DUPONT, Wash. – Forgive Stani Schiavone for getting choked up over this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at The Home Course. It has been an emotional week for the 22-year-old from Bangor, Pa., but it has nothing to do with the USGA retiring the WAPL after this year.
Schiavone’s longtime swing coach, Tom Lynch, grew up in Spokane, Wash., and attended the University of Washington in Seattle before eventually settling in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Lynch, who passed away in 2011, had become like a second father to Schiavone, providing not only instruction but inspiration.
The two even shared the same birthday: May 26.
“He made me love golf,” said Schiavone, who spent 15 years under Lynch’s tutelage. “Yes, he was a great instructor and he knew the swing inside and out, but he made me love it. I loved going to the golf course, spending time with him and my brother (Dominic).”
To keep Lynch in her thoughts, Schiavone, a rising senior at the University of Mississippi, wears a pendant around her neck with his thumbprint. The other side features an “S” for Stani.
“He would always say ‘smile,’ so the ‘S’ meant smile to him,” added Schiavone after defeating local favorite Katie Lee, 3 and 1, in the round of 32 on Thursday morning. Schiavone’s run ended with a 2-and-1 loss to reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Gabriella Then in the round of 16 on Thursday afternoon.
Any time Lynch would travel back to his native Washington, he would bring Gonzaga University (located in Spokane) and University of Washington clothing for Schiavone. So after her emotional WAPL sectional qualifier at The Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, N.J. – Schiavone’s home course – she made sure to pack a few of those items for the cross-country trip.
Both Schiavone and her father got choked up after finishing second at the qualifier and realizing they would be making the trip to Washington.
“I feel like there’s a special significance knowing that this is where he was from and this is where he called home,” she said. “Just getting here was a huge deal to me. And everything after that was a bonus. I am just appreciating the experience and I’m very thankful.”
Perhaps Lynch’s spirit is carrying Schiavone to new heights. She had never qualified for match play in her three previous USGA championship appearances, including the 2007 and 2010 WAPLs.
“He’s got to be helping me out,” said Schiavone. “He’s probably laughing at me, saying that’s my girl. But whatever it is, it’s a special significance.”
Robynn Ree and Angel Yin have grown up in junior golf together. The two Southern Californians – Ree is from Redondo Beach and Yin from Arcadia – quite often see each other at the same USGA, American Junior Golf Association and other top amateur competitions.
But the two juniors had to put aside their friendship in the round of 32. Nevertheless, Ree, 17, and Yin, 15, treated the day as if they were shopping at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. They were chatting and smiling throughout their 21-hole match, the longest of the championship.
“It was fun,” said Ree, who converted a 3-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to win. “It wasn’t as intense as other matches would be. We were just playing and having fun.”
Added the long-hitting Yin: “I always hate playing [against] friends. I feel more comfortable with people that I don’t know. When friends play together, we care more about each other.”
Ree consistently was out-driven by Yin, but managed to keep the match close with solid ball-striking and a deft short game. Ree said Yin out-drove her by 100 yards on one hole.
Ree forced extra holes when Yin drew a bad lie in the rough for her approach to the par-4 18th hole. She overshot the green and failed to get up and down for par.
On the third extra hole, Yin nearly reached the green with a 300-plus-yard drive. She took three putts from 70 feet.
“When I hit the ball too hard, it kind of popped up, so I didn’t get a good roll,” said Yin. “And the second putt was bumpy.”
Added Ree: “We were kind of joking that we wanted to beat the [WAPL] record for the longest match. It’s 26 holes.
“I didn’t think I was going to win. I was actually worried when I first came into this round. She’s obviously a really good player and she’s obviously really good at match play.”
Li Picks Up New Admirer
Lucy Li, the precocious 11-year-old from Redwood Shores, Calif., who wowed crowds at last month’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship as the youngest qualifier in the championship’s history, received a letter this week from U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). Li’s father took a photo of the letter and emailed it to Li so she could read it on her mobile device.
Boehner, an avid golfer, complimented Li on her various accomplishments.
“I’m so impressed with your level of play and positive attitude,” wrote Boehner, the U.S. Representative from Ohio’s 8th congressional district.
Li was eliminated in the first round of match play on Wednesday. She was headed to Seattle on Thursday for some sightseeing with her mom and aunt before flying home to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Odds And Ends
After going 6-0 in the first two rounds of match play, all three University of Washington golfers were eliminated in the round of 16. Soobin Kim, the No. 2 seed, dropped a 3-and-1 decision to Sirene Blair; Eimi Koga lost to medalist Eun Jeong Seong, 3 and 1; and Jennifer Yang was ousted by Cindy Ha, 6 and 5…Two players who also had their sisters in this year’s field have advanced to the quarterfinals: third-seeded Dominique Galloway and Gabriella Then. Jackie Galloway and Angella Then failed to advance to match play...Five of the eight quarterfinalists are under the age of 18 led by 14-year-old medalist Eun Jeong Seong.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Florida-based freelance writer Lisa D. Mickey contributed.