USGA validates Lauren Greenlief's summer of golf with Curtis Cup practice squad invite

USGA/Darren Carroll

USGA validates Lauren Greenlief's summer of golf with Curtis Cup practice squad invite

Amateur

USGA validates Lauren Greenlief's summer of golf with Curtis Cup practice squad invite

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Lauren Greenlief looks at her golf career as having unfolded in reverse. Unless a player turns professional after graduation, her game typically does not get better with age and increasing work commitments.

“I took the non-conventional route to golf,” Greenlief said, “where I’ve actually improved tremendously since college.”

Greenlief’s scoring average has dropped by more than three shots a round since graduating from Virginia in 2012, where she played as a walk-on.

The 29-year-old is a fascinating study in what’s possible for a mid-amateur when work doesn’t get in the way. Since May, Greenlief has doubled down on her commitment to golf, taking a leave of absence from her day job as a principal at Boston Consulting Group to find out just how far she could go as an amateur.

Greenlief hoped that through that process, she could earn her way onto the U.S. Curtis Cup team as well as earn an invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

On Tuesday, she was named to the 12-woman U.S. Curtis Cup practice squad, where she’ll be the oldest player by eight years.

“I think getting the call from the USGA to recognize, hey you’ve had a great summer, you’ve been working really hard, we want to give you a chance to earn this spot, that was really validating,” Greenlief said.

A long rankings climb

Two years ago, Greenlief reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. It was the first time in six tries she had made match play in that event.

She was No. 1,288 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking at the start of that week in early August 2018. By the following May, she had moved inside the top 500.

The majority of the top 200 players in the world are juniors and college players, who have vastly more playing opportunities. Greenlief timed her leave to coincide with the summer amateur season. Since playing the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May, she has made 10 major amateur starts, ending with a semifinal run at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, a tournament she won in 2015. She climbed as high as No. 115 in the WAGR, and currently checks in at No. 136.

Lauren Greenlief on the 15th hole during the round of 16 at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Greenlief’s goal is the same as many of the mid-am contenders she goes up against in tournament play – to compete at the highest level while also balancing life commitments.

“I think there’s been a push from us the last couple of years to try to get more competitive events, try to have more to play for,” Greenlief said.

She has seen progress on that front, too. In 2017, the USGA created a U.S. Women’s Open exemption for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur winner. In South Florida, Tara Joy-Connelly, a player in her own right who has 30 USGA starts under her belt, has rallied the amateur community to create a women’s amateur event for post-college players that awards WAGR points.

More opportunities for mid-amateurs

Connelly wants mid-amateur women to have more opportunities to showcase their talents. It has been a two-year labor of love, but the inaugural Women’s National Amateur Championship, a three-day stroke-play event sponsored by the Amateur Golf Alliance, is scheduled for May 27-30 at Loblolly Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida.

Interestingly, it’s the same venue as the Curtis Cup practice session.

“The guys got their act together and did something for themselves,” Connelly said, citing top mid-amateur events such as the Coleman Invitational at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida and the George C. Thomas Invitational at Los Angeles Country Club.

So went the thinking for the Women’s National Amateur.

“Why don’t we just model it after one of the men’s tournaments?”

Connelly, who competes frequently in women’s amateur events, saw Greenlief’s selection to the Curtis Cup practice squad on Tuesday morning and flashed back to seeing her at tournaments throughout the summer season – not just competing but devoting time to the practice facilities afterward.

“She didn’t just do it, she really did it,” Connelly said.

Greenlief is now back to work at Boston Consulting Group. When she reflects on her summer, her decision was a good one.

“I try to do something every other year regardless just because the job I have is a lot of travel and it’s a lot of long hours,” she said. “For me it’s about finding my competitive edge in golf but it’s also a little bit about balance. Taking a step back to make this job sustainable.”

Age and experience

Among the 12 players on the practice squad, Greenlief brings perhaps the most experience in team golf, having played in the Virginia-Carolinas Women’s Team Matches each summer and appeared on three U.S. State Teams before the USGA retired that championship in 2017. She has also played the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball every year since its creation in 2015.

“That’s the place where I can add a lot of value to a team,” Greenlief said. “Post-college, there’s a lot of different opportunities to play team golf.”

A mid-amateur hasn’t played on a U.S. Curtis Cup team since 2008, when Meghan Stasi (nee Bolger) was part of the team that defeated Great Britain and Ireland at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.

Greenlief’s selection to the practice squad certainly changes her life for the next month, bringing more Thursday- and Friday-evening range sessions into play, and perhaps an impromptu weekend trip to Florida for the warmer weather.

“I’m really happy that I’ll be able to represent the mid-am contingent,” Greenlief said, “and show that there are folks that can still play after college.”

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