Tubert, 18, defeats McCloskey for WAPL title

Emily Tubert

Emily Tubert

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – It isn’t often that a player like Emily Tubert enters a USGA final and can be considered the underdog. 

After all, the dark-haired, easy-talking Tubert stands at 5-foot-11 and boasts a 270-yard driving average. Still, when Tubert took to the first tee on a drizzly Saturday morning at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, she had far less championship golf experience in her corner than her opponent, Lisa McCloskey. In fact, Tubert, barely 18, had far less golf experience, period. The Burbank, Calif., native has only been playing the game for five years, but as the week progressed, she drew more and more confidence with each passing match.

It was a shaky start for Tubert at the beginning of a long Saturday, as she struggled to find the fairway with her booming drives and was unable to convert out of thick, wet rough. 

“I got off to a really rocky start,” Tubert said. “I didn’t think I was that nevous, but you know, seeing how my shots ended up, there were definitely some nerves there.”

McCloskey struggled early, too, but took a 2-up lead at the fifth hole after a tap-in birdie at the par-3 fourth and a par at the fifth. It was the biggest lead McCloskey, a former Pepperdine standout who will transfer to USC for her junior season, would take all day, and it lasted just one hole.

Tubert, an Arkansas commit, started a seven-hole charge with a birdie at No. 6, where she chipped in from just off the front of the green. Two more pars followed, before a string of four birdies at Nos. 9-12. It’s the longest string of birdies Tubert has made in championship conditions during her short career.

Once she got to 5 up after the 12th hole, Tubert continued to apply pressure. After playing it safe at the par-5 10th and 17th holes during the first four days of the championship, Tubert successfully hit both greens in two during her quarterfinal and semifinal match. She went for both holes in two during the final, after well-struck drives left her with the green light.

McCloskey, who averages 240 yards off the tee, lost both holes to the junior power player, and knew there was little she could do about it.

“She’s definitely the longest player I’ve played with,” McCloskey said. “... She’s just like in-her-own-league long. At the par 5s, that’s where it kind of gets to you.”

Tubert finished the first 18 holes 4 up, and McCloskey never was able to get back in the match. She would claw to within 3 down twice during the final 18, but couldn’t make enough birdies to stop Tubert.

“I was happy with how I came back,” she said. “I was 6 down at one point, so I mean, at least bring it back down to three, that’s a little better.”

One of the biggest holes for McCloskey was at No. 15, when she dropped a 15-footer for birdie to extend the match another hole. Knowing Tubert was still dormie, McCloskey figured she would have to birdie out to have a chance at the title, and that was with another trip to the 17th looming. After both players hit the green at the par-4 16th, McCloskey conceded Tubert’s 2-footer, a gift Tubert didn’t expect.

“With all the pressure, I thought she’d make me putt it,” Tubert said after the round, a bit wide-eyed. “It was nice of her, giving it to me.”

Despite her length from the tee, Tubert has struggled to believe that she can compete with the caliber of player she encountered at this week’s WAPL. When she showed up for her first USGA championship four years ago, the U.S. Girls’ Junior, she was awed by the experience, right down to getting her own locker for the tournament. This week, she took it all in stride, enjoying the company of her dad and caddie, Marcelo, as they logged a total of 154 holes in soggy South Bend. Tubert spent the week chatting with the volunteers and officials, and joking about the many errant drives that were perhaps the only flaw in her final match.

Speaking with wisdom beyond her years, Tubert acknowledged that her confidence is at a high right now, but that it could ebb down the road.

“I was looking at some of the names on the trophy, and there are some big names on there,” she said. “So for my name to join them is awesome.”

The WAPL win ranks at the top of Tubert’s list of accomplishments on the golf course, and those include a maiden AJGA win in May. Now in her third consecutive week on the road after graduating from high school May 27, Tubert will try to channel some of her success into a high finish at the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions next week.

Marcelo, who works as an actor in Burbank, has been with his daughter every step of the way, which worked out to a lot of steps during the week-long WAPL.

“There was no way I wasn’t going to do it,” Marcelo, 58, said of his role as caddie. “I’ve never walked this far in my life. I’ve never carried clubs! I don’t know how she does it.”

Marcelo usually doesn’t offer swing advice, but the intangibles meant much more to Tubert during a week in uncharted waters. When Tubert won on the 16th, Marcelo had tears in his eyes as he raised his arms in the air, took off his ballcap – the one with an Arkansas logo, no less – and walked right off the green with the flag still in his hand. It was his first experience as a caddie, and though his nerves peaked during the morning, it was an experience neither will soon forget.

“It was so great to have him standing there with me for support,” Tubert said. “He’s not really going to be able to help me with shot selection or reading putts, but that’s exactly what I needed this week was somebody to talk to, and somebody I felt comfortable with.”

As for McCloskey, well, she had a small posse in her corner at the Warren Course, as well. Future USC teammate Lizette Salas and former Pepperdine teammate Jessica Wallace both popped in and out of the gallery Saturday as McCloskey continued to battle for her first USGA major title.

Even though McCloskey said her ballstriking got progressively worse as the week wore on, she stepped up her short game, making several crucial up-and-downs during the final. 

“It could have ended a little better, but I thought coming in to today if I would have shot even, I thought that would have been maybe good enough, but Emily just played really well, didn’t make any mistakes really,” McCloskey said.

It seems Tubert just shed her underdog status.

• • •

Results from the finals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, played June 26 at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.:

Emily Tubert def. Lisa McCloskey, 3 and 2

Results from the semifinals:

Emily Tubert def. Sara Grantham, 19 holes

Lisa McCloskey def. Ellen Mueller, 3 and 2

Results from the quarterfinals:

Sara Grantham def. Cydney Clanton, 1 up

Emily Tubert def. Victoria Sungmin Park, 19 holes

Ellen Mueller def. Martina Gavier, 2 and 1

Lisa McCloskey def. Brianna Do, 1 up

Results from the Round of 16:

Cydney Clanton def. Ariya Jutanugarn, 1 up

Sara Grantham def. Allie White, 1 up

Victoria Sungmin Park def. Kimberly Kim, 2 and 1

Emily Tubert def. Annie Park, 4 and 3

Martina Gavier ef. Caroline Powers, 21 holes

Ellen Mueller def. Joy Trotter, 3 and 2

Lisa McCloskey def. Rachel Rohanna, 6 and 5

Brianna Do def. Stephanie Kono, 3 and 2

• • •

Results from the Round of 32:

Ariya Jutanugarn def. Karen Chung, 3 and 1

Cydney Clanton def. Kelli Oride, 5 and 3

Allie White def. Bonnie Hu, 1 up

Sara Grantham def. Janine Fellows, 1 up

Victoria Sungmin Park def. Mercedes Germino, 19 holes

Kimberly Kim def. Gyeol Park, 4 and 3

Emily Tubert def. Anna Kim, 4 and 3

Annie Park def. Tiffany Lim, 1 up

Martina Gavier def. Becca Huffer, 20 holes

Caroline Powers def. Alice Kim, 3 and 1

Ellen Mueller def. Nicole Zhang, 2 and 1

Joy Trotter def. Victoria Fallgren, 5 and 4

Lisa McCloskey def. Lizette Salas, 4 and 2

Rachel Rohanna def. Lakareber Abe, 4 and 3

Brianna Do def. Kelly Fuchik, 3 and 2

Stephanie Kono def. Candace Schepperle, 23 holes

• • •

Results from the Round of 64:

Ariya Jutanugarn def. Augusta James, 7 and 6

Karen Chung def. Grace Na, 4 and 2

Cydney Clanton def. Kathryn Rogner, 4 and 3

Kelli Oride def. Shamira Marshall, 2 and 1

Bonnie Hu def. Aimee Neff, 19 holes

Allie White def. Samantha Morrell, 2 and 1

Janine Fellows def. Jessica Wallace, 3 and 2

Sara Grantham def. Kristi Cardwell, 5 and 4

Victoria Sungmin Park def. Brittany Altomare, 1 up

Mercedes Germino def. Alexa Kim, 4 and 3

Kimberly Kim def. Simone Hoey, 4 and 3

Gyeol Park def. Aurora Kan, 3 and 2

Emily Tubert def. Maggie Yuan, 3 and 2

Anna Kim def. Allisen Corpuz, 2 and 1

Annie Park def. Alexandria Buelow, 1 up

Tiffany Lim def. Alyssa Shimel, 3 and 2

Martina Gavier def. Jessie Jordan, 3 and 2

Becca Huffer def. Joanna Coe, 4 and 3

Caroline Powers def. Kaylee Imel, 6 and 5

Alice Kim def. Hayley Hammond, 5 and 3

Nicole Zhang def. Kristin Paulson, 2 and 1

Ellen Mueller def. Suzie Lee, 1 up

Victoria Fallgren def. Tiffany Lua, 3 and 1

Joy Trotter def. Karlin Beck, 4 and 3

Lizette Salas def. Kuriko Tsukiyama, 2 up

Lisa McCloskey def. Samantha Formeck, 3 and 1

Rachel Rohanna def. Alex Stewart, 3 and 2

Lakareber Abe def. Moriya Jutanugarn, 3 and 2

Brianna Do def. Kristina Wong, 1 up

Kelly Fuchik def. Victoria Trapani, 20 holes

Candace Schepperle def. Lindsay Danielson, 5 and 4

Stephanie Kono def. Seohee Moon, 1 up

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