Rohanna returns to Open – with a tee time

Rachel Rohanna during a practice round for the U.S. Women's Open

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Rachel Rohanna will spend this U.S. Women’s Open in a dramatically different manner than she did last year. Oakmont Country Club was a story of the sidelines as Rohanna, the first alternate, waited for the call that never came. This year, she’s inside the ropes.

Still, the Ohio State junior took last year’s experience for what it was worth. Since Oakmont is located only an hour from her home in Waynesburg, Pa., Rohanna was able to go to the course every day and hang around in case she got a spot in the field. Once the tournament started, she still returned as a spectator.

“It was just so much fun being there and seeing what everything was like,” Rohanna said. “Oakmont would have been a very tough course.”

Rohanna had success not long ago at The Broadmoor. Swamped with schoolwork when sectional qualifying rolled around in May, Rohanna knew she couldn’t miss any more school days because of golf tournaments. The only two sectional qualifiers for the U.S. Women’s Open were in Hawaii and at The Broadmoor, so she flew west to qualify on the tournament course.

“It’s set up a little bit differently; they’ve grown the rough out a little bit more, the greens are firming up a little bit more,” she said. “It was nice to be able to get out here and play a competitive round on the course before the Open.”

Rohanna made headlines last summer when she shot a 7-under 65 in the opening round of stroke play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur to set a USGA stroke-play record for the event. Rohanna went on to share medalist honors with Erynne Lee and Jaclyn Sweeney, both of whom also are in the field this week.

“I haven’t been playing quite as well since then,” Rohanna said. “I think I’m still making forward progress with it, even though my scores look like they’re going backward. I’m really becoming mentally stronger, and I think that’s the main thing I wanted to do. I hope I’m peaking at the right time right now.”

The week began with a Monday practice round, during which Rohanna was paired with 55-year-old Betsy King, a two-time U.S. Women's Open champion. King and Rohanna’s coach at Ohio State, Therese Hession, are friends, which is how the two were united. King left singing the praises of Rohanna, and her length, which Rohanna attributes to a new driver. That, and the altitude.

As usual, a large Rohanna clan is in tow at The Broadmoor, including her grandfather, parents, sister, brother and boyfriend. A first career U.S. Open start, after all, is a monumental occurrence.

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