Notebook: Chilling Out At Lake Merced

USGA official Scott Timmons Hipp tries to keep warm while manning a checkpoint station at the fourth hole. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)
By David Shefter, USGA
July 16, 2012

Daly City, Calif. – The 156 competitors at the 64th U.S. Girls’ Junior were greeted to a San Francisco treat on Monday, and it had nothing to do with cable cars or a popular macaroni dish.

Typical summer weather – which meant overcast skies and temperatures in the upper 50s – enveloped Lake Merced Golf Club and winds gusting as high as 23 miles per hour only added to the chilly feel.

Jackets, windbreakers, hand warmers, ear muffs and undergarments were as important as balls, tees and towels.

USGA Rules officials and college coaches on hand to recruit future talent looked like they were headed to the ski slopes instead of the golf course.

But not everyone bundled up.

“I feel weird because everyone was so dressed up compared to me,” said 16-year-old Tatiana Wijaya, of Perth, Australia, who was dressed in a skirt. “I am fine with it. At home right now it’s winter. It’s like 5 or 6 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).”

To native San Franciscans, the conditions were par for the course. As Mark Twain once said, “the coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer spent in San Francisco.”

Longtime Lake Merced member Merton Goode, a former member of the USGA Executive Committee, said the weather was almost identical to the first day of the 1990 U.S. Junior Amateur that also was conducted at Lake Merced.

Considering most of the U.S. is under an extreme heat wave – temperatures for the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open 10 days ago were in the upper-90s (heat index topping 110) – the chilly and damp weather offered a respite from stifling humidity.

“I actually like the chilly better than the 100-degree weather,” said Annie Park, of Levittown, N.Y., who shot a 75.

Ju Hee Bae, a 17-year-old from Chantilly, Va., had heard from friends in San Diego that it was warm in California, so she packed only a light jacket. Of course, San Diego is 500 miles south of San Francisco.

Wearing shorts and using a pull cart, Bae’s choice of attire easily stood out among the rest of the competitors in the morning wave.

“I was not expecting it to be like this,” said Bae, who shot a 7-over 79. “The first three holes were pretty cold, but after that I got used to it and it was perfectly fine. It was definitely harder [to play in the cool conditions], but it was more the greens for me today.”

As for Tuesday, Bae might be making a visit to a store Monday afternoon to purchase some warmer clothes.

“I think I should get some,” she said with a smile.

Pro Shop To The Rescue 

During her warm-up for the first round on Thursday, 12-year-old Youngin Chun of Korea snapped her driver in half.

In panic mode to find a replacement, Chun and her coach went to the pro shop. Trying to communicate the best he could with Chun’s coach, Lake Merced head professional Dan Burke dug through his inventory and found a couple of possible replacements that fit her flex and weight. She hit the clubs well, but there was some doubt.

So in a last-ditch effort Burke brought out his own 8.5-degree 44½-inch driver that had a men’s stiff shaft. The 5-foot-1 Chun, who speaks very little English, hit the club three times before turning to Burke with a wide smile.

She had found the club.

“I just hope she breaks 90 so we have a story,” said Burke. “I hope she is still playing on Saturday (day of the 36-hole championship match).”

The bigger question might be if Burke ever sees the driver again.

Twin Killing 

A couple of twins made up a caddie/player tandem, but they weren’t from the same family. Katherine Sborov, whose twin sister Alexandra also is competing here this week, had Andrea Wong on her bag. Wong, a junior merit member at Lake Merced, also has a twin sister, Alexandra, who was in Oregon on Monday playing a U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier. Andrea and Alexandra tried to qualify for the Girls’ Junior, but came up short.

So when Katherine, of Pleasanton, Calif., qualified, she mentioned to Andrea at a Northern California tournament about carrying her bag at the Girls’ Junior.

“It was weird, but it was fun,” said Katherine, who will graduate in 2013. “We both have the same outlook on things. She gave me a lot of good tips on where to hit the ball and green reading. It was nice to have someone to talk to and take my mind off everything.”

In the score department, Alexandra Sborov edged her sister, 80-82. Katherine slept in on Monday and didn’t see any of her sister’s morning round, but she plans to watch on Tuesday after she completes her final round of stroke-play qualifying in the morning.

“She got me by two, but tomorrow she better watch out,” said Katherine.

Katherine is undecided on college, but has no aspirations of playing the game professionally. She hopes to someday be a doctor. Her grandfather was a general physician, while an uncle was a surgeon.

“I just want to work in a hospital,” she said. “Golf is a relaxing sport and I want to do my best, but eventually I want to be strong in the workforce.”

Family Affair 

The Sborov’s may be competing together this week, but Dallas residents Callie and Scott Scheffler are playing Junior championships on opposite coasts – Callie here in California (Girls’ Junior) and Scott in Stratham, N.H. (Junior Amateur).

With the three-hour time difference, Callie was able to follow Scott’s round on the Internet before her round began. Scott, who is competing in his third U.S. Junior Amateur, carded an even-par 72 at The Golf Club of New England, while Callie had an 80 at Lake Merced.

“I had a couple of rough holes,” said Callie, who is headed to Texas A&M in the fall.

Callie and Scott are close, but they aren’t too competitive on the course. Scott, who caddied for Callie at her Girls’ Junior sectional qualifier, recently carded a course-record-tying 61 at the historic Northwood Club in Dallas, site of the 1952 U.S. Open.

Having played in previous USGA events, Scott’s advice to Callie was, “Just breathe and you’ll be OK.”

Before coming to Lake Merced, Callie was pushing shots to the right and after a text to Scott, a small tip got her pointed in the right direction.

“That worked today,” said Callie. “I was really nervous, but excited. I am really glad that I was able to qualify and get this chance.”

Callie even borrowed one of Scott’s golf bags for this championship. To stay warm, she wore her dad’s rain pants, even if they were a bit too big.

“I had to roll them a bunch,” said Callie, adding she didn’t bring any pants to the Bay Area, despite having made a previous visit to San Francisco for a birthday. “I was wrong both times. Today was a lot chillier out there.”

David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at 

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