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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - PETE PERKINS

El­iz­a­beth Moon (above) has a chance to right a wrong af­ter ad­vanc­ing to to­day’s Arkansas State Golf As­so­ci­a­tion Ju­nior Girls Match-Play Cham­pi­onship at Ea­gle Hill Golf and Ath­letic Club in Lit­tle Rock. Moon, a two-time cham­pion who lost in the fi­nal in 2016, beat Han­nah Bakale­los 4 and 3 and will play Macken­zie Lee for the ti­tle.

Good luck is fre­quently a byprod­uct of tal­ent, but a 13-year-old from North Lit­tle Rock used more than her share to ad­vance to the fi­nal of the Arkansas State Golf As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ju­nior Girls Match­Play Cham­pi­onship at Lit­tle Rock’s Ea­gle Hill Golf and Ath­letic Club on Wednes­day.

Fifth-seeded Macken­zie Lee, an eighth-grader at LISA Academy North, got up and down for par from the front fringe of No. 14’s par-3 is­land green to close out her 5-and4 semi­fi­nal vic­tory over top-seeded and de­fend­ing cham­pion Brooke Matthews, 18 of Rogers.

Lee will play El­iz­a­beth Moon of For­rest City in this morn­ing’s fi­nal. Moon, a twotime cham­pion of the event, ad­vanced with a 4-and-3 semi­fi­nal vic­tory over Han­nah Bakalekos of Sher­wood.

Skill de­served full credit for Lee’s match win­ner, but she re­lied on two sig­nif­i­cant bursts of good for­tune that left her al­most apolo­getic as she spoke mo­ments af­ter­ward in the cool­ing shade.

“It was a lucky day for me,” said Lee, who at the age of 11, was one of 80 ju­nior golfers to par­tic­i­pate in the Drive, Chip and Putt Cham­pi­onship Na­tional Fi­nals at Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club in 2015.

Miles Smith of Lit­tle Rock will play Thomas DePri­est III of Lake City in one boys semi­fi­nal this morn­ing. The other semi­fi­nal will pit Lit­tle Rock’s Hunter Hick­ing­botham against Cabot’s Con­nor Gaunt.

Lee’s steady play gave her two 2-up leads through the first seven holes, but Matthews re­turned to 1 down for the sec­ond time with a par on the 559-yard 8th hole.

Nev­er­the­less, strokes of un­canny luck on two of the next three holes helped put Lee in com­mand.

Lee stood on the No. 9 green af­ter a less than ster­ling pitch left her with 16 feet for par. Matthews had chipped to within 5 feet. Lee said she had al­ready set­tled in her mind for bo­gey, but she watched with sur­prised de­light as her putt curled into the cup. Matthews missed and Lee was 2 up at the turn.

Lee’s par on the 515-yard 10th hole gave her a 3-up lead, but her ea­gle on the 11th left her and Matthews stunned.

Matthews’ tee shot cut through trees to a fair­way ad­ja­cent to the rel­a­tively short 441-yard par-5. She had to chip back but hit the green 15 feet from the pin with her third from 120 yards. Lee’s sec­ond shot from 190 missed wide left, be­low the green in patchy, sandy rough, 35 yards from her tar­get.

“The lie was good enough that I could hit it, but when I hit it, it wasn’t very solid,” Lee said. “And it didn’t even go where I was aim­ing to. I heard it, and I said, ‘OK. This is an­other chip shot.’ ”

Her pitch came out low and fast and right of her in­tended land­ing spot on the left side of the green. The pin was near the right edge, 30 feet away from the fast rolling ball that seemed headed off the green and down a slope.

Lee could not see the re­sult, but she heard the ball clang against the pin, and sub­se­quent cheers from hers and her cad­die’s fa­thers con­firmed her 4-up lead.

“I heard them yelling, and I’m like, ‘OK. What hap­pened?’ ” she said. “And then I knew it went in.”

Matthews said she was im­pressed by more than Lee’s good luck.

“She has big po­ten­tial,” Matthews said. “If she starts hit­ting it a lit­tle longer, you bet­ter watch out.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/ THOMAS METTHE

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/THOMAS METTHE

El­iz­a­beth Moon lines up a putt on the sev­enth hole Wednes­day dur­ing her semi­fi­nal match against Han­nah Bakalekos in the ASGA Ju­nior Match-Play Cham­pi­onship at Ea­gle Hill Golf and Ath­letic Club in Lit­tle Rock. Moon de­feated Bakalekos 4 and 3 and will face Macken­zie Lee in to­day’s cham­pi­onship match.


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