CLEVELAND – After signing her scorecard at the end of Tuesday’s second round of U.S. Women’s Amateur stroke play, young Latanna Stone had the opportunity to do a little more math. She turned to playing partners Steffi Neisen, 20, and Marissa Dodd, 18, (both collegians) to ask their ages.
It still didn’t make her feel young.
It wasn’t uncommon at The Country Club to hear Stone referenced simply as “the 10-year-old.” She’s by far the youngest player in the field, and the youngest to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Amateur. Naturally that drew media attention in the weeks leading up to the championship, but Stone didn’t take too much notice. Dad/caddie Michael was just fine with that.
“My wife and I wanted to keep it low-key,” he said. “I wanted her to respect the field and understand that these ladies are playing at a higher level.”
After rounds of 82-78, Stone won’t return on Wednesday for match play. That was her goal at the beginning of the week, but she’s OK walking away knowing that she did something great already: Just qualifying for this event is a big accomplishment. When she returns home to Valrico, Fla., Stone says she’ll have to think of another goal to chase. There’s certainly a competitive streak in this one.
“I like doing things first than other people,” she said.
Some of the things out of Stone’s mouth instantly make you feel old, such as when she says she won’t graduate until 2019. But by now, the player with the aggressive swing already has been playing golf for eight years. She doesn’t remember the first time she swung a club as a 2-year-old. In fact, her memory doesn’t kick in until there were smoothies involved. The player who won a First Tee of America event that she entered as a 5-year-old didn’t just get a trophy but a gift card to Smoothie King.
Stone was that player.
Despite playing with a pair of collegians (Neisen plays for Nebraska, Dodd for Wake Forest), Stone didn’t pick their brains too much about a possible college career. To be fair, that’s very far in the future, and Stone likes to focus when she’s on the golf course. On Tuesday, she read most of her putts and made her own decisions instead of relying on her dad. Though the bentgrass greens were a shock, the yardage wasn’t. Stone has been practicing at 6,500 yards to prepare for this tournament.
“I just wanted her to get the full experience, instincts to take control,” Michael said. “I wanted her to learn.”