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Cebuano upstart reaches quarters

Wei Wei Gao came away with a pair of emphatic victories to crash into the quarterfinals of the US Junior Amateur Match Play at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee Thursday.

While the Filipinas bowed out one after the other in the US Girls’ Junior in New Jersey, Gao kept the momentum of his 3&2 triumph over Brendan Hansen of the US in the first round of the knockout phase and racked up two wins in the grueling day to reach the Last 8 phase of the annual event featuring the world’s top junior players.

The 16-year-old Cebuano, who placed seventh in the 36-hole stroke play elims, broke away from an all-square match with Joseph Chun after 12 holes as he pounced on the Korean’s bogey, double-bogey and bogey mishaps in the next three to go 3-up then matched his rival’s par on No. 16 for a 3&2 victory in their morning duel in the Last 32.

He sustained his form in his afternoon match with American Austin Eckroat, taking three of the first eight holes on pars to wrest control. The Alta Vista Golf and Country Club member, playing in a tournament of this magnitude for the first time, yielded No. 11 but won Nos. 13 and 15 to fashion out a 4&3 win for a spot in the quarters.

Gao, who aced No. 3 with a 4-iron in the first round of the stroke play qualifier, will next face second seed Eugene Hong of Florida, who needed 23 holes to foil local bet Davis Shore in the Last 32 then routed Austin Coggin of Alabama, 5&4.

Aussie Fred Lee stunned top seed Travis Vick, 2&1, to seal a quarters showdown with Noah Goodwin, who beat Nicholas Lyerly, 3&2, while Korean Won Jun Lee nipped Cole Hammer, 1-up, to arrange a clash with New Jersey’s John Pak, who trounced Brent Ito, 3&2.

The last quarters pairing pits Aussie Min Woo Lee, who edged Frankie Capan on the 19th hole, against Brandon Gillis, who downed Ashkaan Hakim, 3&2.

Over in New Jersey, Yuka Saso, Annika Cedo and Lois Go failed to advance past the Last 32 phase with the seventh-ranked Saso blowing a 2-up lead after six holes as Grace St. Germain took three of the last four holes, including a par on the 18th to steal a 1-up win.

Cedo went 1-up despite a bogey on No. 11 but Chinese Jing Wen Lu birdied the next two and won Nos. 15 and 16 to post a 3&2 triumph.