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US Girls' Junior final: Shepherd, Chang advance amid complicated circumstances

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AUGUSTA, Missouri — Erica Shepherd advanced Friday to the U.S. Girls' Junior final at Boone Valley when Elizabeth Moon was penalized on the first extra hole for moving her ball before her par putt was conceded.

After missing a short birdie putt that would have ended the semifinal match, the 17-year-old Moon, from Forrest City, Arkansas, reached across the hole and pulled her ball back with her putter before Shepherd had an opportunity to concede the par putt. The action resulted in the loss of the hole and the match.

"I thought that since I would have given it to her, it would be just fine," said the 16-year-old Shepherd, from Greenwood, Indiana. "I feel awful, and I feel like I lost, and I want to cry. I feel bad for her, but I couldn't do anything. We both tried to get it to where that putt was given to her, but it just — it's the Rules of Golf. There's no after-the-fact. You can't."

Shepherd overcame a late two-hole deficit, taking No. 15 with a birdie and tying it with a par on No. 17. She also converted a difficult up-and-down on the par-3 16th.

Shepherd parred the par-5 19th.

"I made my 5. I hit my putt to a couple inches. She gave it to me," Shepherd said. "She had like a 5-, 6-footer for birdie. And, so I closed my eyes because I thought she would just make it because she had been playing good all day. When I hear that the ball doesn't drop, I finally open my eyes and she's already dragging the ball back. And, then like my coach was like, "Did you give that to her?""

Shepherd will face 17-year-old Jennifer Chang of Cary, North Carolina, on Saturday in the 36-hole final.

"She's one of my best friends," said Shepherd, the left-hander who has verbally committed to attend Duke in 2019. "We've played together a ton. A couple of weeks ago, she was on the East team with me in the Wyndham Cup, and she caddied for me."

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In the quarterfinals, Shepherd beat Youngin Chun of Gainesville, Florida 3 and 1, and Moon edged Ami Gianchandani of Watchung, New Jersey up.

Chang hasn't trailed in any match. She beat Calista Reyes of San Diego 4 and 2 in the quarterfinals, and topped Taylor Roberts of Parkland, Florida, 5 and 4 in the semifinals.

"It's insane," Chang said. "I think my mental game is at a good state, and you know, in match play like this, you never know what can happen. So, I try to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself."

She has verbally committed to attend Southern California in the fall of 2018.

The finalists earned spots in the U.S. Women's Amateur at San Diego Country Club on Aug. 7-13.

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