Notebook: Alternates Live On The Edge


Jordy Labarbera met her goal of qualifying for match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
By Joey Flyntz, Brady Inners and Lisa D. Mickey
August 5, 2014

GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Two players who earned their spots in the field as alternates from sectional qualifying have taken advantage of their “mulligan” by advancing to the match-play portion of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur  at Nassau Country Club, while another golfer is still in the hunt for one of the final three spots.

Lauren Kim, 19, of Los Altos, Calif., led all alternates in the field with a 36-hole qualifying score of 4-over 144 to finish in a tie for 21st. Kim, the first alternate from the Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., qualifier, registered a 1-over 71 on a day in which scoring was down across the board.

“It’s definitely rewarding to make it here,” said Kim, a junior at Stanford University. “I went to qualifying hoping for an opportunity to play out here and the girl in my qualifier made a great birdie putt on the playoff hole to beat me. So, this is very rewarding.”

Mary Chandler Bryan, 20, of Chapin, S.C., never expected to be here, and she doesn’t know how long her stay will last on Wednesday.

A College of Charleston teammate and roommate of fellow Women’s Amateur competitor Chelsea Buford, Bryan scheduled a church retreat with her family to Daytona, Fla., once she failed to qualify. Her mother, Valerie, was already in Daytona and had to take a bus back last Friday so she could caddie for Mary.

Bryan finished 8 over par, converting a crucial two-putt from 25 feet on the par-4 ninth – her final hole – to advance to an 8-for-3 playoff for the final match-play spots. She converted an up-and-down par on the first playoff hole – the par-3 10th – nearly holing a 30-yard chip for birdie and a spot in match play, then made par at 11, where the playoff was suspended due to darkness with five players left for three spots.

“I honestly didn’t think I would see this,” said Bryan. “I had no expectations of being here. When I got the call from the USGA, I didn’t even pick up since it was a New Jersey number and I didn’t know anyone from New Jersey. Then I got the voicemail and had to scramble. I didn’t get here until five minutes before the tee time for my practice round.”

Despite making one of the shots of the day, Jackie Rogowicz, 16, of Yardley, Pa., missed out on a potential match-play spot by an inch.

Rogowicz made what appeared to be a match-play clinching eagle with a 60-yard chip-in on the par-5 15th, but a three-putt bogey at 17 dropped her to 8 over and into the playoff.

Rogowicz was the first player eliminated in the playoff, as her 18-foot par putt painfully lipped out at No. 10 as she had already started to celebrate.

Elizabeth Tong, 21, of Canada, joined Kim as alternates to qualify for match play without a playoff. Tong, who played in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open in June, shot 74-72-146 to finish in a tie for 46th, two strokes inside the cut line.

Labarbera Pulls The Right Strings in Second Round

Coming into her first U.S. Women’s Amateur, all Jordy Labarbera wanted to do was qualify for match play. The Allen, Texas, native had her work cut out for her coming into Tuesday’s second round of stroke-play qualifying after shooting a 5-over-par 75 on Monday.

Thanks to an even-par 70, punctuated by a birdie putt at the 18th hole, Labarbera comfortably secured a match-play spot.

“My main goal was to make match play and then play hard from there,” said Labarbera. “I had my eyes set on that center stripe down the fairway and hit it there quite a bit more. That was important because my five bogeys yesterday were all a result of hitting it in the rough.”

Labarbera noted that her caddie/father, Ross, helped out as well.

“Today, I had my dad line me up, which helped me out a lot,” said Labarbera, who laughed as she mentioned that she had to give permission to allow her dad to caddie this week. “I let him be on the bag this time, but usually he’s not back there with me.”

Labarbera, 18, will begin her freshman season at the University of Arkansas in two weeks.  

If golf doesn’t pan out, Labarbera may be destined for a career in the performing arts.

She has twice taken tests that are designed to determine what profession would be a good match, and she has gotten the same unusual result both times.

“We took these career tests in school and had to say what we liked most or were good at, and all of these people were matching with cool stuff like being a doctor. I matched twice with being a puppeteer,” she said, laughing. “I’m not even into puppets and no, I’m not going to major in puppeteering or theater at Arkansas. I’m majoring in kinesiology.”

Labarbera also seemed to have forgotten about a certain YouTube video of her dancing skills on the golf course.

“I think a lot of college coaches find that when they’re looking for swing videos, so it’s pretty embarrassing,” Labarbera said. “I was practicing and there was music playing and dad just happened to get video of me dancing.”

Regardless of what the future holds for the relaxed and cheerful Labarbera, she’s going to have fun on the way, perhaps with some dance moves involved. No puppets, though.

Head Pro Has Kids Volunteering

Nassau Country Club head golf professional Drew Pohalski knew he would need a lot of volunteers for this week’s Women’s Amateur.

So when he reminded his children – at least the oldest of his brood of 12 kids – that there would be several opportunities available, five jumped on board to volunteer.

Emily, 14, is working as a walking scorekeeper, while Tommy, 16, has caddied for Ale Walker. Claire, 17, is helping in the pro shop, shagging balls in the short-game practice area and serving as a walking scorekeeper. Hannah, 20, caddied for Chelsea Buford, while Andrew, 21, carried the bag for Cassandra Deeg.

Drew’s oldest kids already work at the club in various capacities and wanted to be involved in the national championship.

“It’s great because they all wanted to be here,” said Pohalski, who has served the club the past 15 years. “Emily surprised me when she got in the car with me [Tuesday] morning around 6 a.m., ready to go.”

Hannah plays on the Long Island University C.W. Post women’s golf team. She asked to caddie because Nassau caddie master Darren Wetzel knew she understood the nuances of the course.

“It’s been fun because they’re really good,” said Hannah. “I learned how to play a practice round this week.”

Claire, the effusive sibling, recognized the importance of the week for both her father and the club.

“This tournament is a big deal,” she said. “The club has a lot of history and tradition and now this is a part of it.”

The Pohalski kids regularly work throughout the year at the club. Tommy and Andrew are caddies; Hannah assists the junior summer camp with 100 children each day, while Claire and Emily help in the pro shop.

The other youngsters – Thaddeus (10 months), Luke (3), Monica (4), Matthew (6), Mary (9) and twins Gemma and Lea (12) – have a few years before they are old enough to help Dad. To keep up with his brood, Drew has his kids’ initials stamped on his personalized golf balls, which he pulls out for reference when pressed to list them chronologically.

“A lot of club pros don’t get to see their kids and my kids are here with me all summer,” said Drew. “This club has been great with my kids ever since I’ve been here.”

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org. Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. Brady Inners is a communications intern with the USGA.

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