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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.”
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.