2002: Curtis Cup - From rodeo to golf, Jerman finds success

As a high school senior, Angela Jerman didn’t know what the Curtis Cup was. More than four years later, she’ll be an integral part of the United States squad that will face Great Britain & Ireland at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh next week.

It wasn’t until summer 1998, when friend Beth Bauer was selected for the Curtis Cup, that Jerman became familiar with the significance of the event, a biennial competition between top U.S. amateurs and their GB&I counterparts.

“She told me how excited she was and how glad she was that she got to play twice in two different countries,” said Jerman, who spoke with Bauer at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. “She said it was one of the best experiences of her life.”

Bauer, an LPGA rookie, played on victorious U.S. teams in 1998 and 2000. Bauer tied for 18th at the Open and Jerman tied Aree Song Wongluekiet as low amateur.

Jerman, 22, is a late bloomer by today’s golf standards, first picking up a club at age 11 to help rehabilitate a broken right shoulder. As a young rodeo star in Denver, Jerman never injured herself barrelracing. But after a not-so-graceful move on the playground’s monkey bars – coupled with her family’s move to Columbus, Ga. – a golf career was born.

After the Jermans moved – Angela’s father, Jim, was an optician in the U.S. Army and was transferred to Fort Benning to open an optical lab – Angela visited a sports therapist who told her the best way to rehabilitate the shoulder would be to play tennis or golf.

Choosing golf was simple.

“It’s one of those sports that I liked playing because I could play against the guys,” Jerman said. “When I was finally able to beat some of them a couple of times, that was my adrenaline rush.”

Jerman began playing at a par-3 course in Columbus, and was taught discipline and golf etiquette by Bill Godwin, a football letterman for Georgia in 1941-42 who later became a golf professional. Jerman now is taught by John Godwin, Bill’s son.

Jim Jerman bought his daughter a set of Nancy Lopez clubs for her 14th birthday, which motivated her to become more serious. She tested her skills in American Junior Golf Association events for three years, winning one tournament, the 1997 Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Junior Classic.

But that victory was bittersweet because Jerman discovered after the event that her father had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), or what Jim Jerman calls “the common cold of cancer.” Jim Jerman received a bone marrow transplant from an unknown donor in 1999, and Angela spent the entire summer at her father’s side, putting her golf game on hold.

“She’s a kid that understands golf is a small part of life,” Jim Jerman said. “But I have no doubt she’ll make it out on tour. Anything she’s ever done she’s been in the top 10 percent. She’s going to be a real solid player.”

At the University of Georgia (Jerman played four years and is scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in marketing), she won only one tournament, the Lady Gamecock, and that was in her junior year.

Although Jerman didn’t win a tournament as a senior last season, she played consistently, and Georgia coach Todd McCorkle never had a doubt she would land on the Curtis Cup team. Jerman finished in the top 10 in 11 of her last 16 events at Georgia, and had a 72.91 stroke average last year, a women’s school record.

“A.J. came into my office in October of last year saying, ‘I haven’t been doing all I can do. I want to know what I have to do to be a great player,’ ” McCorkle said. “At that moment, she turned over a new leaf as far as work ethic. When she did that, her game immediately rose to a different level.”

Jerman didn’t give the Curtis Cup serious thought until late in the college season, when a friend mentioned she may have a shot at making the squad with a good showing at the NCAA Championship. She finished sixth in the event, and ended the year ranked No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Skeptics have been critical of the selection process for U.S. Golf Association team events such as the Curtis Cup and Walker Cup, saying too much emphasis is placed on playing well in USGA events.

Jerman, however, has played in only three USGA events in the last five years, mostly because she chooses to spend time with family during the summer. Jerman lost in the third round of the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur to Virada Nirapathpongporn, missed the cut at the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open and tied for 51st at this year’s Open.

“I am definitely proof that you don’t have to be part of the ‘good old boys’ network to get into the event,” Jerman said. “It’s nice (the USGA) recognized how I’ve played over the last two years. It’s satisfying because I know I’ve worked hard.”

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