U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Two-Time USGA Champion Song Leads Trio of Qualifiers in Virginia
May 19, 2015 | Manakin-Sabot, Va.
By Andrew Blair
As evidenced by the two USGA championships she has won, along with a berth on the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team, Jennifer Song relishes a challenge. For the eighth time in nine years, she has earned the chance to tackle the stern test provided by the U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
Song returned scores of 70-68, good for a 6-under-par total of 138, to match fellow professionals Alejandra Llaneza of Mexico and Mika Miyazato of Japan and join them in qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, to be played July 9-12 at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club. The trio shared medalist honors in a Women’s Open sectional qualifier held Monday on the Manakin and Sabot courses of the Hermitage Country Club.
When she arrives at Lancaster, Song said she expects to see an exacting test typical of U.S. Women’s Open setups. She has missed only the 2013 championship at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island since 2007.
“You need to be able to use all of the clubs in your bag,” said Song, 25, of the Women’s Open, in which her best finish is a tie for 13th in 2009 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., one of her two low-amateur finishes. “It’s a prestigious event. All of the best players are there. I love playing tough golf courses, though. I’m waiting on some good vibes.”
Song, a two-time All-America player at the University of Southern California, had four birdies against two bogeys in the morning round on the Manakin Course. She played her final eight holes of the day in 3 under to match Miyazato for the second-best round of the afternoon, when temperatures climbed into the 90s. Amateur Celine Boutier, of France, had the low round of 66 in the afternoon, and her total of 4-under 140 missed out on a playoff for the two alternate spots by one stroke.
Song claimed both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in 2009. She is one of two women to win two USGA events in the same year, joining Pearl Sinn, who won the same two titles in 1988. Her best finish on the LPGA Tour in 2015 is a tie for 15th at the Kia Classic in late March.
Miyazato birdied three of her final four holes in the morning round on the Manakin Course. She played bogey-free in the afternoon with four birdies, relying on sound ball striking and timely putting. Each of her birdies was converted from inside 10 feet.
Miyazato, who turned professional in 2009, has competed in six U.S. Women’s Opens, with a pair of top-10 finishes, including solo fifth in 2011 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
“It’s always fun,” said Miyazato, has amassed more than $3 million in career earnings and is not related to Ai Miyazato, another Japanese golfer on the LPGA Tour. “It’s a different tournament compared to most all of the tournaments we play [on the LPGA Tour].”
Llaneza registered six birdies to offset two bogeys in the morning on her way to shooting a 4-under 68 on the Manakin Course, and followed it up with a 2-under 70 on the Sabot Course in the afternoon.
Llaneza splits time between the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. She believes her victory at the Symetra Tour’s Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women's Health Classic on May 10, in which she birdied the 18th hole to win, was a game-changer.
After learning she had earned a place in her first U.S. Women’s Open, Llaneza showed her exhilaration and exhaustion.
“I’m so excited. I want to cry,” said Llaneza, who turns 27 on May 31. “I’ve heard that there is no other experience like a U.S. Open. It’s always been a dream of mine. I even wore red, white and blue for good luck.”
Four other professionals competed in a 4-for-2 playoff for the alternate spots after finishing at 5-under 139. Min Lee, of Chinese Taipei, and Sarah Kemp, of Australia, secured the first- and second-alternate spots, respectively, edging LPGA Tour rookie Kelly Shon, the first Princeton graduate to play on that circuit, and Demi Runas.
Shon graduated from Princeton with a degree in sociology, and is the first Tiger to earn an LPGA or PGA Tour card and only third player from the Ivy League to compete on the LPGA Tour, following Heather Daly-Donofrio and Jeehae Lee, both of Yale. Daly-Donofrio, who won two events in an 11-year career, is now the LPGA’s senior vice president of tour operations.
Shon played in the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Women’s Opens as an amateur, missing the cut on both occasions. She finished tied for 11th in her professional debut at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in February, but has struggled since.
“[The Bahamas] was really exciting, but after that, I was trying to find myself as a professional player,” said Shon, 23, of Port Washington, N.Y. “It’s a journey and I am enjoying it so far. I’m trying to be more of a steady kind of a player. I’ve been working on it and hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, it comes through.”
Andrew Blair is the director of communications for the Virginia State Golf Association.