Players saddened by loss of WAPL

Emily Tubert

Emily Tubert

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Editor's note: For the news story on the USGA's decision to dissolve the U.S. Public Links Championships after 2014, please click here.

• • •

Emily Tubert rarely is at a loss for words. When she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2010 – chattering and singing her way around Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind., with dad and caddie Marcelo – it launched a career that would continue to blossom on the Arkansas roster, and include a spot on the U.S. Curtis Cup team.

Phoning in on the eve of the Lady Puerto Rico Classic on Feb. 9, Tubert, a college junior, was momentarily speechless when she learned that the USGA has plans to discontinue the WAPL after the 2014 championship.

“I’m kind of really surprised, kind of pretty shocked that they would do that,” Tubert said. “I think it’s such a great tournament.”

Tubert became the 33rd champion of the event in 2010, and said it’s something she’ll carry with her forever. Despite the initial shock that the tournament is going away, she easily dug out memories from that week, when she was a relative unknown.

“One of the coolest memories that I think about is after Lisa (McCloskey) conceded the putt to me (in the championship match)... she came and gave me the biggest bear hug and said, ‘Emily, you belong,’” Tubert said.

The WAPL has been played since 1977. Tubert knows that championship because it’s the one Arkansas teammate Hally Leadbetter’s mother Kelly (Fuiks) Leadbetter won. Kelly also won in 1978.

“The names on that trophy, it’s like a who’s who,” Tubert said.

Past champions also include LPGA players Michelle Wie, Yani Tseng, Jennifer Song and Tiffany Joh. Cal State Fullerton head coach Pearl Sinn-Bonanni won twice, and so did Texas Tech head coach JoJo Robertson.

Brianna Do, a 2012 UCLA graduate who won the 2011 WAPL at Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Ore., also appreciates the names on that trophy. The Symetra Tour player references one in particular.

“It’s kind of a bummer to hear because the Publinx has had so much history to it, with Michelle Wie,” she said.

Do’s victory came a year before she helped her Bruins compile a seven-victory season and maintain Golfweek’s top ranking for most of the year. Do was a part of six of those victories. She turned professional at the end of the spring, relinquishing what few exemptions come with a WAPL victory. Women’s Public Links champions are exempt into the next 10 WAPL Championships and the next two U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships. As Do notes, it doesn’t compare to the Masters invitation Men’s Public Links winners traditionally receive, or even the U.S. Women’s Open and British Women’s Open spots awarded to the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.

“For the Publinx, it doesn’t have such a big impact on our careers,” she said.

The next generation of players, like 2012 WAPL runner-up Ashlan Ramsey, will be the players most affected by the discontinuation. Ramsey, who will be part of the first Clemson women’s program in history next fall, was saddened by the news, especially since the WAPL offered a different field – though not a weaker field, she said – than other USGA championships.

“It gives an opportunity to play against different players, and it opens it up to players who don’t go to a big country club,” she said.

For past champion Robertson, one of the best parts of the championship was the handful of players who were older than the average mid-20-year-old competitor – the oldest and youngest players always were announced at a banquet during tournament week. The WAPL also allowed her the opportunity to play some of the top courses around the nation.

“You couldn’t wait to see where it was going to be the next year,” she said.

Robertson’s victories came in 1995 and ’97. They fell toward the end of a nine-year streak during which Robertson never missed a WAPL start. She first played the tournament at age 13.

“It was one of the tournaments that I looked forward to the most,” Robertson said.

The 2013 WAPL will be played at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course in Norman, Okla. In 2014, the final WAPL will be hosted by the Home Course in DuPont, Wash.

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