Mika Liu, a 15-year-old golf prodigy who just completed her freshman year of high school, added a prestigious title to her resume Friday afternoon at Gaillardia Country Club.
Liu, who plays out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., defeated Jayde Panos in an entertaining 18-hole final to capture the 99th annual Women’s Southern Golf Association amateur championship.
“This is so amazing, shows I’ve improved dramatically after I finished second in two other amateur tournaments when I was 13 and 14,” Liu said. “This year I really wanted to win. It feels so good to get past that second place and win.”
Delayed nearly two hours by heavy thunderstorms, the final match of the top women’s amateur golfers from 11 states was reduced to 18 holes instead of the scheduled 36.
It went all 18 holes. Panos, a 21-year-old Australian who recently completed her career at Oklahoma State, rallied after being down three holes early.
Posting an unofficial 5-under 67, Liu birdied three of the first five holes to lead by three. Panos, who shot an unofficial 2-under 70, battled back to tie the match with birdies on Nos. 6, 8 and 12.
Liu retook the lead on the 150-yard, par-3 No. 13 with a birdie, although she needed only par since Panos hit in the water, her only mistake all day.
Both players posted birdies on the No. 14 par-5 — a common occurrence all week. Liu and Panos both had pars the final three holes, including both players missing short birdie putts on No. 17.
“We both knocked down flags,” Panos said. “In the end she just made one more putt than I did. We both only made one or two mistakes all day. I felt I was between clubs a lot today but I feel I played solid. It just wasn’t quite enough. She’s a really great player.”
Panos is entering a pro event next week in Japan as an amateur. She will return to Stillwater to complete her degree, return home to Australia for a couple of months, then plans to turn pro next year. She shot under-par in all five matches this week.
“I can’t wait to play in Japan. I’ve never been there before,” Panos said. “That will be a lot of fun. After that I’ll keep working on my game in summer tournaments and finish school. This was a great way to start the summer.”
Liu’s father, Stephen, is a former orthopedic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif., who has closely followed both of his daughter’s careers. He said Mika began winning tournaments when she was 7 and 8 years old.
Continue reading this story on the...