Celeste Dao Battles Back To Win Canadian Junior Girls Championship

17-Year-Old Quebec Resident Celeste Dao, Shown Here With Golf Canada's Pat Thompson And One Of Canada's Finest, Erased A Three-Shot Deficit On The Back Nine To Beat 14-Year-Old Emily Zhu Of Ontario - Image Credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

In about a year’s time, Celeste Dao will become a University of Georgia Bulldog. On Friday, the 17-year-old from Notre-Dame Ile Perrot, Que., played like that Georgia namesake at Beach Grove Golf Club in the final round of the Canadian Junior Girls Championship.

Tenacious, resolute, stubborn, persistent. Dao was all those things and more as she dug down deep to rebound from a three-stroke deficit early on the back nine and win the title.

It certainly wasn’t easy for Dao, a member of Canada’s National Development squad. She started the day with a one-shot lead on 14-year-old Emily Zhu of Richmond Hill, Ont. Neither player made a birdie on the front nine, but Dao made four bogeys. She made another one on the 11th hole to fall three behind, but kept telling herself she was still in it. “I was telling myself, stay patient, just stay patient for the two pars 5s that were coming,” Dao said. “I knew I would birdie at least one of them and I made two.”

Dao’s first birdie of the day came at the par 5 14th hole where she holed a 25-footer to pull event. She added another one on the par 5 15th to regain the lead. “When the first birdie dropped I was really, really happy,” she said. “I had some opportunities earlier, but they wouldn’t fall and I was like, oh my God, is it going to be that kind of day. It came back a little bit later in the round.”

Dao basically clinched the title on the 17th hole when Zhu hit her approach shot into the 17th green out of bounds. Her 5-iron from 167 yards bounced right off a tree in front of the green and just out of bounds. She made a double-bogey to fall to four-over par and Dao made par to remain one-over.

Both players birdied the 18th hole. Dao, who will begin her collegiate career at the University of Georgia in the fall of 2019, got emotional when asked what winning the Canadian Junior title means to her. “It means a lot,” she said. “It was one of my goals as a junior and to do it this year I am really, really happy. I mean Brooke (Henderson) did it and so many good players did it and for me it is so important to win this one. So I am really happy.”

Watching every shot was Dao’s mom, Annie St-Georges, who said she was a nervous wreck. “For a mom it is very stressful,” she said as she watched her daughter walk up the 18th fairway. “I am very proud of her because I have seen all the hard work and effort she has put in. It is amazing.”

image credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

Emily Zhu Of Ontario Has A Bright Future Ahead Of Her At Just Age 14

Dao, who closed with a two-over 74 to finish the tournament at even-par, laughed when it was suggested she had made it hard on her mom in Friday’s final up-and-down round. “My mom, for sure, is going to be like, ‘Celeste, Celeste, what are you doing to me.’ She is a great person in my life, she supports me a lot and I am really happy she is here this week with me.”

Dao had high praise for Zhu, who can’t weigh more than 90 pounds soaking wet, for giving her everything she could handle at Beach Grove. “At 14 years old I was battling for the cutline so she is impressive,” Dao said. “She is going to be a super good player and hopefully she is on the (development) team next year.”

Zhu hopes so too. “I’m happy because being second means that I am probably going to make the development squad,” she said. Zhu did win the Canadian Juvenile title for players 16 and under. That birdie she made on the final hole meant she edged Vancouver’s Angela Zhang by one shot. 

Zhang closed with a three-under 68 to finish at four-over par. “I am very happy with the way I finished considering that yesterday I actually struggled a lot,” the 15-year-old Zhang said. “I am very proud of myself for keeping calm and really staying positive, even though yesterday all the putts weren’t going in.”

Zhang finished tied for third with fellow Vancouver resident Tiffany Kong, who also played well Friday. Kong, playing in the final group with Dao and Zhu, shot a one-under 71 on Friday. 

Four other B.C. players finished inside the top 10. Surrey’s Hannah Lee, who is off to play in next week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in Tennessee, finished sixth at eight-over. B.C. Junior Girls champion Phoebe Yue of West Vancouver and Victoria Liu of Vancouver tied for seventh spot at nine-over. Langley’s Chaewon Beck was 10th at 11-over par.


1    Céleste Dao               Notre-Dame Ile Perrot, QC                    71-70-73-74--288 E   
2    Emily Zhu                 Richmond Hill, ON                            72-73-70-76--291 +3  
T3   Tiffany Kong              Vancouver, BC                                75-72-74-71--292 +4  
T3   Angela Zhang              Vancouver, BC                                73-74-77-68--292 +4  
5    Sarah Beqaj               Toronto, ON                                  76-74-72-71--293 +5

1   Emily Zhu                 Richmond Hill, ON   72-73-70-76--291 +3  
2   Angela Zhang              Vancouver, BC       73-74-77-68--292 +4  
3   Sarah Beqaj               Toronto, ON         76-74-72-71--293 +5  
4   YanJun(Victoria) Liu      Vancouver, BC       78-71-74-74--297 +9  
5   Chaewon Baek              Langley, BC         75-74-75-75--299 +11 

Click HERE for complete final scoring from the Canadian Junior Girls Championship at Beach Grove GC.