Gabriella Then, a recent graduate of Upland (Calif.)
, won the U.S. Girls Junior Golf Championship on Saturday in Fort Wayne Indiana.
Then held off a brilliant rally by Lakareber Abe, a rising senior at the Jim McLean Academy (Fort Worth, Texas), to post a 2 and 1 victory in the 36-hole finale. Abe was bidding to become the first black female ever to win a USGA tournament. She will attend the University of Alabama in 2014.
Then, a 4.0 student who will attend defending NCAA champion Southern California in the fall, had a 5-up lead after 22 holes. However, Abe battled back for a tie with four holes to play. Then finally clinched the big victory with a birdie on the 35th hole.
Competing in her 11th USGA-sponsored event, Then told the Associated Press, "I finally did it, a USGA championship. To be able to have my game where it is right now and be able to make it this far is great."
Abe, who was a big fan favorite, related, "I just kept telling myself to keep fighting. Gabby could hit a good shot at any time, so I just told myself to keep on playing, try to keep making birdies and see what happens."
Both girls earned berths in the U.S. Women's Amateur, which will be held during August in South Carolina.