NORMAN, Okla. – It might sound odd that a French-Canadian would be praying for the wind to blow in Oklahoma, but Anne-Catherine Tanguay of Quebec enters Thursday’s round of 32 at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship hoping for the same conditions that have molded her as a college player.
That’s because Tanguay, 22, a rising senior at the University of Oklahoma, is playing on her home golf course this week at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. She won her first-round match on Wednesday, 2 and 1, against Chonlada Chayanun of Thailand and will return Thursday hoping to advance further.
In addition to knowing the Oklahoma winds and competing on a course she is so familiar with she could practically play it in the dark, Tanguay has an added advantage at this week’s championship. She has one of the nation’s top juniors serving as her caddie.
Brad Dalke, 15, who happens to be No. 42 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is caddieing on the course he will play as a collegian in three years. As a seventh-grader at age 12, Dalke verbally committed to play at Oklahoma. He raised his hand to help a current Sooner this week.
“I’m really, really lucky to have him caddie for me because I know how good he is,” said Tanguay, who tied for second individually at the NCAA Division I Central Regional, held here May 8-11. “I was just going to push my bag on a cart if I couldn’t find anybody, but having Brad caddie for me this week has helped confirm a lot of my decisions on the greens.”
Tanguay credited Dalke for helping her “see the subtle breaks” in the greens, but Dalke was quick to add that his player was calling the shots.
“I don’t want her to second-guess herself,” said Dalke, who will enter the 10th grade this fall. “She’s the player and she’s the one hitting the ball.”
The two make a good team. Dalke was a 2011 and 2012 First-Team Rolex Junior All-American. He won the 2011 Thunderbird International, becoming the youngest winner of an American Junior Golf Association Invitational. He also won the 2013 AJGA HP Invitational, the 2011 Evian Junior Masters in France, and was the 2008 National Drive, Chip and Putt champion. In addition, he won the 2010 U.S. Kids World Championship.
Tanguay entered the championship as an honorable-mention All-American for 2012-13. She made this year’s All-Central Region Team, All-Big 12 Team and was a 2013 First-Team Academic All-Big 12 member. She is one of three members of the OU women’s golf team, which tied for ninth at the 2013 NCAA Division I Championship, to qualify for the WAPL.
Entering this week’s event, Tanguay and Dalke discussed college life at Oklahoma during the practice rounds. Dalke asked questions and Tanguay supplied answers, but when it came time to compete, the two put their heads together to form a team intent on producing a Sooner win at the WAPL.
This week’s USGA event resonates with Dalke because his mother, Kay Dalke, is serving as a Rules official at the championship. His summer USGA schedule will take flight next month at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif. He also hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in August at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
But for now, Dalke and Tanguay are excited to spend the week on a course they both know well. Tanguay expects to see some tees moved up to encourage players to be more aggressive. Dalke expects the finishing holes to become increasingly more challenging. They both know where the wind blows and how it affects the greens.
“We’re both out there trying to grind it out each match,” said Dalke. “She hasn’t even played her A-game yet, so it’s going to be fun [on Thursday].”
In addition to having a knowledgeable caddie, Tanguay also has her regular and highly animated cheerleader in the gallery: her mother, Lucie Bellemare, who got her daughter started in golf at age 10.
“I might do a little fist pump, but I don’t scream,” said Tanguay. “My mom does that.”
Certainly, Quebec is a long way from Oklahoma, but Tanguay’s parents rarely miss any of her college tournaments. And while French is their first language, there is little doubt whom Tanguay’s mother is rooting for when she watches her daughter play. She even sports Sooner logos and colors as she walks the course.
“My parents are very dedicated fans, so I want to give them something to cheer about,” said Tanguay, who will make the 25-hour drive back to Quebec when the WAPL concludes.
But for now, she is sleeping in her own college-town bed and hoping for more good things to come in the Oklahoma wind.
Lisa Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship websites.