Jennifer Johnson, an 18-year-old from La Quinta, Calif., cemented her spot on the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team with a runner-up performance at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis. Although she dropped a tough 2-and-1 decision to Jennifer Song in the final, Johnson’s play throughout the week illustrated that she is one of the country’s elite amateurs. Two weeks earlier, she had advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she fell to eventual runner-up Kimberly Kim. Both Kim and Song are members of the Curtis Cup Team. Johnson, who is finishing her freshman year at Arizona State University, recently chatted with USGA communications staff writer David Shefter about making the Curtis Cup team and her on-course performances of the last year.
Describe your emotions when the call came about the Curtis Cup.
Johnson: I was just really excited because that was one of my goals. Representing the USA is really cool.
You had been mentioned as a virtual lock to make the squad, but what was the wait like?
Johnson: I’ve been pretty busy with traveling and school work, so I haven’t had much time to think about it. Usually the team comes out in February, so I was wondering who was going to be on the team. I was curious.
With three other Pacific-10 Conference players on the team, is there a familiarity level for you?
Johnson: I actually know everyone on the team. I think Jessica [Korda], Alexis [Thompson], Tiffany [Lua] … we all played on last year’s Junior Solheim Cup team. I played junior golf with all of them. I played the Women’s Am [final] 36 holes with Jennifer Song. We’re going to have a lot of fun.
Since you know everyone, does this seem like a team with good chemistry?
Johnson: I wouldn’t say we’re a quiet team. It’s a team full of personalities, but I think that will be good competitively and off the course.
You have played a couple of international team events, going to China for a friendly match in 2008 and last year’s Solheim Cup and the recent Spirit International with Alexis Thompson in Texas. What is it like to play for your country?
Johnson: It’s a different kind of feeling. Usually when you play normal tournaments, you play for yourself. When you play for your country it adds a bigger honor and more meaning. And it’s really cool to meet people from all parts of the world.
With the Solheim Cup, there was alternate shot (foursomes). Do you like that format?
Johnson: I think someone who is consistent and has a similar game to me. That was the one match I lost in Junior Solheim [Cup]. We almost won. It was just one of those things where the other team got some momentum. We’ll have those four or five days of practice, so we’ll be able to figure out who works best [with each other] … [In alternate shot] you kind of feel the pressure of the other person too.
What is the strength of your game and who would match up well with you in terms of a partner?
Johnson: I’m pretty consistent – I make a lot of pars. I do make some birdies. I think putting is one of my strengths. I think anyone on our team would be fine [as a partner].
When does school end for you?
Johnson: Our finals are actually during [NCAA] regionals. We’re done with school for a week and then we go to nationals. Our last day [of school] is May 4.
How many classes are you taking and what are they?
Johnson: Four. English, introduction to communications, macro economics and business-math calculus. I’m thinking about business communications.
What’s the best part about being in college?
Johnson: I’d say playing on a team and just the independence. I’m an only child.
Have you had success this year? Any wins?
Johnson: No [wins], but I’ve had four or five top-10s. This past week [at our Arizona State event] I came really close. I just had a bad final round.
You enjoyed such a phenomenal summer in 2009, how much did those results help boost your confidence for college golf?
Johnson: It helped a lot. In the Women’s Am, half the field is college players, so it just sets the stage real well for my next step … That week itself was just seven days of pure competition. Match play I think is one of the better formats in golf. You can be really assertive. It’s a good way to play golf. But at the same time, you still have to deal with the course and the other person. That’s just a cool side of golf that you don’t normally do.
Have you been to Boston? And if not, what is one thing you want to do there that’s not -golf-related?
Johnson: Actually a girl [Jaclyn Sweeney] on our team is from Boston and I guess there is this really good pizza place, Tripoli’s [in Lawrence, Mass.]. Her parents actually brought her pizza [out to Arizona] on dry ice when they came back. If it’s that good, I should try that.
How much do you know about the Curtis Cup history?
Johnson: I don’t really know that much about it. I know it’s USA and Great Britain & Ireland.
What is your summer schedule like after the Curtis Cup?
Johnson: I am still trying to figure it out. The [U.S. Women’s] Open and the Women’s Am for sure. I’ve just got to see what I want to do.
Has anyone told you about Oakmont Country Club?
Johnson: I’ve heard about the greens. My grandparents live out in Pennsylvania, so I may try to play a couple of [practice] rounds there before the event.
How special was it to make the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, especially with the event in your backyard?
Johnson: I love that course (Mission Hills Country Club). Last year I missed by one, so I was a little disappointed. I was happy to come back and make the cut. When the greens [are so fast] and the rough is so high, that course just plays so tough. I think it will help anyone’s game.
You also had to play clubs that conform to the new groove rules. How did that go?
Johnson: Yeah, but my irons have always been conforming. I just had to change my wedges.
Did you notice any differences?
Johnson: Yeah. From the fairway or the apron, I almost like it better because [shots] don’t check [up] unexpectedly. My plan right now is to just keep them (conforming clubs). But if the rough is insane, I may go back.