Lisa McCloskey was two bogeys past par in Monday's opening round when reality grabbed her.
"I was sort of … not disoriented, but it's hard to get back into tournament mode after you have had such a big week with so much hype," said McCloskey, one of three United States Curtis Cup team members in the field at this week's 36th U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. "I thought to myself I better get it together. My parents paid for me to be here and this isn't a free ride [into match play]. So that's when it sort of hit me."
Eight days ago, McCloskey, Emily Tubert and Tiffany Lua were members of America's 10.5-9.5 loss to Great Britain and Ireland at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland.
Monday, at Neshanic Valley Golf Course, the trio attempted to shake off the euphoria of representing the USA and the ensuing jet-setting travels to get back into the moment.
While McCloskey birdied six of the final 13 holes to post a 2-under-par 70, Tubert shot a 1-over 73 and Lua a 2-over 74 on the Dr. Michael Hurdzan design. To a player, though, the 36-hole stroke play qualifier is all about advancing to match play.
"That’s what we’re all thinking at this point," said Lua, 21, a two-time Curtis Cup member who has twice reached the semifinals (2008 and 2011) in eight WAPL appearances.
The group is not running on fumes as they have youth still very much on their side, but they are realistic. Beginning with the last week in April, they each played in conference, regional and national championships with their respective schools. Then it was onto the 36-hole U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier, before packing their bags and spending 10 days in Scotland.
"That was the most golf intensive week of my life," said McCloskey, 20, of Houston, Texas, who lost 3 and 2 to Tubert in the 2010 WAPL championship at The Warren Golf Club in Notre Dame, Ind.
From Nairn, life really turned frenetic.
Consider Lua. She arrived in Los Angeles from Scotland via Newark, N.J., late on Monday, June 11. Tuesday morning she was back on the UCLA campus to turn in her books and begin moving out of her dorm room. After a night home in Rowland Heights, Calif., she was heading back east.
"Tired," Lua said after her Monday afternoon round.
Said Tubert, 20, of Burbank, Calif.: "My first practice round [on Saturday] was tough. My body ached and I just felt like I couldn't swing very well. It's just been so many time zones in such a short amount of time. When I got home I was waking up at 6 o'clock in the morning every day without an alarm no matter what time I went to bed, and then to kind of adjust and come here and early mornings and late nights."
When the USA Team arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport — less than an hour from Neshanic Station — on June 11, Tubert said the trio joked about having a week-long slumber party at Curtis Cup Team manager Donna Mummert's house. Mummert, a member of the United States Golf Association staff, lives in Clinton Township, just 18 miles from this week's venue.
In retrospect, the notion does not seem too bad.
None of the women said they have really had time to process and appreciate their whirlwind ways, but that time will come.
"It's all gone by so fast," Tubert said. "I can't believe it's summer, the Curtis Cup is over and we're already here at the [Women's Amateur] Public Links. There have been times when it's been so cool, but most of the time it's been 'Go, go, go. Ok, I have to get up, go practice, run do this, then I have to be at this dinner, then it's to bed, but what time do I have to wake up tomorrow?'"
McCloskey still has not gotten back into a regular sleeping rhythm since Scotland, some mornings waking at 4 a.m.
Yet, for all of the time zone changes, the delays and layovers, the hotels and the seemingly non-stop golf, they would not have this be any different — save for maybe a win in Nairn.
"Yes it hurts, and it's going to take a while for the sting to go away," Tubert said. "But looking back I remember walking down the fairway with Amy [Anderson] and saying ‘How cool is this? We're in Scotland, playing golf, wearing the American flag on our backs and thousands of people are out there watching."
Right now, Neshanic may be a long way from Nairn, but as the week plays out the idea of playing for a national championship will negate any jet lag the women may have."
"That’s what we came here for," McCloskey said. "Once match play begins, the golf will take over again."
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship websites.