Perry plays way into U.S. Women’s Open
Katherine Perry isn’t a name that’s floating around the AJGA tournament circuit, but in the Southeast, the 17-year-old is a pretty big deal.
Perry played her way into next month’s U.S. Women’s Open Thursday after taking medalist honors at a Sanford, N.C., sectional qualifier that included players like LPGA veteran Rosie Jones and Yueer Cindy Feng, the recent AJGA Thunderbird Invitational champion. Perry shot 3-under 141 to take medalist honors a one shot, and grab one of six available spots.
“Everything was just great,” Perry said of her first attempt at qualifying for the event. “I hit the ball well and putted and chipped well, and was just on my game.”
Sounds like a typical round from the rising senior at Athens Drive High School, who garnered All-State honors with an eighth-place individual finish as she helped her team to the 4A title. Perry, of Cary, N.C., is still shopping for a college – though it will most likely be in North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia near her home – where she plans to major in business in the health care field while keeping thoughts of the LPGA in the back of her mind.
Heading into sectional qualifying, Perry, who admits that confidence in her game is her biggest weakness, also recorded a victory at the Vicki DiSantis Junior Girls Championship conducted by the Carolinas Golf Association. She has the North Carolina Amateur, the North/South Junior and the U.S. Girls’ Junior slated for later this summer.
The big question is how many of those events her fan club – the ones with the matching “Perry” T-shirts at the sectional qualifer – will make an appearance. Perry said a group of her friends have already told her they will be at the U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. Hopefully this time they can deliver as good a news as they did last Thursday.
“Coming down the 18th fairway and getting off the green there – which was the 36th hole – I saw my coach off to the side and my family, and they were all smiling and kind of gave me the thumbs up, and I knew then that I had gotten in to it,” Perry said of the moment playing in the U.S. Open became a reality.
With her ticket to the Open last week, Perry got more than just a hug and a handshake out of fellow qualifier Jones.
“We went to Ruby Tuesdays and she ended up going to the same place and was about a table away from us and came up to me and said, ‘Winner, winner, chicken dinner,’ and went and sat down and said congratulations again,” Perry said with a laugh. “It was funny.”
YOUNG GUN: The youngest player to advance to U.S. Open sectional qualifying may have come up a little short in his run at a major berth, but that doesn’t mean the trip was all for naught.
“I knew it was just an accomplishment going to (sectional qualifying) and I took every minute of it, experienced it and took it to my advantage, and know that I can compete out there in the years to come,” said Grayson Murray, 15, showcasing wisdom beyond his years. “It was definitely an advantage for me to be playing in it at a young age.”
In his first attempt at qualifying for the U.S. Open, the Raliegh, N.C., native emerged from local qualifying at Pinewild Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C., in second place after shooting 1-under 71. After a first-round 73 at sectional qualifying in Ballground Ga., Murray continued to fight a few nerves and a misbehaving short game, but a second-round 71 put him a tie for 24th. The experience taught Murray a thing or two about grinding, and also what separates the guys at the top.
“I’ve just been an OK putter always, so I’m just trying to get to the next level in putting and when I get to that level I’ll definitely increase my game a bunch,” he said.
With an AJGA victory (2008 Sta-Green All-Star Championship) and three Callaway Junior World Golf Championship titles under his belt, Murray now has something else to boost his confidence.
“If I can compete with all those big golfers that I competed with at sectionals then I know that I can compete with the junior golfers around the country,” he said.
Also in the Ballground, Ga., field was AJGA Thunderbird Invitational Champion Daniel Lee, 16, who was disqualifed after a first-round 78.
In Memphis, Tenn., 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champ Cameron Peck, 17, shot 5-over 147 just three days prior to his appearance at the St. Jude Classic, leaving him in a tie for 66th. Ranked No. 3 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings, Peck was the highest-ranked junior to play his way into sectional qualifying.
RUNAWAY VICTORY: David Oraee must have a killer instinct, though it’s a quality that helped etch his name in junior golf history. The 15-year-old opened up a four-shot lead on the rest of the field during the first day of play at the AJGA’s Junior All-Star at Aspen (Colo.) last week, and by the end of the week had increased it more than four times over. In his first AJGA victory, Oraee shot 16-under 200 (66-64-70) to beat the second-place finisher, Myles Miller, by 18 shots.
Oraee not only recorded the largest margin of victory in AJGA tournament history, but also a personal best in his second-round 64, which included an eagle on the par-4 15th, and wasn’t marred by a single bogey.
BUBBA RUMBLE: One of the biggest junior tournaments in the South came down to two former high school teammates last week, with Steven Lee emerging victorious after the second playoff hole. Both Lee and former Hendersonville High School teammate Steven Fox ended the Bubba Conlee National Junior Golf Tournament in Bartlett, Tenn., tied at 7 under.
Both players birdied the par-4 18th to force the playoff. In extra holes, both made par on the first hole. Lee birdied the second hole to clinch victory and an AJGA exemption.
The pair both graduated this spring, and Lee will head to the University of Memphis in the fall while Fox will play for Chattanooga.
FOOTJOY NOTES: Phillip Choi started the tournament in a tie for 43rd after a 2-over 72 in Round 1. Choi chiseled away at his next three rounds, shooting a final-round 65 – the low for the tournament – to tie for sixth . . . . Jim Liu, 13, the only representative from the Class of 2013 to finish above the cutline, played to a total of 6 under during the first three days, but began a downward spiral on the 18th hole of Round 3 when he took a double bogey. It meant the difference between a share of the lead and a fourth-place standing. Liu shot 3-over 73 the final day to tie for sixth, his second-best AJGA finish (3rd at 2008 Lessing’s AJGA Classic). . . . Talk about playing up to expectations. Of the top 10 FootJoy finishers, only four are ranked outside the top 50 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings. Ian McConnell – who finished T-9 after holding a share of the lead going into the final round – was the lowest ranked at No. 80.