U.S. Girls' Junior: Then is all grown up
63rd U.S. Junior Girls, Match Play
A look at the first day of match play at Olympia Fields.
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Gabriella Then, 15, isn’t a little girl anymore. These days, she’s armed with new TaylorMade R-11 woods, and a new Ghost putter. She has a team of coaches shared by many an LPGA tour player and most of all, she has experience in her corner.
Casey Jones, Then’s longtime friend and caddie, also knows Then is growing up, though he remembers the old days fondly. Shortly after Then dispatched Lou Daniela Uy in the Round of 64 on Wednesday at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, Jones found a lawn chair and some shade on the veranda at Olympia Fields and told tales on a precocious 7-year-old Then.
Jones remembers Then approaching him on the practice tee at their home course in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Empire Lakes, and asking Jones to teach her the drill he was doing. That particular day, Jones, a 4-handicap, was working on moving the ball right to left.
“Her predominant shot now is a draw,” he says proudly.
Jones remembers another important moment in Then’s career, which happened at last year’s Girls’ Junior, where he also was on the bag. Matched against Victoria Tanco in the first round of match play, Then entered the 15th hole even with the Argentine powerhouse. She lost that hole when she repaired a spike mark on the green (breaching Rule 16-1c), then lost No. 16 to go 2 down. After fighting back to All Square, Then lost on the second extra hole – when she found herself with another spike mark in her line that caused her to miss a 6-footer for par.
“(It was) the only time I’ve ever cried after a match,” Then said.
But Then is more mature now for that experience, and rattled off sound advice for match play success after escaping a hot first round in a quick 12 holes.
“You have to be tough from the start and you can’t let go of anything because everything, every hole counts, even down to the last second you can still save yourself,” she said.
Then has been trending of late, winning the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Sunriver Ore., on July 1, then flying to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., the very next week for her second career U.S. Women’s Open start. She missed the cut, but was happy to check the experience off her 2011 bucket list. She finds out in early August if she will make the Junior Solheim Cup team, another goal, and is gunning to be a first- or second-team Rolex Junior All-American, as awarded by the AJGA.
Then attributes much of her good play to her new TaylorMade weaponry. Her work with Ron Stockton has helped her focus more on the line of her putts, and she also has shortened her pre-shot routine.
“I feel like I’m hitting it more consistent and I’m not spraying it everywhere, so that helps,” she said.
Just last week Then added Glenn Daugherty to her list of coaches, who also works as a swing coach for Jiyai Shin. As for the future, Then has verbally committed to USC for the fall of 2013.
“She’s stronger, she has a really solid short game,” Jones said of the recent changes. “She’s really just more confident.”
Who said change is a bad thing?