Mina Harigae, 17, of Monterey, Calif., won the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship with a 4-and-3 victory over Stephany Fleet, 20, of Dewitt, Mich., at Kearney Hill Golf Links, in Lexington, Ky. Harigae’s first national championship came in her 13th appearances in a USGA championship. A past stroke-play medalist at the 2006 U.S. Girls’ Junior, Harigae parlayed her WAPL victory into a spot on the victorious 2008 USA Curtis Cup Team. Harigae, who spent one semester at Duke University before turning professional in 2009, won her first California Women’s Amateur at the age of 12. Harigae won three times on the LPGA’s developmental Futures Tour in 2009 and in 2010 qualified for the LPGA Tour, where she is currently a member.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
It meant so much to me. I played in a lot of the USGA events and I just felt like I wanted to win at least one before I turned pro. When I finally did, it was a huge weight off my shoulders.
What is your most vivid memory from that championship week?
My quarterfinal match against Stephanie Kono. I was down in the match for most of the way. I think I won holes 17 and 18 to get back to all square, so we went to the 19th hole. I won the 19th hole. I knew if I pulled out of this match with a win, I thought I could go all the way.
You and Stephanie Kono share a Japanese-American heritage. Had you known each other for a long time and had you been friends before that match?
Yeah, I met her at the Junior World Championships when I was around 12, so we’ve known each other for a while.
Do you still stay in touch with anyone you met at the WAPL?
Not really, but every time I see one of the USGA Rules officials I’ve gotten to know over the years – usually at the U.S. Women’s Open – I get very excited because I don’t get to see them anymore. It’s nice to catch up with them.
Your WAPL win came in Kentucky. Did you get to see any horses or do anything fun while you were there?
There was a party at one of the stables and they put on a great show. We got to see a ton of horses and they were just beautiful. I remember we had such a good time. I’ve always liked horses. And I remember the golf course. It was a tough course, but it was in great shape. I putted really well that week and I guess that was the key to winning.
Where does the WAPL title fit into your golf career?
I think in my amateur career, the WAPL was my biggest win. I played well in USGA events – I was a quarterfinalist and I was a medalist – and I was always close. When I finally broke through [with a win], that’s when I felt I was ready to move on to the next level. I was happy to move on to the next level because I had finally won a USGA championship. It was a great steppingstone for me.
So is your goal now to get into the U.S. Women’s Open every year?
Yep, and so far I have. That’s the one USGA title I could win now as a professional, so that’s my goal.
How do you feel about this WAPL championship being retired after this year?
I’m kind of sad to see it go because it was the championship that I won. It was a great tournament. I think the field was just as good as the U.S. Women’s Amateur. I hope they will bring it back.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.