Alex rolls into Women’s Am match play
U.S. Women’s Amateur (Round 2)
Sixty-four players advanced to match play Tuesday at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Greg Allen needs a steak. More importantly he needs some waterproof shoes. Allen took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows college coaches to caddie for players at national championships, looping this week for Marina Alex at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I was very unprepared,” he said with a laugh. The amateur caddie/Vanderbilt coach watched incoming transfer Julia Thead play in the morning Monday, and then wore the same damp pair of socks to work for Alex in the afternoon. His expanding blisters are now bigger than golf balls.
“I always made fun of (Duke coach) Dan Brooks for wearing golf shoes to recruit,” Allen said. Now he can only laugh at himself.
Women’s college coaches heard of the NCAA interpretation earlier this summer during a meeting at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Said Allen: “Once I found out it was legal, I offered up my services.”
Alex struggled on Day 2 with a 5-over 77, but will be in fine shape for match play thanks to an opening 70. Last year Alex tied for second during stroke play in her Amateur debut but lost in the first round. She’s a different player this year, however, having won the SEC Championship last spring and finishing No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
A self-described streaky putter, Alex relied on Allen when she had doubts on the green. She is beginning to realize that it’s not her ability to read greens that’s the issue – it’s her stroke. That being said, Alex credits an improved short game for dropping her scoring average from 74.31 freshman year to 71.59 in 2010.
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Margaret Shirley barely made it in this field. The 24-year-old received a letter from the USGA stating she’d been reinstated as an amateur the day prior to her U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier July 19. She opened the letter in the morning before her tee time.
“I’m probably playing the best golf of my life,” said Shirley, who played as a professional for only one season. “I’m sure (Auburn) coach (Kim) Evans is wondering where that was in college.”
Shirley’s inconsistent scores (70-80) reflect a player who hasn’t worked on her swing in six months. Now an assistant coach at Georgia, the range is no longer on her day-to-day itinerary. Still, she has fared well in several events this summer, finishing runner-up at the Georgia and Tennessee Women’s Opens and the Georgia Women’s Amateur.
“I have no expectations,” she said. “I’m not supposed to play well. I have a job now.”
Not that being a professional isn’t a job, but the $15,000 she made playing mini-tours from January to May 2009 was cut down to around $1,000 after expenses were taken out. That’s almost working for free.
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The average age at this year’s championship is 19.98. There are two 12-year-olds in the field: Hannah O’Sullivan and Lilia Khatu Vu. O’Sullivan advanced to match play with rounds of 73-74. Alexis Thompson advanced to the quarterfinals as a 12-year-old at Crooked Stick in 2007.
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Surprising to see several college players from North Carolina schools bow out of this championship early. Duke’s Courtney Ellenbogen and North Carolina’s Catherine O’Donnell and Allie White all missed the cut.
White transferred from UNC to Ohio State last fall but lasted only a semester. She enrolled at Chapel Hill last spring and played a semester of intramural sports. She will have to sit out the fall semester 2010, but is expected to be in coach Jan Mann’s lineup by next spring. It’s highly unusual, perhaps even unheard of, for a player to leave a school, play somewhere else, and then go back.
“I think she missed a lot of things about Carolina,” Mann said. “I feel bad for Ohio State, but we’ve all been through a situation where we might lose a player.”