Vaughn looks to capitalize on home advantage
REUNION, Fla. – Holed up in the northwest corner of the U.S., far away from the fast-paced junior and amateur golf schedules playing out in the Southeast this time of year, Monica Vaughn might have good reason to feel at a disadvantage to her peers. Building a competition schedule when many of the best tournaments in the country involve some serious skymiles isn’t always convenient or cost-effective. But there’s one place in Vaughn’s neck of the woods that makes it all worthwhile.
The high school sophomore drops the name of the scenic David McLay Kidd-design in the same breath as the words “high school golf match.” Who said there isn’t any justice in the world? (For the record, said golf match was reduced to nine holes because of extreme wind and rain. Vaughn, however, still won, just as she won every other match this year except for the State High School Championship, where she finished one shot back).
Vaughn, who lives in Reedsport, Ore., is a relatively unknown name in the junior golf world, and is making her AJGA Invitational debut this week. She forwent cross-country travel last summer and instead went about achieving the trifecta of women’s amateur golf glory. The 16-year-old won the Oregon Junior Girls’, Women’s Amateur and Women’s Public Links. As if that wasn’t enough, she also prevailed at the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Girls’ Junior, which helped her earn the title of PNGA Junior Girls Player of the Year. Keep up this trend, and Vaughn could be the coolest thing to emerge from the Pacific Northwest since Fred Couples.
“That much golf wears you out but it’s really cool when you win all those tournaments,” Vaughn said of her summer.
Come June – if all goes according to plan – the Vaughn family can forget the frequent flier miles for once. This is the year the rest of the country comes to them, as the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links will be staged at Bandon Dunes. When Vaughn’s mom Renee found out about it, she immediately added it to the summer’s working tournament schedule.
“She has a history of playing really well at Bandon Dunes,” Renee explained excitedly.
Also on the year’s agenda? More AJGA events, plus qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior. Days not spent on the road or in tournaments will go by equally enviably: Playing and practicing at one of three courses she calls home with her dad Chris and swing coach Bob Rannow. Vaughn has committed to fixing a fear-driven weak fade – her old reliable miss – with the help of her dad and Rannow. She’s now focused on hitting high draws.
“(Saturday) was kind of a struggle because I haven’t been practicing so much,” she said of a first-round 74 that left her T-30 at the Annika Invitational. “Basically just setting my hands at the top of my swing and making sure that I make a full finish and just aim right of my target.”
Two years removed from a ruptured appendix that sidelined any serious golf practice for four months, Vaughn has put the lost time behind her.
“I’ve just been working really hard to just get back to where I was before. And even farther.”