Song writes history at U.S. Women's Amateur
ST. LOUIS – Jennifer Song begins each tournament week by writing a victory speech. The 19-year-old expects to win every time she plays, and after this summer, it’s no wonder.
Song defeated Jennifer Johnson, 3 and 1, Sunday at Old Warson Country Club to become the second player in USGA history to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in the same year. Pearl Sinn, another Korean-born player who now lives in America, accomplished the feat in 1988. Song is the seventh player to win multiple amateur majors in a year, joining the likes of Chick Evans (1916) and Bob Jones (1930).
“Right after the WAPL Championship, I went to the USGA Museum and I saw that Bob Jones won the U.S. Am, British Am, and the [U.S. and British] Open,” Song said. “That was really inspiring. And I had a feeling that, hey, maybe I could do that, too.”
Since her USGA debut at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, Song has quickly become an American giant. She identified herself as a Korean that summer and tied for low-amateur honors. In 2008, she was a finalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
This summer, Song, who has dual citizenship, changed her hometown affiliation to Ann Arbor, Mich., where she lived about four years while her father studied and taught at the University of Michigan. As an American, Song won two USGA championships and again earned low-amateur honors at this year’s Open at Saucon Valley. She’s now a lock for the 2010 U.S. Curtis Cup team, if the USC sophomore-to-be stays amateur.
Song struggled early Sunday and was 4 down through 10 holes. Though she looked cool outwardly, Song said she nearly imploded on the inside.
“I almost had a heart attack out there,” she said. “I told other people that, like, I may have looked calm outside, but there was like a volcano eruption going inside my body.”
Song calmed herself down to birdie the next two holes and cut her deficit in half. A three-putt from Johnson on the 18th green left them all square heading into lunch.
When play resumed, Song converted an 8-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole to take her first lead in the match. It also marked the first time that Johnson had trailed at Old Warson in 95 holes. She tried to turn it into a positive.
“I was actually kind of glad I got behind because, you know, then I could just get that out of my head and, you know, come back strong,” Johnson said.
Song, however, rolled in another birdie putt on the 20th hole to go 2-up. Johnson pulled even at the 31st hole when she stuck her tee shot on the par 3 to 3 feet.
On the 33rd hole, Johnson’s greenside bunker shot got away from her and sailed over the green. She made bogey to fall 1 down. Song then converted a 6-foot birdie putt on the next hole to take a 2-up advantage and sealed her victory with a par on the 35th.
“It’s just breathtaking,” said Song, who has had her father, Museok, on the bag all summer. “I haven’t absorbed this feeling yet.”
Song broke down in tears when she hugged her mother, Jeeyeon Koong, who hasn’t seen her daughter win an event in person in quite some time.
Jeeyeon Koong surely cried over her keyboard last May when she saw Song’s fate at the NCAA Championship. She double-bogeyed the 72nd hole to finish runner-up in her third consecutive postseason event. Song finished second five times in her freshman season at USC. Still, Golfweek named her its College Player of the Year.
“I had a lot of second finishes, so I told myself, ‘Hey, you had a lot of chances, but you just lost it by yourself,’ ” Song said. “So when I went into the WAPL and was ready to play Kimberly Kim, I told myself, ‘When you get a chance, grab on to it. You need to know how to grab on to it.’ ”
After this summer, she might not ever let go.