Green, 17, rises to top of amateur rankings

Defending champion Jaye Marie Green stands on the 18th hole at Oceanside CC during the second round of the South Atlantic Amateur.

Defending champion Jaye Marie Green stands on the 18th hole at Oceanside CC during the second round of the South Atlantic Amateur.

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Jaye Marie Green’s BlackBerry is on the fritz. This is massive for a 17-year-old online student who keeps up with a global network of friends and leads a status-worthy life.

Green spent most of lunch at Oceanside Country Club drooling over the iPhones at the table. The iPhone 4S has become the gift of choice for her 18th birthday on Feb. 2. Of course, if her mother, Stephanie, wanted to drop by the Verizon store Thursday afternoon, that also would suit her fine.

“I like to talk,” Green said at the start of the interview. When the defending champ was asked to name a few of her close friends here at the South Atlantic Amateur, Green began forming a list before admitting she might name the entire field.

A 12-year-old player who first met Green when she was half-frozen two years ago at the Harder Hall came up to take a picture with Green in the clubhouse grill. Green couldn’t have been more gracious or sincere when the young girl gave her an inspirational coin. It was a refreshing exchange.

Green, a Curtis Cup hopeful, rose to the top of Golfweek’s Amateur Rankings after two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang and two-time AJGA Player of the Year Victoria Tanco turned professional. She knows it will be a difficult position to maintain.

The fun-loving Floridian, who apparently owned the microphone at last year’s karaoke party, opened with an 82 on Wednesday and called her father, Donnie, to “sob to him.” Donnie Green, a former mini-tour player who missed out on the big leagues by the slimmest of margins and sports some wild hair, is a teaching professional at Boca Raton’s Broken Sound Club. He keeps a close eye on his youngest of two, giving advice when it’s welcomed.

Donnie told his daughter he didn’t mind the 82 because it meant she’d be more receptive to a couple swing changes he had in mind.

“Usually when people mess up is when they are willing to listen,” Jaye Marie said. She bounced back with a 70 in Round 2.

Green’s improvement in the past year has been substantial. She points to the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont as a pivotal teaching moment in her young career. She qualified for her first Open as a 16-year-old and and finished last. She can smile about it now.

“You need to take a fall and hit rock bottom if you want to get better,” Green said. “That course totally uncovers every swing flaw you have.”

After that, Green and her father set out to reconstruct everything from her game to her practice schedule. This was serious. She rose to No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings, leading the U.S. at the 2011 Junior Solheim Cup and then winning the AJGA’s Ping Invitational.

Friends call her “Jay Bay,” “J Fairway” or “J Money.” An unusually wayward tee shot at the Ping Invitational last fall put her in a dangerous mix of poison ivy and thorns. Medics wrapped her leg to the knee. She went to Wal-Mart and found a pair of tall green socks, paired it with a green shirt and skort and, bingo, a final-round ensemble was born. Paula has her pink, Tiger has red … and Green has green.

Green knows the path good friend Lexi Thompson has taken. She has watched others like Jessica Korda and Tanco follow suit. Back when she was ranked outside the top 100, Green thought it was a wise decision to commit to the University of Florida. Now that she’s No. 1, however, the thought process has changed. Last November, she decided she’d play another summer of amateur golf and then head to LPGA Q-School in the fall.

“Golf is my passion,” Green said. “That’s really what I want to be pursuing.”

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