me really motivated,” she said of Wednesday’s score. “The day before, I hurt my wrist and I had to get it taped. I didn’t play very well (Wednesday), and that really made me want to do better today.
“The best part is the team winning. It just feels awesome. I’ve been playing this tournament three years, and last year we finished third – and that wasn’t quite good enough.”
Maymon shot rounds of 71-71-70 to finish 4 under, while Navarro, the second-round leader, shot 72-69-71.
“The first nine was kind of hard; we were struggling a little bit,” Maymon said of her team. “We knew nine strokes (the second-round lead) wasn’t enough to have it won. Then we all settled down.
“I didn’t know where I stood on 18,” said Maymon, who had a par on 18. “I actually didn’t know I would need a birdie to tie. But it’s a team tournament. I’m very happy we won and happy for Ana.”
Choi, who will be a senior at Beverly Hills (Calif.) High in the fall, had the lead until “a really stupid bogey on 15 when I was behind a tree, and hit the tree.”
She knew she was tied with Navarro going to 18, but didn’t know that Paula-Valdez and Maymon were in that mix, as well.
“When I made par on 18, I thought I might have been in a playoff with Marijosse,” Choi, 16, said. “I knew we were tied but I didn’t know about Ana.”
Mexico’s Maria Fassi, Southern Cal’s Haley Moore, San Diego’s Aliea Clark and Colorado’s Calli Ringsby tied for fifth at 3 over.