Before heading to Oklahoma State, Isabella Fierro prepares for the U.S. Girls Junior

Before heading to Oklahoma State, Isabella Fierro prepares for the U.S. Girls Junior

Amateur

Before heading to Oklahoma State, Isabella Fierro prepares for the U.S. Girls Junior

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With her ball lying about 100 yards from the hole at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in August 2018, Isabella Fierro pulled a gap wedge out of her bag and prepared for the approach shot. The ensuing swing, though, would put a damper on the event in Tennessee.

“My hand kind of cracked,” Fierro recalled. “I told my caddie, ‘Hey, I can barely move my hand.’”

Locked in a match play contest against Emilee Hoffman, a University of Texas golfer, Fierro opted to battle through pain. She lost the matchup, went home to Mexico and told Lorena Ochoa — former world No. 1 on the LPGA Tour and a mentor for the Oklahoma State commit — about the incident.

Then came her second wrist surgery in two years. Then came a seven-month hiatus for the 18-year-old from competitive golf. Then came a drop in the rankings — from as high as No. 28 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings to No. 118. Then came her return. In April, she appeared at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, missing the cut but thankful to be back on the course at all after so long off one.

So at this week’s U.S. Girls Junior, which begins Monday and goes until Saturday at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis., Fierro is grateful to be competing in her fourth tournament of 2019 and her final event before heading to Stillwater, Okla., to join Oklahoma State’s golf team.

“It’s my last tournament my mom will go with me to, then I’m going to college. It is really special to me,” Fierro said. “I just want to take it day-by-day and shot-by-shot and see how it goes.”

Fierro, one of a number of up-and-coming Mexican golfers, including Gaby Lopez, Maria Fassi or Cory Lopez, grew up like many of the rest. She watched Lorena Ochoa, the 27-time LPGA Tour champion, from a young age.

She’s played alongside many of the top Mexican golfers for years as part of the national team, and seeing the success of her peers on the PGA and LPGA Tours is exciting, she said.

“They’ve worked really hard on the program, they want to get better, and they’re doing it,” Fierro said. “It’s really cool that Mexico has a lot of young players coming up.”

Photo: Joel Martinez

Ochoa, often an ambassador of sorts for Mexican golf, took an interest in Fierro, particularly after a breakout 2017.

After Fierro won the Mexican Amateur Championship in Mexico City, she received a phone call from Ochoa offering congratulations. Fierro’s momentum continued when she won the South American Amateur in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by 10 strokes, and later topped the leaderboard at the North & South Women’s Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, N.C.

With those wins, her relationship with Ochoa grew.

“She’s really kind with me, and I ask her a lot of questions,” Fierro said. “I ask her a lot of things about the Tour, how’s the life over there and what she recommended I do for college.”

Ultimately, the decision to attend Oklahoma State was Fierro’s. When she visited Stillwater a few years ago, she liked the small-town feel.

She still visited other schools, but Oklahoma State kept pulling her back — how its coaches tracked all her tournaments, even those in Mexico; the support of a new coaching regime with Greg Robertson at the helm; and a belief that the women’s team can find similar success as the men’s squad have, most recently with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland leading the Cowboys to a 2018 NCAA Championship and Wolff winning the 2019 individual NCAA championship.

“Why the girls — why have they not won a national championship? I ask the coaches a lot,” Fierro said. “I want to help them to do that. I want to be a part of that.”

As Fierro works back from her second wrist surgery, she doesn’t feel any more pain. Her swing is feeling more comfortable again — she won the Campeonato Nacional Infantil Juvenil in Mexico in May and finished eighth at the Toyota Junior World Cup in Japan last month.

So at SentryWorld in Wisconsin for the U.S. Girls Junior, Fierro is tempering her expectations, still only playing in her fourth tournament in 2019. But in her last event before heading to Oklahoma State, Fierro hopes to put in a strong performance while following a path Ochoa paved.

“My golf will get there,” Fierro said. “I just need to be patient.”

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