Rachel Heck, 15, has one goal: enjoy every second of U.S. Women's Open

USA TODAY Sports

Rachel Heck, 15, has one goal: enjoy every second of U.S. Women's Open

Junior

Rachel Heck, 15, has one goal: enjoy every second of U.S. Women's Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – When Rachel Heck was 12 years old her instructor, Rob Akins, taught her how to chip off the practice putting green against the grain. By age 14 she was so good at it, most times she could chip it closer to the hole from 60 feet than she could putt it.

On the eve of the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open, Heck showed off that skill from off the green during a practice round on the immaculately maintained and closely cut grounds of Trump National Golf Club.

At 15 years, 8 months and 21 days, Heck will be the youngest player in the field of 156 when competition gets underway on July 13. Heck’s mom took a screenshot of that stat on the U.S. Golf Association’s website and texted it to her early in the week.

“It means so much to me,” said Heck. “I’m just speechless.”

There are 21 amateurs in this year’s field, and on Monday the USGA hosted its first amateur dinner at the organization’s nearby museum. Two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Juli Inkster, who owns five USGA titles, addressed the group. She especially wanted the amateurs to study the legendary swing of Mickey Wright, featured in a museum video.

“(Inkster) just told us that we belong here,” gushed Heck. “It made all of us feel really special.”

Heck qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open on her first attempt, taking one of two spots in the Braselton, Ga., sectional qualifier. The Stanford commit comes into her first major championship brimming with confidence after claiming the 2017 Rolex Girls Junior Championship. She’s No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings and ranked second by the American Junior Golf Association. Her length and touch around the greens will be crucial this week.

Rachel Heck, after committing to Stanford earlier this year (Twitter)

And to think it all started with ice cream. Robert Heck grew up the oldest of three boys. When he found himself weary of dance recitals as the father of three girls, Robert took matters into his own hands.

“I decided to make them like golf,” he said.

Robert created games he knew his daughters could win and rewarded them with ice cream. Abby, their eldest at 18 years old, will play golf for Notre Dame next fall on scholarship. The youngest, 13-year-old Anna, is following in her sisters’ footsteps on the junior circuit.

“From an early age, we made golf fun and it stuck,” said Robert, who describes this week’s caddie experience as “surreal.” While Rachel looked to meet golf heroes Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis early on at Trump National, the rest of the family toured nearby New York City.

Young girls have approached Heck for autographs and selfies all week, and she’s loving it. The rising sophomore at St. Agnes Academy in Memphis is a worthy role model. The brainy Heck carried a 4.7 GPA and won the state title with a tournament record 10-under 134. She was 15 strokes ahead of her nearest competitor, which was Abby, the two-time state champ.

“I just want to enjoy every second of it, and not take it for granted or not get too worried about my score,” said Heck of her biggest challenge yet.

“That’s really not what matters this week.”

• • •

Complete list of amateurs in the field at the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open:

  • Ty Akabane, 16, Danville, Calif.
  • Emma Bradley, 17, Naples, Fla.
  • Virginia Elena Carta, 20, Italy
  • Anne Chen, 15, Sugar Land, Texas
  • Hye-Jin Choi, 17, Republic of Korea
  • Robyn Choi, 19, Australia
  • Mariel Galdiano, 19, Pearl City, Hawaii
  • Rachel Heck, 15, Memphis, Tenn.
  • SoWhi Kang, 17, Republic of Korea
  • Dylan Kim, 20, Plano, Texas
  • Jennifer Kupcho, 20, Denver, Colo.
  • Leona Maguire, 22, Republic of Ireland
  • Morgane Metraux, 20, Switzerland
  • Brooke Seay, 16, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
  • Eun Jeong Seong, 17, Republic of Korea
  • Natalie Srinivasan, 19, Spartanburg, S.C.
  • Lauren Stephenson, 19, Columbia, S.C. (20 on July 13)
  • Maddie Szeryk, 20, of Canada
  • Bailey Tardy, 20, Peachtree Corners, Ga.
  • Paphangkorn Tavatanakit, 17, Thailand
  • Dana Williams, 16, Boca Raton, Fla.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home