DUPONT, Wash. – ShaeBug Scarberry’s colorful apparel has turned heads all week at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
On-course scoring volunteers have been able to single her out from other players and spot her from a fairway away. Fellow competitors, parents and fans have stopped and complimented her sartorial splendor and requested photos with her.
And with every request, the 14-year-old from Purcell, Okla., has smiled, posed and seemingly enjoyed meeting golfers from the U.S. and abroad.
“I dress like this on the golf course because I like it,” said Scarberry, who says she admires LPGA Tour player Natalie Gulbis. “I’ve been told this week if they gave a fashion award, I would get it.”
But Scarberry’s fashion statement has nothing to do with reading glossy magazines or following apparel trends. Her sense of fashion frivolity has more to do with a junior golf tournament that encourages girls to have some fun with their footwear.
“I started wearing the long socks when the Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour asked us to wear long socks both days at the Red River Challenge,” said Scarberry. “It was our end-of-the-year tournament. I mixed and matched my socks for good luck and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
In the second round on Tuesday, Scarberry sported green shorts with white shamrocks, and wore one tie-dyed green and white sock, and one green, white and black-striped sock. Once again, players, parents, fans and volunteers repeatedly pulled her aside after her round for photos. On Monday, Scarberry wore red, white and blue shorts that resembled the American flag.
Scarberry said she used to wear golf skorts for tournaments, but then her mom stumbled across the brightly colored Loudmouth Golf brand of apparel.
“Once my mom found these shorts, she bought me a bunch of them in different colors and that’s when I started wearing these,” she explained. “But I don’t mix and match my outfits for school. I really started dressing like this for the junior tournament and kept it up.”
That explains her outfits, but what about her nickname?
Scarberry’s parents call her “Bug,” but on the golf course, she is known as Shae or ShaeBug. When asked about the entomology of her name, she laughed.
“When I was little, I used to crawl around on the ground and pick up a lot of bugs and I guess one time, I crawled up to my mom, said, ’Bug!’ and dropped a bug into her lap,” said Scarberry. “It was a spider, so after that, the nickname stuck.”
Scarberry no longer plucks bugs from the dirt. The straight-A student and will soon be a freshman in high school hopes to continue improving her game and spending her time in the dirt with a golf club in her hands.
She primarily competes on the Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour and dreams of someday playing college golf at Stanford University. Although she posted rounds of 86-78 and failed to advance to match play in her first USGA championship, Scarberry hopes the experience will be a steppingstone to success in amateur golf.
“I like to fly the ball to the hole and this week, it’s been more about learning course management,” she said. “These greens are really tough, so I’ve learned a lot.”
This year’s WAPL featured a pair of sisters – Dominique and Jackie Galloway, and Gabriella and Angella Then – but there is also a brother-sister duo competing in the WAPL and the concurrent U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being conducted at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kan.
Robynn Ree, 17, of Redondo Beach, Calif., matched her 19-year-old brother Ryann’s score of 75 on Monday. But on Tuesday, Robynn shot a 5-under 67, besting Ryann by four strokes. Both qualified for match play.
Robynn, however, insists there is not a family competition taking place.
“I don’t really talk to him,” said Robynn, who carded a 65 in her WAPL sectional qualifier at Goose Creek Golf Club in Mira Loma, Calif., to earn medalist honors. “We do our own thing. My mom talks to him. I just follow.”
But she won’t follow Ryann to the University of Oregon, where he is a junior. Robynn has committed to attend the University of Southern California in 2015. This year’s WAPL field has four current Trojans.
“I loved [USC]. And my mom is an alum.”
Ree, in the fourth week of a six-week stretch of competitions that also includes next week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior in Flagstaff, Ariz., rebounded from Monday’s disappointing round by making six birdies against one bogey. She lipped out a 6-foot birdie on her final hole.
On Monday, Ree said she “shanked” an approach shot on the par-4 third hole, leading to a double bogey.
“My swing kind of got shaky,” said Ree. “The whole round was kind of iffy.”
Last year, Ree qualified for her first USGA championship, advancing to the Round of 32 at the WAPL. She said the match-play experience will help going into Wednesday’s first round.
“I think I get this kind of [format],” said Ree.
Loving The Game Again
After two years of professional golf, Lucy Nunn realized playing for money wasn’t what she loved about the game.
The Lawton, Okla., native had spent most of her golf career competing as an amateur, playing collegiately at the University of Arkansas and regularly qualifying for USGA championships, including two U.S. Girls’ Juniors and two U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
She played for two years on the Futures (now Symetra) Tour before leaving the tour in June 2011 and starting a new role as assistant coach at the University of Kentucky a month later.
After a month at Kentucky, Nunn filed to regain her amateur status, which was granted a year later.
“I realized that I didn’t want to play for a living,” said Nunn, 27, who qualified for the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open as a professional. “I wanted to play golf because I wanted to play.”
Nunn’s first competition as a reinstated amateur came at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. She also qualified for the WAPL in 2013, along with representing Kentucky at the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship.
Nunn served as Kentucky’s assistant women’s golf coach until the school opted not to renew her contract in May. Currently unemployed and sending out résumés, Nunn is biding her free time by playing amateur events trying to figure out what’s next.
“I’d like to stay in golf somehow – maybe in coaching, working in the manufacturing side or in junior programs,” said Nunn, who posted rounds of 76-77 to miss the match-play cut this week. “I feel like I’ve dabbled at every level.”
But in returning to amateur golf, Nunn admits she has a new perspective that only comes with time.
“I have a broader scope now since my years as a college player or playing pro,” she said. “Now I know that golf isn’t everything. That’s hard to teach until you have gained that perspective.”
The scoring average for Round 2 of stroke-play qualifying dropped more than 1½ strokes. In Monday’s first round, the average score was 75.9, while Tuesday’s average was 74.3. It helped that one player (Eun Jeong Seong) carded a championship-record 64 and two others (Alana Uriell and Caroline Inglis) posted 66s.
“If you can hit it on the right place on the greens, then you can have a flat putt into the hole,” said Uriell. “And that’s all you need if you’re putting is on.”
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. USGA senior staff writer David Shefter contributed to this notebook.