Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet is filling her summer up with national golf championships.
Already qualified for the Girls Junior PGA Championship and Big ‘I’ National Championship, Knaffle on Thursday qualified for perhaps the most competitive and prestigious girls tournament in the country, the 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior.
The rising junior at St. James High, who recently turned 16, was one of five players who advanced from a local qualifier at the 6,200-yard Mid Carolina Club in Prosperity, and did so through a playoff.
Knaffle shot a 2-over 74 to tie for fifth with Baylee Evans of Lancaster and earned a spot in the United States Golf Association national final by prevailing with a par on the second hole of a playoff.
The 156-player U.S. Girls’ Junior will be held July 24-29 at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo., and local 18-hole qualifying is being conducted at 39 sites across the U.S. The final three days of match play will each feature two hours of live television coverage on FoxSports1.
“I have lots of traveling and I’m really looking forward to it,” Knaffle said. “It will be really fun playing against the best girls in the world and competing with them.”
I have lots of traveling and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be really fun playing against the best girls in the world and competing with them.
Other players who qualified Thursday were medalist Jensen Castle of West Columbia with a 1-under 71, Gracyn Burgess of Lexington and Isabella Van Der Biest of Kingsport, Tenn., each with 72, and Haruka Shintani of Bluffton with a 73. Evans is the site’s first alternate and Elle Johnson of Inman is the second alternate.
The qualifier was conducted by the Carolinas Golf Association on behalf of the USGA.
Knaffle previously qualified for the PGA of America’s girls national championship by finishing second in the Carolinas PGA Junior Championship on June 25 at The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina. She won the South Carolina qualifier for the Trusted Choice Big ‘I’ National Championship with an even-par 144 at Orangeburg Country Club on June 27.
The Girls Junior PGA Championship is being played July 18-21 at The Country Club of St. Albans near St. Louis, Mo., while the 49th Big ‘I’ National Championship is Aug. 7-10 at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss.