U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Sunday Notebook: Johnson Ends Amateur Career With Women's Open Honor July 10, 2010 By Ron Driscoll, David Shefter and Dave Shedloski

Jennifer Johnson's amateur career came to an end Sunday with the Southern California resident finishing as low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Women's Open. Johnson also earned the clinching point at last month's Curtis Cup Match, where she posted a 3-0-1 record in the USA's five-point win at Essex County Club. (John Mummert/USGA)

Oakmont, Pa. – Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad, Calif., who went 3-0-1 as a member of the victorious 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team last month, announced before the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open that this would be her final competition as an amateur before joining the play-for-pay ranks.

Johnson certainly made a grand exit, earning low-amateur honors from the six who survived the 36-hole cut.

I think it’s really special to end my amateur career at this great venue, said the 18-year-old Johnson, who struggled at the start on Sunday before settling down to post a second-nine 36. Her four-round total of 16-over 300 was five strokes better than 18-year-old Canadian Christine Wong, a student at San Diego State, and nine ahead of Lisa McCloskey, an 18-year-old from Houston, Texas, who was the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up two weeks ago.

It’s been a really good nine or 10 years playing junior and amateur golf, said Johnson, who played one year at Arizona State University. I’m pretty happy with the way I played this week. I kept it together pretty well; the scores here [at the Women’s Open] are not your typical scores.

Johnson, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up, plans to make her professional debut July 30 at the Syracuse, N.Y., event on the Duramed Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour. She is also planning to play in the final three events on the Futures Tour schedule beforing entering LPGA Tour Qualifying School this fall.

Johnson could not have played the Women’s Open as a pro because she used her exemption from last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Answering The Challenge

Before Sunday’s final round, Song-Hee Kim received a challenge by her caddie, John Killeen.

"I told her that Johnny Miller shot a 63 here in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open, and that she should try to do the same. I mean, you never know," Killeen said with a grin.

Kim gave it a shot. Actually, 65 shots. Pretty close.

By keeping the ball in the fairway to set up a series of short birdie putts, Kim fired the championship’s best round, four strokes lower than the previous best score through 54 holes. The fifth-year pro, a runner-up in her last two LPGA Tour starts, hit 12 fairways and 15 greens and needed just 28 putts to make a major move up the leaderboard after starting the day tied for 37th. When she holed out with a short birdie putt on the par-5 ninth, her final hole of the day, Kim had moved up to 15th.

"I was thinking less and just hitting fairways," said the 21-year-old Korean, who posted seven birdies against one bogey. "I hit it close a lot today. It was exciting and I got a lot of confidence. There was no pressure."

It was a far cry from the 78 she shot in Saturday's third round when she had two three-putts and a four-putt.

"She's a very good ball-striker who had a couple of bad nines this week," said Killeen. "But she played great today, really hit it well. She almost got there (shooting 63)."

Seeing Red

Through three rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open, just 10 sub-par scores were registered on the challenging Oakmont C.C. layout. With several tee markers moved up and a few accessible hole locations, 13 golfers shot 70 or better.

This morning, talking with [fellow Korean and playing partner] Na Yeon Choi,we say, Oh, we have one more round on tough course,’ said Jiyai Shin, who carded a 68 with closing birdies at 15, 17 and 18. So it's really, really tough for the players.And then, well, I play very well today.  Then I tried to keep focus on every hole.  It was work, and then I finish good.

Added past U.S. Girls’ Junior champion In Kyung Kim, who also shot 68: I think you have to bring your best out on every hole, not just, you know, the par‑5s. This golf course, I think there is a couple birdie holes, maybe four, but even 12 (a par 5) plays so tough.You don't have really [any] breathing room.

Back For More

Alexis Thompson, 15, of Coral Springs, Fla., might not have any status on the LPGA Tour yet, but she will be back at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. Despite a bogey-5 at 18, the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, who turned pro after going 4-0-1 in the Curtis Cup Match last month, finished tied for 10th, good enough to be exempt into next year’s championship at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Back in 2007, Thompson, then just four months past her 12th birthday, became the youngest Women’s Open qualifier in history, surpassing the record established by Morgan Pressel in 2001. She has played in every Women’s Open since, but this was her first as a pro.

She earned $73,131, her first paycheck since she missed the cut in her pro debut three weeks ago at the ShopRite Classic.

I’ve never played with her, said Suzann Pettersen, who was grouped with Thompson in the penultimate threesome on Sunday. God, she hits it a long way. She’s 15, and she’s the best 15 year old I’ve ever seen.

Thompson said she planned to work more on her putting before her next event in two weeks at the Evian Masters in France.

Weekend Warrior

On Saturday morning, Brittany Lincicome thought her hopes of playing the final 36 holes were dim as she approached the par-5 ninth hole, her last of the second round.

I hit my second shot on the ninth hole, and I thought it was going into the bunker, said Lincicome. But the 4-iron shot flew the bunker onto the green, and Lincicome made a 15-foot eagle putt to get to nine over par, one shot inside the eventual cut line of plus-10. She got it to seven over as she made the turn in the third round, and started to think she might become a factor in the championship.

I thought I might be able to get into the top 10, said Lincicome, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, including the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

 But like so many other players this week, she stumbled on the first hole, making double bogey, and succeeding back-to-back bogeys thwarted her plans.

I had 41 putts in one round here, said Lincicome, who tied for 25th. I usually have putt totals in the high 20s, and on these greens a good number would be 30. So 41 obviously isn’t very good. And this course is so tricky that you can’t expect to go five or six under.

It was the fifth straight event for Lincicome, and she has made the cut every week, meaning a lot of golf in a short time. She plays in a pro-am Monday, and then after a week off, she heads to the Evian Masters in France.

Surprise Gift

Jaelyn Arrington, one of the standard bearers in Morgan Pressel’s group for the final round, got an unexpected present after the players putted out on No. 18. Pressel gave her putter to Arrington.

She said ‘Do you want my putter? It’s yours,’ said Arrington, of nearly Cranberry, Pa. Though Arrington was obviously thrilled to have it, perhaps Pressel didn’t want the implement anymore. Pressel, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and the runner-up in the 2005 Women’s Open, averaged nearly 33 putts per round, 47th among the 68 players who made the cut.

Ron Driscoll is the USGA’s copy editor and David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer.