North and South goes down to final four

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Two months ago, with the NCAA Championship on the line, Ally McDonald had a chance to chase down Southern Cal star Annie Park. She shot 81.

Yet now, in match play on famed Pinehurst No. 2 at the 111th North and South Women’s Amateur, a potential second chance was looming. There was one problem.

In the round of 16 Friday morning, McDonald was 3 down through nine holes and a potential quarterfinal meeting with Park seemed very far away.

“I was just giving strokes away,” McDonald said. “I was basically just handing it over.”

But that’s just not the Mississippi State All-American’s style. No way could she allow herself to go out like this.

“If I need to win a hole making a birdie, or making a really big up and down, I’m going to find a way to do that, whether it’s skill, whether it’s just willpower, I’m going to try my best to pull off the shot I need to pull off," she said.

She’s not kidding.

McDonald rallied against Cyna Rodriguez, winning five of the last seven holes to set up the match with Park, who cruised into the quarterfinals with a 3 and 2 win over Monifa Sealy.

In the quarterfinal, McDonald rallied after falling behind 2 holes to Park through nine, sticking her approach to four feet on the par-4 No. 13 to square the match before making birdie at No. 16 after Park’s ball ricocheted off a sprinkler head. That was enough to win 1 up to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

McDonald will face No. 9 seed Michelle Piyapattra, who also made two huge comebacks Friday. The Columbia senior, who reached the Round of 16 last year, was 3 down in her morning match before recovering to beat Cathleen Santoso 2 up. She then stunned top-seeded Mariah Stackhouse 1 up in the final, coming back from two holes down with eight to play.

“I was behind almost the whole day, but you just have to be patient on this course,” Piyapattra said. “A lot of things can happen. No. 2 is one of those courses where anything can happen to anybody.”

UC-Davis graduate Demi Runas, the three-time Big West Player of the Year, had to qualify for the No. 15 seed in a playoff following stroke play Thursday, and made the spot count, slipping past No. 2 seed Hayley Bettencourt 1 up in the Round of 16 before sweeping past Rinko Mitsunaga 3 and 2 in the afternoon.

“It’s all kind of buzzing around right now, from the playoff yesterday to this morning, it’s all kind of been a blur,” Runas said. “It’s been a lot of fun.

“It would mean so much to win at Pinehurst, especially because this could be my last event as an amateur. There’s so much history here, and to be able to hopefully add to that would mean a lot to me.”

Junior phenom Yueer “Cindy” Feng, who qualified for the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at 13 years old, had one of the easier days on the course in Friday’s play. Feng, the No. 11 seed, clipped North and South veteran Katherine Perry 2 and 1 before dispatching the No. 2-ranked amateur and third-seeded Ashlan Ramsey 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals.

“No. 2 is so much different from No. 4. It’s a big jump, especially when you think about the greens on No. 2," Feng said.

Semifinal matches will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday. The 18-hole finals will begin around 1 p.m. Spectators are encouraged to follow play and admission is free.