ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Jaye Marie Green was calculating so hard as she exited the scorer’s room Friday evening that she nearly missed a set of stairs leading into the pro shop at Oceanside Country Club. For Green, who leads the South Atlantic Amateur by two shots in her debut at the event, it was a day of number crunching as she fought to keep her game together.
“I just wasn’t making putts. I didn’t make a birdie on my front side, so I was 2 over, and then I go bogey, double,” Green said of Nos. 11 and 12. “I’m, like, No, I’m not going to let this happen.”
So Green fought back, birdieing Nos. 13, 16 and 18 for a third-round 74 to keep a hard-charging Charley Hull (69) behind her and maintain her lead entering Saturday’s final round. It’s a new kind of behavior for the 16-year-old, whose confidence is growing rapidly as she finishes out her junior career and looks forward to becoming a Florida Gator in the fall of 2012.
Green’s big breakthrough came in November, when she won the Polo Golf Junior Classic. It was her first AJGA invitational title.
“I’ve been working really hard, and just to win that, it definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” Green said.
A T-5 at the Dixie Amateur at the beginning of the year helped that mindset, and now Green is hoping to close out the four-day event for what would be her first major amateur victory. She stands at even-par 216, two shots ahead of Hull and five shots ahead of Ginger Howard (75). Howard, a fellow member of the class of 2012 who shared a golf cart with Green on Friday, also is looking for her first victory on the Orange Blossom Circuit.
After finishing T-2 at the Dixie and 10th at Harder Hall, Howard is due for an amateur crown of her own. But for a 30-footer for birdie at the par-5 12th, Howard’s third round was unspectacular.
“My putting was lacking because I was sticking it pretty close, and then I wasn’t really making any putts,” she said.
Like her classmate, Howard began 2011 with a better mental game, and it looks to pay big dividends.
“I’ve been doing lots of talking with my golf coach over at IMG Academies and my parents, mainly,” she said. “It’s the mental side of the whole golf game. I would just get so worked up over tournaments and just stress over scores and how I’m playing, so I’ve just tried to clam down basically and lose all the pressure.”
For a task easier said than done, it seems to be working.
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BEWARE OF THE LOCALS: When an elite amateur event is staged practically in your backyard, it’s hard not to take advantage of the situation. Enter a trio of players from Daytona State College, the junior college that emerged this fall by winning three of five Division I-dominant events (and finishing runner-up in the other two).
Second-years Mitsuki Katahira, Ericka Schneider and Amy West made the 20-minute drive north to Ormond Beach to compete this week, and Schneider (seventh) Katahira (T-9) both are among the top 10 after three rounds. As far as Katahira – who won four times this fall – is concerned, the Sally is an excellent tune-up for a spring season that starts Feb. 6 at the Jacksonville University Classic.
“I’m excited to start the season; I hope I’ll be ready the first tournament,” she said.
It’s tournament experience such as this that sharpened Katahira’s skills for the stellar fall season she authored, as last summer was the first time she stayed in Daytona Beach rather than returning home to Tokyo. She plans to attempt LPGA Q-School next fall, and has her eye on the University of South Florida – where West also is transferring – as a backup. Schneider has secured a spot on the Ole Miss roster for 2012.
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ACROSS THE POND: Holly Clyburn felt right at home Friday at Oceanside Golf Club amid the wind and cold. In fact, it was a question she was asked several times.
“It’s nice because it’s a typical English course, what we’d get at home,” Clyburn said of the tight layout made difficult by a strong, cold seabreeze. “It’s nice, and I really enjoy it. I just can’t get my golf game to scratch around it.”
Clyburn, a 2010 GB&I Curtis Cupper who hails from Cleethorpes, England, shot a third-round 77 at Oceanside as she struggled to keep Lady Luck on her side.
“I don’t feel like I’m playing badly. I’m just getting unlucky breaks, and on the front nine I got all of the bad you could ever ask for,” Clyburn said.
As the only Curtis Cupper in the field this week from across the pond (twins Lisa and Leona Maguire went home after the Harder Hall because of a death in the family), Clyburn is tagging along with a group of players from Stirling University out of Scotland. Sterling players make the trek to Florida for the Orange Blossom Circuit each year, while Clyburn usually only stays through the Harder Hall. She has tied for second at the Dixie each of the last two years.
Now a full-time amateur, Clyburn is concentrating on golf and fitness as she prepares to turn professional next year. She hopes to put one more Curtis Cup under her belt – especially since the 2012 installment will be played in Britain.
“I’d probably do LET for a couple of years and then come over here and see how it is,” Clyburn said of a budding pro career. “It’s so hard because I’d love to do Futures Tour, but since I’m based back in England and my family is back there, it would be hard to leave and be based in Florida all on my own.”