OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Summar Roachell stepped to the 11th tee Thursday morning at Olympia Fields Country Club with a 4-up lead on Manuela Carbajo Re and a major decision to make.
Roachell, looking to advance past the second round of match play at the U.S. Girls’ Junior for the first time in her career, could either go for the green at the 260-yard par 4 and risk dropping her drive in the creek guarding the green, or she could lay it up, knock her second shot around the tree in the middle of the fairway, and play it safe.
With the tees moved up from the 330-yard mark, where they had been all week, both players faced that shot for the first time. Carbajo Re, of course, had to go for it.
“I’ve had a couple tournaments this year where I’ve gotten in that situation where they moved the tees and I’ve done something different and it’s kind of messed me up,” Roachell said. “I just tried to stick to what I was doing the whole time.”
And so Roachell pulled a 5-iron, knocked it to 120 yards, then stuck a pitching wedge to 5 feet. She converted for birdie to go 5 up as Carbajo Re made par. It was just one instance in Roachell’s 36-hole day when her short game gave her a significant edge.
“In the off-season I worked on my short game a lot and I think it’s kind of showing now,” she said. “I’ve always tried to make sure my short game is up to par.”
It was an unexpectedly lopsided morning against Carbajo Re, who finished eighth individually at last year’s World Amateur Team Championship as she represented Argentina. Roachell won, 6 and 5, before meeting Purdue signee Aurora Kan in the Round of 16.
Roachell would bogey immediately to go 1 down, but three consecutive birdies at Nos. 4-6 swung the match irreversibly in her favor. A 5-and-3 afternoon victory makes Roachell one of the hottest players to enter Friday’s quarterfinals.
“After winning this morning I was like, I can do this, I can get into the quarters,” she said. “I just kept doing what I was doing all week.”
Roachell, too, has one of the more experienced caddies in the field. Nora Lucas, a senior on the women’s golf team at Illinois, is a friend of a friend. Lucas, of Glenview, Ill., caddies at Westmoreland Country Club in nearby Wilmette, Ill., and is the perfect easy-going complement to Roachell’s equally laid-back personality.
“She’s such a good kid,” Lucas said at the end of the end of the day. “Playing college golf and playing junior golf I’ve never been able to be with somebody that long that had such a good attitude.”
Lucas is no slouch on the links herself. She won the Chicago Women’s Amateur by a 12-shot margin earlier this month, and had two top 15s in 10 starts last season at Illinois.
With such easy-going personalities, this week could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Roachell and Lucas. Roachell has yet to make a decision about college (a subject Lucas tried not to broach – she remembers the days of those endless questions), and Lucas, a history and English major, isn’t quite sure what the future holds for her, either. Maybe a career in law, or maybe, she said with a smile, a full-time gig looping for Roachell on tour.