JOHNSON, Ark. – The closing stretch at Blessings Golf Club is no place to divert focus, but there was Emily Tubert, the newly minted U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, rehearsing her takeaway, checking her alignment … and whistling Top 40 hits?
“I like to call myself an iPod on shuffle,” Tubert said. “Commercial jingles, little-kid songs, Broadway stuff, whatever.”
Seems little can sour her mood these days. Not the constant travel. Not the endless interview requests from the local press. (“It’s a good problem to have,” she said.) Certainly not a 2-over 74 in the opening round of the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions, which left her two strokes behind 13-year-old Samantha Wagner.
“I’m enjoying it,” Tubert said. “I’m just trying to soak it in, and it’s quite the experience.”
Perhaps that explains her insouciant approach on the tee at the 17th, a dastardly par 3 with the tee box perched some 100 feet above the putting surface, creating the sensation that you’re one off-balanced swing from tumbling over the cliff.
After a mid-iron to the middle of the green and a routine par, she headed to the 18th tee singing Ke$ha. And Katy Perry. And The Veronicas.
“Just singing all day,” she said.
At the 18th, she proceeded to hit a prodigious drive, which sailed over the cross bunker – a 260-yard carry – and left only a wedge for her second shot. (By way of comparison, several girls hit hybrid into the finishing hole.) Yes, Tubert is spectacularly long, her reliable, fluid swing producing a different sound at impact. Little wonder, then, that she overpowered the field last week at the WAPL, where she’d routinely drive the ball 40, 50, sometimes 60 yards past her playing competitors, surely a demoralizing sight in head-to-head competition.
“I have some length,” she said, smiling sheepishly.
That came in handy Tuesday on a Blessings course with which she has grown increasingly familiar. An Arkansas commit, this will be Tubert’s home course come August. She played four rounds here last year, at the AJGA Arkansas Junior, and again three weeks ago during college orientation. A walker-friendly course, it is not, with severe elevation changes and grueling walks from green to tee. But a few trips around this track can quickly identify a player’s flaws.
“This forces you to become a better player,” Tubert said. “It forces you to be a shotmaker and think about every shot. If you have a mental lapse, you’re done. On one swing, if you’re not thinking, it can cost you.”
Which makes her 74 with music interludes all the more impressive.