FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Two weeks ago at the Missouri Women’s Amateur, Logan Otter ran into her high school golf coach, six-time USGA champion and victorious 2014 USA Curtis Cup Captain Ellen Port.
And when Otter, of Saint Peters, Mo., told Port she had qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior, her first USGA championship, at Forest Highlands Golf Club, the coach immediately became giddy.
If there’s one thing Port knows, it’s USGA championships. She has claimed the last two U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs and will go for a three-peat in September at Hollywood Golf Club in Deal, N.J. She also has won four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles.
“She told me it’s going to be so much fun and to enjoy it,” said the 17-year-old Otter, who qualified for the Girls’ Junior in her final year of eligibility. “She’s really a great player and she is fun to play for.”
Otter, a senior-to-be at the John Burroughs School in St. Louis, received a text from Port just prior to departing Missouri on Friday.
“Just believe in yourself and play your game,” wrote Port.
Otter carded a 4-over 76 on the Meadow Course, putting her in a tie for 63rd going into Tuesday’s final stroke-play qualifying round. The low 64 scorers advance to match play.
“My rangefinder died the last three holes, so I didn’t have any [specific] yardages,” said Otter, who helped lead John Burroughs to a high school team title last fall. “But I played [1-under] golf the last three holes.”
Otter isn’t just another talented golfer in this field. She scored a 35 out of a possible 36 on the ACT (American College Testing) and plans to major in neuroscience at Michigan State University when she enrolls in the fall of 2015.
But right now her focus is on golf. Last month, she watched Port’s Curtis Cup Team post a 13-7 victory at St. Louis Country Club. She also chatted with reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Emma Talley, who secured the winning point.
“Watching them play and seeing their swings ... I said I could hit that shot, but I can’t hit that shot every single time,” said Otter. “That’s what I need to do.”
Mingling With The Stars
Emma Albrecht, 17, of Ormond Beach, Fla., is playing in her first USGA championship this week, but she has already spent some time with the best women players in the world.
As an 8-year old, Albrecht starred in a public service announcement and print ad promoting the LPGA with stars Lorena Ochoa, two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Karrie Webb and Natalie Gulbis.
At the time, Albrecht’s father, Eric, was an executive with the LPGA Tour.
“They were twirling a rope and I was jumping over it,” recalled Albrecht, who has committed to attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2015. “They were all very nice. I have the commercial on a DVD and a framed copy of the print ad. That was more than half my life ago, but I still feel like I’m the same little kid.”
Golf Capital Of Arizona
Flagstaff certainly ranks far behind Phoenix and Tucson in population size, but the northern Arizona city is one of the epicenters of golf in the U.S. this week. Not only is the U.S. Girls’ Junior being contested at Forest Highlands, but the Pacific Coast Amateur will be staged at nearby Pine Canyon starting on Tuesday.
For those counting, that’s 240 golfers in the city – 156 at the Girls’ Junior and 84 at the Pacific Coast Amateur.
With the crush of people in town, many of the competitors at the Pacific Coast Amateur are housing in the dormitories at Northern Arizona University.
Despite living on opposite coasts, Robynn Ree (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Cindy Ha (Demarest, N.J.) are best friends, so much so that this week they have traded fathers – as their caddies.
The unique swap was not by choice. A USGA Condition of Competition prohibits parents from serving as caddies for the two Junior championships. In this case, that has created a relatively comfortable playing environment for these two players.
"It's nice having someone you’re familiar with out on the course,” said Ree.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.