With five feet left for birdie after 35 holes of windswept play at Poipu Bay Golf Course, Mariel Galdiano had no idea that she was about to make history.
“I really wasn’t sure what my score was,” recalls Mariel, playing in the final group of last month’s U.S. Women’s Open Sectional Qualifier. “I didn’t want to talk about my score.”
When that short putt fell, securing a second round score of 74 and total of 152, Mariel became Hawaii’s youngest every player – and the third youngest in all of women’s golf history – to qualify for the national championship event. Mariel was only 12 years, 11 months and 3 days old when she won that qualifier on May 22; and now, with exactly four weeks to prepare for the biggest tournament of her life thus far, she has everyone talking.
One hundred and fifty-six players in all will take their talents to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, including defending champion Paula Creamer, fan favorite and fellow Hawaiian Michelle Wie and 55-year old Betsy King, who won back-to-back Opens in 1989 and 1990. The competition and challenge doesn’t end there: each of women’s golf’s top 20 players are slated to be in the field, and the 7,047-yard layout is the longest in the tournament’s history.
That’s all fine, says Mariel.
“I’m just there for the experience, and to have fun. I’m practicing regularly and trying to be more consistent, but I’m not expecting much because I’m only 12. If I try too hard, I’ll feel too pressured.”
Without a doubt, Mariel’s attitude and approach ring more of a seasoned veteran than that of a seventh grader with only five years of tournament golf experience. She’ll have ample opportunity to gain “experience” this summer: besides next month’s Open, Mariel is granted automatic entry into numerous other USGA events such as the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior. Yet with such a bright future ahead of her, Mariel seems content to take things one step at a time.
“Some day I want to be a professional golfer, but it’s a little to early for that. I want to go to college first.”
For such a young player, and with so much competition in the world of junior golf, Mariel’s perspective is both rare and refreshing. It is an outlook perhaps best encapsulated in the words of her father Roger Galdiano, who gave Mariel “the best advice” she has ever received.
“Go out there, do good, and have fun.”
Right now, that’s exactly what Mariel’s doing.
– Alexander Kayfetz-Gaum
NOT YOUR AVERAGE RULES VIOLATION: The Coon Rapids high school golf team will be without Andrew Vold in their upcoming sectional championship. According to the Star Tribune, Vold unwittingly lost his eligibility to compete in any further high school competition when he told coaches and teammates about a hole-in-one he had made in a local fundraising golf event over the weekend.
Vold, a senior and regular six-man on the Minnesota golf team, made an ace on the par-3 eighth hole at Majestic Oaks Golf Course in Ham Lake, Minnesota. On the eighth tee, players could pay $10 for a chance to win $5,000 with a hole-in-one. Seeing a chance to make a dent in upcoming tuition payments to Gustavus Aldophus College where he will attend in the fall, Vold took a swing, and knocked down a nine-iron from 150 yards.
At practice with his high school team the following week, Coon Rapids golf coach Larry Overskei congratulated his player, but quickly realized there had been a violation of conference rules.
Coon Rapids athletic director Kelley Scott was notified, and he verified the rules infraction with the Minnesota State High School Leauge: Vold had competed in a non-school, non-sanctioned event of the same sport in which he was currently participating, violating MSHSL bylaw 208. His participation in the fundraiser would have likely gone unnoticed had Vold not made the hole-in-one.
The loss of eligibility ends Vold’s high school golf career, but he still sees the upside to his predicament.
“I was pretty disappointed at first, but… I’ll take the publicity. And the $5,000, I need it.” Vold told the Star Tribune.
– Matt Bernstein
BIRDIES AND BASEBALL: Nik Stetler started playing golf when he was 2 years old and baseball just a year later. He can’t decide which he likes better, but it doesn’t matter much when he’s so good at both.
Stetler is about to graduate from Manchester High School in Michigan, where, as a senior, he has been the top golf player and one of the baseball team’s best pitchers.
This week, he helped the school’s golf team qualify for regionals with a third-place finish at his Division III District Championship. He plays in junior tournaments around the state as well, including the Adams Junior Golf Tour.
In his high school sports career, it hasn’t been rare for Stetler to play a round in the morning and find himself on the mound later in the afternoon.
He remembers one day when he was on the green early in the morning, then pitched a winning game, striking out 12 batters. On May 31, he shot a 79 at the Cascades Conference Championship in the morning, and then won on the mound with no walks and nine strikeouts.
He’s a Jack Nicklaus enthusiast and a Boston Red Sox fan. But if Stetler was stranded on a deserted island, he’d said he’d bring his clubs over his mitt because it’s a lot harder to play baseball alone.
“Baseball is fun,” he said. “But I could entertain myself more with golf.”
– CJ Lotz
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO. . . : The Dunn family should immediately head for the nearest convenience store to get a Texas Powerball lottery ticket, which has reached $25 million.
Last weekend siblings Matthew, 17, and Jessica, 15, did something beyond plain old luck: they both had holes-in-one on consecutive days while playing in the same tournament.
The brother and sister were both playing in the Texas Junior Masters at Alamo City Golf Trail. Both came in second place (Matthew tied for first but lost in a playoff), and both had their first ace. Jessica had her’s the first day of the tournament on hole No. 15 from 105 yards with a pitching wedge.
“I could not believe it actually went in – I thought it was a really good shot… it hit the top of the green and started rolling towards the hole, and then my dad jumped in the air,” she said.
The following day it was Matthew’s turn at No. 10, where he got his ace using an 8-iron from 154 yards.
“It was kind of funny, I was telling people all day that my sister got a hole-in-one the day before, and then I got one,” he said.
Matthew said he and his sister are competitive with each other, but they are also supportive of one another, and she agrees.
“I’m starting to get to the point where I can keep up with him,” Jessica said. “We’ll have chipping and putting contests when we practice.”
Coincidentally (as if the rest weren’t enough), both of them were standing on the right part of the course so that they ended up witnessing each other’s holes-in-one.
“He kind of stole my thunder but I was still happy for him,” she laughed. “I was really excited after seeing him hit close and then this was the perfect one.”
– Christina Thomas
SHORT SHOTS: Beau Hossler, a 16-year-old from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., tied for third at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, Calif., to take one of five available spots. Hossler also qualified for the U.S. Amateur two years ago at the age of 14, becoming the youngest player in the history of the event to qualify. . . .Kyle Brey, 15, of Farmingdale, N.Y., qualified for the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Blue Course. Brey fired a two-round total of 3-under 141 to win the qualifying event by three strokes. . . . The Stan Trojanowski Northern Junior Championship announced the creation of the Ryan Lee Scholarship, established in memory of former tournament winner Ryan Lee who passed away at age 19 on April 26, 2011. . . . Madison Kerley of Chandler, Ariz., claimed a victory at the Tucson City Junior Golf Championship. The 13-year-old finished 3-under, shooting 68-69 at Dell Urich Golf Course.