CHARLESTON, S.C. –The U.S. Women’s Amateur provides an international stage for some of the most skilled female golfers in the world, and in a few instances, it allows members of the same family to showcase their shared talent for the game.
Emma Lavy, 22, and Anna Grace Lavy, 16, of Fayetteville, Ark., are two of five sisters who have had extensive golf careers. Eldest sister Brittany played collegiate golf for the University of Arkansas and Hannah played golf throughout high school and also attended Arkansas.
They were followed by Emma and Olivia, who are both current members of the Razorbacks’ women’s team. Youngest sister Anna Grace is entering her junior year of high school, and although it seems as though she is a shoo-in for the Arkansas golf team, she says she is keeping her options open and isn’t going to let her family unduly influence her decision.
“I wouldn’t say I pressure her,” Emma says, “She does know my true feelings about school and how much I love it, but I got to make my own decision and I want her to be able to do the same. “
The Lavys aren’t the only siblings in the Women’s Amateur. Twin sisters Leona and Lisa Maguire, 18, of Ireland, are another exciting duo to watch on the course.
This is the first U.S. Women’s Amateur for both players, but they boast impressive golf resumes that include playing for the Great Britain & Ireland team in the 2010 Curtis Cup, as well as the 2009 and 2011 Junior Solheim Cup. Leona also played on the 2012 GB&I Curtis Cup Team.
The sisters are accustomed to competing at a high level, frequently finishing within a few strokes of one another. Lisa finished as runner-up in the 2013 Irish Ladies’ Amateur in late June, while Leona won that championship in 2012.
“I suppose we’re used to it at this stage,” said Leona when asked about competing against Lisa, “We practice together all the time and we play pretty much every tournament together. When we play for Ireland we play foursomes together a lot as well.”
Since they play together so frequently, they contend that there isn’t much of a rivalry. Instead, they’re largely focused on enjoying their experience in the States. Southern food in particular seems to be a hit with the sisters.
“The food’s a wee bit different,” said Lisa, “We’re just used to nice plain food from back home, but that’s OK; we really like it.”
The national stage of the U.S. Women’s Amateur can be intimidating for even the most experienced players, but having a familiar face on the bag can make all the difference. It is fairly common for family members to caddie for players – fathers being the most popular choice – but three competitors at the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur have their sisters supporting them.
Jenny Coleman, 20, of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., has her twin sister and teammate at the University of Colorado, Kristin, on the bag. Jenny calls it an “obvious decision.”
“Kristin knows my game really well, and vice versa,” said Coleman, “This week she got to know my game even better and helped me with yardages and reading greens because I have trouble with that.”
For other players, an older sibling with more experience can be a calming influence on the course, especially one who has been in high-pressure situations before. Isabelle Lendl, 22, of Goshen, Conn., has older sister and former teammate Marika, 23, on the bag. Marika previously competed in five USGA championships and spent three college seasons at the University of Florida with her younger sister.
But perhaps a younger, fresher mindset is the best route to take. The 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Gabriella Then, 17, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., has younger sister Angella, 14, as her caddie this week, and Then will be advancing to the first round of match play tomorrow. This isn’t the first time Angella has caddied for Gabriella, although it is already the most successful.
“She’s a good caddie,” said Then. “This is actually the second time she’s caddied for me, the first was in the 2010 Women’s Amateur in Charlotte, N.C. She was 11 at the time and she couldn’t even make it the whole way. I was pushing at the end, but now she’s better and stronger.”
Li’s Tuesday Turnaround
Lucy Li, 10, of Redwood Shores, Calif., posted the largest single-day turnaround of the championship after shooting an 82 in the first round and a 70 in the second round. Her one-under 70 is her lowest competitive score, with her previous low a 71 in the second round of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
Li missed competing in a playoff to advance to match play by two strokes. She was the only player who posted an under-par score in the second round to miss the cut.
Li was elated with her results for the day, and thanked her caddie for his guidance throughout the round. She was also excited that her family could be there to watch her play.
“It was definitely special,” Li said. “My dad hasn’t watched me in a long time.”
She’s Now “Captain” Port
With a second-round 76, Ellen Port was disappointed to not be advancing to the match-play portion of the championship. The reigning USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion and four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion had set some high expectations coming into the championship.
“I’m still licking my wounds,” said Port. “I was really focused on playing [this week]. Then I saw these green complexes and I got a little skittish with my driver. Today I played a little better, but I didn’t make any putts.”
Port, however, is not ready to return to Missouri. She will spend the next few days scouting prospective players for the 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team. Port, a two-time Curtis Cup participant (1994 and 1996), will captain the eight-woman squad next June at St. Louis Country Club.
She expects the USGA to name the team next February, in time for a winter practice session at a site to be determined. She also hopes to bring the players to St. Louis Country Club before Curtis Cup week so they can get acclimated to the course.
Port attended the NCAA Championship in Athens, Ga., in May and the Rolex Girls Junior Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo., in June. She also has closely followed other major amateur events this summer, and may attend a few of the bigger fall college events.
“I am going to put on a different hat now,” said Port, who will defend her USGA Senior Women’s Amateur title next month at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif. “I am definitely going to watch the players.”
Port said she has formulated an early list of candidates, but isn’t ruling anyone out.
“Someone might emerge here who hasn’t been on the radar,” she said. “There’s a lot of good players. It’s about peaking and putting things together at the right time.”