PARAMUS, N.J. -- Eun Jeong Seong rallied to beat Andrea Lee 4 and 2 on Saturday in the U.S. Girls' Junior to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Hollis Stacy in 1971.
The 16-year-old South Korean overcame an early five-hole deficit to join Stacy (1969, `70, `71), Judy Eller (1957 and `58) and Nancy Lopez (1972 and `74) as the only multiple winners. Admitting that she had not heard of Stacy, Seong noted, "My mom was born in 1971."
Seong won last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"It's a little bit different feel than last year," Seong said. "Last year, it was a little bit hard. But I trusted myself today, and I have confidence. This morning was so hard because I was losing 5 down, but it's OK because I had a lot of holes (left)."
The 17-year-old Lee, from Hermosa Beach, California, will be a freshman at Stanford this fall.
"It was really nothing much I could do," Lee said. "She played really well in the afternoon, and I played well in the morning, but obviously I just had to end it well, and I wasn't able to do that."
Seong was 5 down through 13 holes in the 36-hole match, and had a 3-up margin at after 18 holes. Seong, second in the 2014 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links, won Nos. 19, 22 and 23 to square the match, and took her first lead with a 7-foot birdie putt on the 29th.
On the par-5 30th, faced with an uphill, almost-blind third shot from the left edge of the fairway, Seong hit a 60-degree wedge from 42 yards that hit the flagstick and dropped in for eagle and a 2-up lead.
"It was right between the fairway and rough, just too hard," Seong said. "I just thought about, `Go on the green, please'. But, it went in the hole."
They halved the par-5 31st with birdies, Seong won the par-4 32nd with a par and closed the match with a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-4 34th.
"She dumped one on me on the par 5, it flew in, and I think that might have been the turning point there," Lee said. "I tried to get back in it, birdied the next hole, but she matched it. She just made the putts that she needed to, and I didn't."
They also met in the 2014 U.S. Women's Amateur, with Lee winning 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals.
"I'm definitely proud of myself," said Lee, a member of the losing U.S. Curtis Cup Team last month. "This is my first time reaching the finals of a USGA championship, and I'm just really thankful to have gotten this far. It was a great match today against my friend, and I played really well in the morning, had her down, but she just played really great in the afternoon."