WAPL week aligns with Wright Room opening

Kelsey Chugg (right) with Annika Sorenstam.

Kelsey Chugg (right) with Annika Sorenstam.

NESHANIC STATION, N.J. – Here’s how much Kelsey Chugg enjoyed the new Mickey Wright Room: She went back to her hotel room and Googled the Hall of Famer.

Research isn’t a common summertime activity for college golfers, but true lovers of the sport can’t tour the U.S. Golf Association Museum in nearby Far Hills and not walk away inspired to learn more. Two nights before the 36th staging of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, the field gathered at the USGA Museum for a special dinner and tour. It marked the official opening of the new Mickey Wright Room. Annika Sorenstam was the keynote speaker.

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As Wright packed up mementos of her career for the USGA to sort through last fall, she asked that a box of her signature tees be given to players in this week’s field. Each participant received one of Wright’s tees along with one of the museum’s replica golf balls.

“They were really touched by the tee,” Annie Songeun Lee, 16, said of her fellow players’ reactions.

Christina Miller also heard Sorenstam speak at Golf House during the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior, held at nearby Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. This time she paid close attention to Sorenstam’s advice on the mental game, noting that the brain responds more to negative thoughts than to positive ones. Sorenstam explained the concept of Vision54, by which a player birdies all 18 holes in one round. She also emphasized the importance of a life outside of golf.

“She’s not saying to hit 8,000 balls a day,” Kayla Riede said. “You need to have a balance.”

Chugg, who like most of the field made sure to pose with Sorenstam after her speech, appreciated hearing that even Ms. 59 “gets nervous too.” As far as museum items go, Rory McIlroy’s 6-iron from last year’s U.S. Open runaway was frequently photographed by the young crowd. Chugg preferred looking at the lead tape on clubs in the Ben Hogan Room.

As an added treat, the USGA gave players vintage putters to use on its wacky putting green out back. Players likened it to putt-putt golf because there are so many undulations. Chugg said her putter was shaped like a hockey stick with a wooden shaft and metal head.

“It was a lot harder than today’s technology,” she said.

• • •

Cindy Ha, considered a local this week, posted eight birdies en route to an opening 4-under 68 at Neshanic Valley Golf Course. She sits tied with Lakareber Abe for the lead after Day 1 of stroke-play qualifying.

Ha, who lives 90 minutes away in Demarest, N.J., hit four wedges inside 5 feet. The 15-year-old’s goal was simply to make match play. Last year she lost to two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang in the Round of 16 at Rhode Island Country Club. This marks her first WAPL appearance.

Known by her friends as “Haha,” Cindy was introduced to the game by her father at age 9. One month later, “It turned into an obsession.”

Matthew Ha moved the family to the U.S. from South Korea when Cindy was a small child. Last year, Matthew and his wife, Vicky, passed an exam to become U.S. citizens. Cindy and her brother, Anthony, received American citizenship as a result.

• • •

When two-time WAPL champion Tiffany Joh came to media day last month at Neshanic, she confessed to making up interesting anecdotes for the USGA’s bio sheets. In fact, she and her friends made it a competition.

With that in mind, there are no guarantees that the most interesting tidbits on this week’s storyline sheet are factual. More research is required.

In the meantime, a few gems …

• Josee Doyon said that if an LPGA career doesn’t pan out, she’d like to be a special agent of Interpol.

• Lea Garner of Washington Terrace, Utah, loves to hit balls on her uncle’s dairy farm.

• Isabella Lambert trains falcons to fly and catch game with her father in Big Bend, Wis. (Definitely need to hear more about that.)

• Terri McAngus claims she lost her putter in a bush that was only 4 feet in diameter. She threw the putter in the bush out of frustration. (The fact that McAngus is 50 years old makes this story more believable.)

• Ashlan Ramsey, 16, played Augusta National at age 10 and shot 87. (Doesn’t note which tees she played. Maybe the 200-yard markers.)

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