EAST LANSING – Alena Li of Okemos is 15 and opted to move up an age group and play for the overall title in the 45th Michigan Girls’ Junior State Amateur.
She showed why by shooting a 2-under 70 at Forest Akers West Golf Course Tuesday and earning stroke play medalist honors with an even-par 144 total. With the stroke play win the junior-to-be at Okemos High School will be the No. 1 seed for match play starting Wednesday and continuing through Thursday.
“It’s one of my goals,” she said of winning medalist honors. “I enjoy this tournament a lot and I was definitely hoping to do well.”
Li said she opted to play in a higher division because she has won two GAM titles in 15-and-under division competition and finished second in this championship in the younger division two years ago.
“I’m definitely hoping to win a tournament in the overall division, especially this one, which I think means a lot,” she said.
Bridget Wilkie of Bluffton, N.C., competing with a summer GAM membership through Carl’s Golfland, shot a 71 for 147 and second in stroke play.
Alayna Friedt of Grand Blanc shot 76 for 150 and third, while Macie Elzinga of Byron Center, who shot 73, and Diya Brar of Lake Tapps, Wash., a summer Chandler Park member and Youth on Course member, shot 75 and tied at 152.
The stroke play medalist in the 15-and-under division was also from Okemos – Saisha Patil. She shot a 77 for 150 and will top the eight-golfer match play bracket for that division.
Tula Puzzuoli of Washington Township, who shot 81, and Esther Zhang of Ann Arbor, who shot 80, were next at 156.
Li, playing in the championship for the third time but first time in the overall division, had five birdies against three bogeys in her round and was the only golfer to shoot under par for the day. She made consecutive birdies at holes 15 and 16 for a strong finish.
“I hit a really good shot on 15 to just a few feet and on 16 I was able to make a 10-foot birdie putt,” she said. “My irons were pretty good so I had a lot of birdie chances, and my putting was feeling good so I was able to make a lot of those (chances).”