Danielle Ammaccapane, of Phoenix, won the 1985 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at age 19 with a 6-and-5 victory over Kristie Kolacny, of Grand Junction, Colo., at Flanders Valley Golf Course in Flanders, N.J. Ammaccapane, a standout at Arizona State University who won the 1985 NCAA individual title and was a member of the 1986 USA Curtis Cup Team, turned professional in 1988 and claimed seven LPGA Tour victories, the last coming at the 1998 Safeway LPGA Championship. She finished third in the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open and was a member of the 1992 USA Solheim Cup Team. Ammaccapane is married to Rod Kesling and the couple has a daughter, Laura Ann, and son, Denver. Laura Ann Kesling has appeared in movies, television shows and commercials.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
At that age, winning any USGA [championship] is the pinnacle. It’s what we strive for, to win those championships. I just found myself at a very comfortable place and was playing really well at the time, and I was able to pull it off at such a young age. I remember having my mother there and it was so much fun. I was having a good time playing. I was competitive and I loved the game.
You started off that week as the stroke-play medalist. Talk about having that target on your back all week.
It’s funny, but I don’t remember much about the championship. I remember bits here and there and bits about the matches I had. But I don’t remember much about the medalist thing. I remember playing well and coming out on top. It’s one of those things where you just try to qualify to get into the match-play championship bracket and you don’t go in trying to win it [stroke play], because that’s not the part that wins the championship. Maybe you’re just more relaxed and you go out and play really good and the next thing you know, you’re the medalist!
Did any particular match stand out? Was it the final against Kolacny?
The one that stands out is the match against Heather Farr. I played her in the quarterfinals. She and I grew up together playing golf in Arizona. She really pushed my career in the direction in which it went and she pushed me to be a better player. I wish she could have been around longer [Farr died of breast cancer in 1993 at age 28]. That match stands out in my mind. I knew I had to get through her to win.
Heather Farr was a tough competitor, wasn’t she?
She really was. I ran into her in my very first junior golf tournament out in Arizona. She ran away with the thing. I’ll never forget, I shot 100 and I think she shot 80 or something. It was embarrassing for me, but it was inspiring for me to know that I could go on and play better. We were competing from the start.
What was your most vivid memory of the week?
My mother was there. Just the whole thing, the way the USGA puts on an event, being a part of it, getting through each match and playing well and winning. Even to this day, when I look back at some of the pictures, it’s still hard for me to believe I won a USGA event. I came close a couple of times at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but I didn’t win. This is something that I’ll always have. I know they’re not going to have this championship anymore, but I still have a USGA championship.
Do you stay in touch with anyone you met at the WAPL?
I’m not playing on the LPGA Tour anymore, but when I played in USGA events, I knew most of the ladies and I’d say hi to them, and they knew me. But unfortunately, I haven’t kept in touch with anybody. A lot of the players from back then aren’t playing anymore. I know a lot of my fellow ASU players. A lot of them played on the LPGA Tour and now they have families and kids.
You did a lot of things in your career, including winning the 1985 NCAA Championship, earning a spot on the 1986 USA Curtis Cup Team, winning the 1987 Pac-10 Championship, and winning seven times on the LPGA Tour. Where does the 1985 WAPL title fit into your career accomplishments?
You’ve got to learn how to win championships as an amateur before you can go on to win championships as a professional. I fully believe that these are the stepping stones to being a professional. If you can’t win on this stage, I don’t know how you could ever learn how to win on the LPGA Tour. That’s the progress you should make. You should learn to win as a junior or as an amateur before winning as a professional. I don’t know too many people who don’t win as a junior or amateur and just come out and win as a pro. You have to recall what winning is like and you have to know what it’s like to be in that situation and learn how to win. It doesn’t just happen.
For me, it was the only USGA championship that I won, so it’s very special. And this was the championship for me, because I didn’t belong to a private country club like a lot of the girls did when I was growing up. My dad couldn’t afford it. I had to play publicly. I felt like this was my championship. This was the one that I could play. It was a special time in my life. In fact, I thought about turning pro after that, but my coach told me to stick with it, keep learning how to win and I’d have my whole life to play on the LPGA Tour. That was the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
How do you feel about the WAPL being retired after this year?
I heard about it and I’m sad for it to go away, but change is important. Closing one door always opens up many others. I’m sure the USGA thought long and hard about this. The whole purpose of having this championship was for people who didn’t belong to private courses. I don’t know if that’s an issue anymore. Maybe it’s good that they’re no longer having this and it’s turning into something even better – not that this wasn’t great while it was going, but I always think change is good. Maybe whatever takes its place (U.S. Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championships) will be just as great.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on various USGA websites.