NESHANIC STATION, N.J. – Lakareber Abe has a distinctive name. The “r” at the end is silent, and her surname sounds like “AH-bay,” and not the nickname of the 16th U.S. president. The beauty of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is that fans get to know players who otherwise toil in anonymity. Abe, at No. 70 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, is one such player.
Abe, 16, defeated Krista Puisite 1 up to advance to the second round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Neshanic Valley Golf Course on this sweltering first day of summer. Puisite, a senior at Texas State, is believed to be the first Latvian to play in this championship.
After Abe lost Nos. 3-5 to fall 2 down, a pep talk was required.
OK, just calm down a little bit, Abe told herself.
She knocked in a 15-footer for birdie on the eighth hole and won the ninth with an “unexpected” par to bring the match to all square at the turn. Abe parred every hole on the back nine to wear down her opponent.
Abe was born in Houston after her parents emigrated from Uganda. Her father, Daudi, who is pushing the cart this week, came to the U.S. from Africa to play college soccer in the Pacific Northwest. When he blew out a knee, Daudi, now a chemical engineer, took up golf.
Abe traveled to Uganda as a 4-year-old but remembers very little of the central African nation. There are 13 golf courses in Uganda and only 50 junior players, according to the World Golf Foundation. Safe to say that Lakareber wouldn’t have the resources at her disposal were it not for her parents’ move.
Last August, Abe and her sister moved five hours from their home to attend the Jim McLean Golf Academy in Fort Worth. The high school junior lives in a house with other students that’s a five-minute walk from the practice facilities. The moms rotate caretaking duties, making sure that someone is there to supervise at all times. Abe, a college golf hopeful, takes her classes online.
There’s another obvious reason that Abe stands out: Her dark skin. As one of the few talented black juniors in the game, she feels even more different now that her sister, Tezira, has moved on to college.
“It’s usually just me,” she said.
Though there are no blacks playing full-time on the LPGA, Abe said the community is supportive. She has met Cheyenne Woods once and is close with sisters Ginger and Robbi Howard. Ginger Howard plays on the Symetra Tour.
“It’s good because the whole African-American community that plays golf is very good to each other,” Abe said.
No doubt they’ll be watching her progress here amid the cornfields of central New Jersey.