July 17, 2022 - 5:05 pm
Updated July 17, 2022 - 6:30 pm
Eunice Han graduated from high school in Hawaii in the spring and immediately moved to Las Vegas so she could test her golf game against stronger competition.
She beat the best Nevada has to offer Sunday.
Han, 17, won the Nevada Women’s State Amateur at Boulder Creek Golf Club, shooting a final-round 67 to finish at 9-under 135, one stroke better than defending champion Veronica Joels. Amy Yewon Cho was third at 5 under, with first-round leader McKenzi Hall and Millburn Ho another shot back.
Starting one shot back to begin the day, Han started strong with birdies on four of her first six holes to build a lead. She then hung on as Joels came roaring back to almost run her down in her attempt to win Nevada’s premier amateur event for the fourth time in five years.
“Relief,” Han said when asked what her emotions were immediately after the win. “Excited, but mostly relieved.”
There were a lot of nerves as well, as Han was unaware exactly where she stood until she and Joels turned in their cards at the scoring table.
“I wasn’t trying to focus on the scores. I feel like that usually messes me up,” she said.
And despite making 11 birdies over the two days, Han credited a bogey on the final hole as the key moment. She worked her way out of trouble and made a clutch bogey putt to seal the win.
It was one of many clutch putts Han holed over two days in the heat, which is normally not the strength of her game. Han said her driving and iron play are usually the best aspects of her play, “but you can’t make a birdie with a driver.”
Han’s future is up in the air, although she will be attending UNLV in the fall. Whether that includes playing golf for the Rebels is unclear as she ponders trying to walk on to the team.
UNLV is where Joels honed her game over the past five years, graduating this spring after a stellar career with the Rebels. The winner of the state amateur in 2018, 2019 and 2021, she wasn’t about to let go of the trophy without a fight.
Seven shots back with 12 holes to play, Joels kicked her game into high gear, making eagle on No. 7 in front of four consecutive birdies to close the gap to two shots. But she could never get any closer until Han’s closing-hole bogey made the final margin one shot.
“It was very intense, but it was very nice,” Han said of playing with Joels. “She was very sweet. I think she also understood I was also pretty nervous.”
In the Silver State division, Regina Quintero, a staple of Southern Nevada golf for many years, finished at 8-over 152 for an eight stroke victory.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.