Golf

Murrells Inlet’s Knaffle bounced from U.S. Girls’ Junior

Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet watches her tee shot on the second hole Thursday during the second round of match play at the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. Knaffle fell to Annick Haczkiewicz 3 and 2 in the round of 32.
Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet watches her tee shot on the second hole Thursday during the second round of match play at the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. Knaffle fell to Annick Haczkiewicz 3 and 2 in the round of 32. USGA Museum

Smith Knaffle’s run at the 69th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship came to an end Thursday morning.

The rising junior at St. James High from Murrells Inlet fell to Annick Haczkiewicz of Las Vegas 3 and 2 in the round of 32 in the United States Golf Association’s national championship at the 6,311-yard Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.

Knaffle tied for 21st through two rounds of stroke play at 4-over 146 to qualify for match play and defeated Angelina ‘Lei’ Ye of the People’s Republic of China, who is ranked 13th in the Junior Golf Scoreboard rankings, 2 and 1 in her opening match.

“It was awesome. It was really fun,” Knaffle said of her week. “The best girls in the world are here. It was just fun competing with them, and the golf course is amazing.”

The 16-year-old South Carolina commitment did not play her best golf Thursday. She won three holes with two pars and a birdie, but lost six with a par and five bogeys.

“I just didn’t make as many putts as I did the last few days,” Knaffle said. “It wasn’t like I played bad. The course is incredibly hard and she was playing really well. I didn’t play well enough to match her.”

Haczkiewicz, a rising high school senior, is the daughter of Cirque de Soleil acrobats and is a former competitive Latin ballroom dancer.

The Brigham Young commitment reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship in late May at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club with partner Sydney Smith, also of Las Vegas, after earning the No. 6 seed in the tournament’s opening stroke-play portion.

The 156-player U.S. Girls’ Junior featured players from 12 countries and 33 states, and is the second of three national championships Knaffle has qualified for this summer.

She missed the cut last week by two strokes in the 42nd Girls Junior PGA Championship at the Country Club of St. Albans outside St. Louis, Mo., after shooting an 8-over 76-76–152 in the opening two rounds.

“I’m ready to go home. I’ve been here for two weeks,” Knaffle said.

Knaffle will be traveling to Mississippi for the The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship from Aug. 7-10 at Annandale Golf Club in Madison. The tournament has a cut after the second round to the low 27 girls and 51 boys.

Knaffle is ranked 248th by Junior Golf Scoreboard, though she plays predominantly in the Carolinas while a lot of players ranked ahead of her play more regional, national and even international schedules.

“It’s a completely different world out there. It’s out of your comfort zone,” Knaffle said. “I’ve played in a few national tournaments now, but it’s a different experience. It’s very serious yet very fun. It’s just a different level of golf compared to the Carolinas events.

“It has been good for me. It’s all the girls I’m going to play with in college. It was good to compete with them and I know I can match them and compete with them. I know it’s going to help my national ranking a lot playing well this week.”

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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