Park’s long summer continues at Women’s Am
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kristen Park hasn’t been home in four weeks. Like many juniors, she’s playing more golf this summer than many LPGA players. On another day marked by oppressive heat, Park endured 37 more holes to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I felt totally new to this pressure,” said Park, winner of the 2007 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Park, 17, defeated Vanderbilt junior Marina Alex in 20 holes Thursday in Round 3, despite a poor day with the putter. Alex three-putted the par-4 second hole to lose to Park’s par. Park, a high school senior who has committed to USC, never has advanced past the first round in previous Women’s Amateur starts. Park’s mother, Sabina, pushed her bag on a pull-cart, braving the sauna known as Charlotte Country Club with encouraging words for her daughter.
“I need someone who calms me down, and she did that today,” Park said.
While Sabina Park toiled inside the ropes, Alex’s mom stressed outside the fairways. As she simultaneously kept tabs on a son playing in the final pairing of an AJGA event in Rye, N.Y. (Anthony Alex finished third.), Marissa Alex moved from one shade tree to the next while Marina tried to stay alive down the stretch.
U.S. Women’s Amateur (Rds. of 32/16)
Matches went long and players attempted to keep cool during Thursday’s rounds of 32 and 16 at Charlotte Country Club.
Park had control of the match most of the day until a three-putt bogey on the 16th hole brought it back to all square. Alex stuck her tee shot on the short par-3 17th to 4 feet and Park answered with a shot to 2 1/2 feet. A pair of birdies took them to the 18th all square, where short game miscues led to two bogeys.
Alex, who had Vanderbilt coach Greg Allen on the bag, drove the ball on the first extra hole into a fairway bunker and was forced to chip out. Park’s approach from the center of the fairway sailed to the back of the green. Alex showed impressive grit by draining a 15-footer for par. Park two-putted to send them to the 20th hole.
“That was disappointing,” said Alex, pointing back toward the second green after she followed those late-match heroics with a three-putt to lose. “Just got a little too aggressive on the first putt.”
Alex, unlike Park, is a bit of a late-bloomer. The reigning SEC champion had four runner-up finishes in her sophomore season at Vanderbilt, catapulting to No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
A student of the legendary Bob Toski, Alex first learned to play from her father, Steve, who works for Pilot Pen. Steve kept an eye on Anthony this week while Marissa traveled from their New Jersey home to Charlotte. While Alex’s hometown of Wayne is home to the infamous “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, Marissa works far from that scene at her father’s Italian grocery in New York.
Manganaro’s has been feeding midtown New Yorkers since 1893. Marina’s grandfather, Sal Dell‘Orto, is credited with inventing the 6-foot sandwich, known to New Yorkers as the Hero-Boy.
“We’re big sandwich eaters,” Marissa said with a laugh. “There’s a sandwich at every party.”
Marina has enjoyed a lifetime of good eats. The 20-year-old’s specialty: Penne with Vodka sauce.
No doubt Park’s dinner will taste especially good tonight. She’ll face Alabama sophomore Jennifer Kirby Friday morning, but for now, she’s enjoying an air-conditioned room and a good night’s sleep.
With a rainbow of Silly Bandz on her wrist, Park explained that she’s experiencing a solid-striking week thanks to a rhythm she discovered on the range. Her touch, however, comes and goes. Park said she had somewhere between six and seven three-putts on Thursday. In a four-week stretch, however, those kind of days are bound to happen.
Park’s most recent odyssey began at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she lost in the third round, and then moved to the Canon Cup, and finally, the Junior PGA, where she finished fifth.
“I’m kind of homesick,” Park said.
Winning tends to cure most ailments. That, or a six-foot sub.